It’s understood that certain professionals might put their interests before our own. You know to be skeptical of promises made by a used car salesman or politician seeking reelection. Unfortunately, you don’t expect your high school counselors or administrators to fall into this category, but they may.
Nationally, schools are underfunded and administrators are faced with difficult choices. Additionally, districts are under pressure to reduce drop-outs, increase test scores, reduce failures, and improve graduation rates. Improving individual student’s chances of successful college admission just isn’t one of the highest priorities.
Just like the politician or car salesman, your high school has its own agenda, goals, and limitations. You cannot expect their priorities will perfectly align with yours. As a result you cannot expect the school to provide all the information and guidance you may require for college admission.
I’m not bashing schools. I worked in public education for years and saw some of these conflicts first hand. At one of my former schools I worked as the college counselor and kept advising students that colleges like to see four years of core courses, including foreign language. Yet, it was school policy not to schedule incoming freshman for foreign language class unless specifically requested because we didn’t have enough teachers. So our budget and staff constraints forced decisions that contradicted my advice.
Every year I meet with students and parents who ask about senior year course schedules. In my area it is common to allow seniors to have “off-periods” so they can arrive to school late or leave early. Most students have enough credits to take five classes and two off periods each semester senior year.
Unfortunately, too many off periods sends the wrong message to colleges. These free periods are missed opportunities – times when students could be taking electives, additional advanced courses, or other academic offerings. Students applying to competitive, highly-selective universities would be better off trading that free period for another course.
Why didn’t the school counselor suggest this? Why would the school allow students to take only five classes and leave campus at 12:30? Public or private, most schools are paid by the student, not the number of classes that student takes. Allowing students to opt for off-campus periods is a boon to schools. They can reduce class size, ease teacher work loads, and lessen campus congestion all while making seniors happy. Their priorities may not match your best interests.
As with other important decisions, you should research your options and seek outside opinions when planning for college. Do not rely on only one source, me or your high school, to provide all information.