Have you fine-tuned your teenager's high school course roadmap?



Our 4-year Roadmap. Image: Rao Advisors

 By Rajkamal Rao  

If you're the parent of a teenager, you're probably having debates at the kitchen table about what courses he or she is signing up for next Fall. You're frustrated that you don't seem to get the required help from your school's guidance counselor. You're anxious that your child is not thinking far ahead to college and are unsure if the right course selections have been made.

Please don't worry! This scene is playing out in homes all over the United States. We know because these families come to us for help. [To check out our Google reviews, please click here].

High school course planning takes extensive thought and deliberation. It has to fit the exact needs of each student. A one-size-fits-all approach, which high school counseling teams often engage in, is never optimal. Course selection and other activity decisions made now will impact college selections and admissions in a profound manner.

Our 4-year roadmap tool considers the following factors to optimize your student's high school experience:

  1. Your school district's policies, resources, and opportunities. Here is a summary of the graduation and grading policies of several Texas school districts.
  2. Favorite topics in school (we conduct the RIASEC test for younger students to determine interest)
  3. Intended major in college
  4. Course selections in school during the school year
  5. Course selections for convenience (for example, completing the mandatory Health Credit in the summer)
  6. Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses.
  7. Course selections for acceleration (for example, taking Algebra II in the summer)
  8. Extracurricular activities
  9. Summer programs & internships
  10. Community service and volunteering
  11. SAT/ACT/PSAT-11/NMSQT prep
  12. Additional information (TAMS/IB/Magnet)

When you come to us, we try and understand your child's interests and goals after high school. Most students come to us with the intent of attending college. But some want to work after high school, or pursue vocational, trade, or technical school - and for such students, public schools offer an impressive menu of Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses. 

CTE courses are also appropriate for some students who want to pursue specialized college programs, such as BSMD. These students take several so-called "Health Sciences" track courses that demonstrate to BSMD colleges that they are committed to pursuing a public health career. In general, however, students bound for college should avoid taking CTE courses because the classes are not taught with the same rigor as advanced or dual-credit or IB or Advanced Placement courses.

We recommend a detailed year-by-year roadmap broken into three sections: Activities during the summer leading to the school year; activities during the school year (in school); and activities during the school year (after school).

We consider every minute detail during our course planning session, with one goal in mind: How to maximize the weighted average GPA and therefore, improve a student's class rank. Are there courses which a child should take for CBE (credit by exam) so that a slot opens up for a more advanced course during the school year? Should a student take a summer online course either at the district's virtual school (e-school) or at UT High School? When does the child prepare for admissions tests (SAT, ACT)? How do you maximize your chances of doing well on the PSAT-11?

[In Texas, no prior counselor permission is required to take an online course from UT High School or another approved TEA provider. Please see section 74.23 under the TEA rules. Some school districts limit the number of online courses by grade, so check with your district - but taking one course is always permitted.

But just because state law requires school districts to accept coursework done online or at another school, the law is vague on forcing school districts into accepting grades earned elsewhere and incorporating them into the school district's student academic record. For example, at Plano ISD, grades earned even in courses taken in its own eSchool are not used in computing a student's weighted average GPA and hence, class rank. Such courses appear in a student's transcript as "neutral," meaning like a "Pass/Fail" course. It is PISD's thinking that the purpose of such courses is only to get the student to complete a prerequisite course for topic acceleration (such as taking Algebra I in the summer to take Geometry I in the Fall) or complete a required course to fulfill state graduation requirements (such as Health).

As a general rule, check with your school counselor once before registering elsewhere as district policies keep changing].

Most importantly, our detailed proprietary customized roadmap tool helps free up a student's time so that there is sufficient school-life balance. Each family receives our popular, proprietary 280-page guide to elite college admissions which is the content source for our public appearances, books, and flagship online courses.  Families will also have free access to this website along with regular updates on our Facebook page. All client families get membership to our growing WhatsApp group community.

With a roadmap, you can project-manage your child's high school years limiting the need to come to us frequently. [We recommend a 1-hour discussion once each school year to make sure the roadmap is still working, and fine-tune it as needed].

We're changing the way families help their children succeed in high school. If you still have questions, please contact us - we promise you will not be disappointed.

A Note About Rao Advisors Premium Services
Our promise is to empower you with high-quality, ethical and free advice via this website.  But parents and students often ask us if they can engage with us for individual counseling sessions.

Individual counseling is part of the Premium Offering of Rao Advisors and involves a fee.  Please contact us for more information.

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