Monday, March 30, 2009

Dear Mr. Bottomly, My Daughter will be a Senior. She doesn't want to take a fourth year of math. What should we do?

Today I received an e-mail from a concerned junior parent. Here is what she wrote:

We are wrestling whether [blank name] should take a fourth year of math her senior year. She has completed AMC this year and so would enroll in Pre-Calculus if she takes a math class. We are concerned that with other AP classes (English, Spanish V, and possibly AP Euro History or AP Art History) she could have a pretty big load. We realize this is a balancing act between carrying five solids every year, and taking on too heavy a load.

The question is: are they [colleges of her choice] concerned with a student having four years of math or would they be happy with a respectable senior load that does not include a math?

Can you identify with this mother’s quandary? Should we add another scoop to this cone? Or should we allow our student to create their own academic sundae?

First, a disclaimer. I don’t ever solicit purely "blanket advice." Each student is different. One student’s triple dip is another’s chocolate sundae. And vice versa.
Okay, enough with the dessert metaphor.
To this particular concerned mother, I replied with this advice.

Dear Mom,

I heard an older, much wiser college counselor than me offer this advice to senior parents: "Ask your child: What is one thing that you want to drop? - and let them drop it. It could be the X factor in determining a sweet senior year versus a sour one."

I amen that advice.

The colleges your child is looking at value the student's whole body of academic work. There not scrutinizing your child's transcript with a microscope. Instead they are looking primarily for a steady upward trend - both in course rigor and course performance No one class, though, or lack of one class, will be deleterious to your child's chances.

The key is that your student simply does as well as she can in the courses she does sign up to take. Hopefully, then, your child will take a couple courses that she really wants to take - rather than has to take.


Mr. B