The College Conversation: Course trajectory important

May 22, 2010|By Lisa McLaughlin

Here's a conversation starter. Your child's four-year high school pattern of taking courses will be the single most important factor reviewed in college admission.

More than grades. More than test scores.

Colleges will carefully note the challenge in the succession and whether there is increasing difficulty. And the findings gleaned from their initial screening sets the stage for your child's college acceptance or denial.

Parents of high school-age students must understand how colleges review a candidate's academic profile and learn to ask the right questions of academic advisors.


Not all four-year plans are created equally in the eyes of admission officers. There are college admissions implications with every curricular decision your child makes. When your child's high school transcript is reviewed, as part of the college application file, it will be scrutinized.

They'll check out the progression of your child's course work and what subject areas were taken to the most exhaustive level. Free periods will cause eyes to roll.

They'll analyze A's to evaluate if the student cared more about grades and overall GPA than rising to the challenge of a more advanced class.

They'll look for roller coasters, when grades rise and fall, and hunt for explanations that validate the inconsistencies.

They will carefully analyze the coursework taken every high school year. While the freshman grades may not be included in the GPA some schools use to determine admission, the course titles matter a great deal.

This isn't about ensuring your child will have a shot at Stanford. It's about opening a wide variety of college doors. Be informed. Ask questions. Advocate. There is no stupid question. Don't be afraid to ask, "Why?"

There is not one set pathway for students who are college bound. And not all paths will lead to selective college admission. The best questions you can ask are: "Why has my child been placed in…?" "What college doors will open with this specific four year plan?" "Will I be prepared for Class B if I take Class A?"

It's about starting the conversation by asking the right questions. Scrutinize the high school curricular path your child is taking — the colleges certainly will. And it will make or break their admissions decisions.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles