Should High School Students Audit a Class?

By Rajkamal Rao  

We are used to college students telling us that they audited a particular class in a semester.  Auditing a course allows a student to take a class without having to appear for exams or earn a grade or credit.  College students do this to explore a topic area or for self-enrichment without having to do the heavy lifting of taking a course for credit.

But, can a high school student audit a class?

Absolutely.  It is done all the time and for reasons different from those for a college student.

How High School Audits Work

An audited class is an extracurricular or elective class not needed for high school graduation.  For most students, this is an additional course in band, choir and athletics.  We say additional because most states require only one credit during the four years of high school in one of these topics to graduate.

Suppose a student has been in band through middle school and loves it.  In the 9th grade, she takes her first high school band class for credit and continues loving it.  At the end of her 9th grade, she has already satisfied the high school graduation requirements for band, so what should she do in her 10th - 12th grades?

She is faced with a Hobson's choice - if she were to sign up for band in her 10th grade, which is usually an on-level 4.0 GPA course, she risks lowering her overall high school GPA.  Check out our post to know more about weighted and unweighted grades.

But not taking band would make her unhappy because she is being prevented from pursuing her interests.

So high schools allow her to take band for her 10th grade but audit it.  In effect, it won't be material to her high school GPA.

Audit Conditions

To prevent abuse, school districts impose many conditions before a student can audit a course.

The most common is that the student should be enrolled in a certain minimum number of courses during a semester before he can audit a course, generally five.  Students can generally not audit a class that carries weighted credit, such as an Honors or AP course.   They can also not audit a CTE (Career and Technology Education) course - they do not want auditing students to distract other students who are genuinely enrolled to learn a skill.  Finally, many districts require students to have earned a decent enough GPA already before they can begin auditing classes.

All of these conditions make sense.  Students should recognize that auditing a high school class is a privilege and not an automatic right.

Our takeaway

Auditing a course is a great way for a high school student to pursue an interest without having it impact the graduating GPA.  The audited course will appear on the transcript but just won't carry any grade or credit. 

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