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Setting your middle schooler on the right academic track

By Erin Gibson

Registering for classes in high school might sound simple, but choosing the right classes is essential. Strength of curriculum is an important consideration for students with college aspirations. One of the top factors of importance to college admissions officers when evaluating candidates is strength of curriculum, or, in other words, challenging classes that show that a high school applicant is well prepared for college. 


• It’s fine to ramp up. If your student begins high school and you’re concerned he or she is not taking hard enough classes, don’t worry. It’s fine for a student to start out with the standard core courses in English, math, history and science before progressing toward more rigorous classes in their areas of strength. In other words, if your child starts high school in regular geometry and earns an A+, it might be worth a discussion with the guidance counselor to determine whether honors algebra II is appropriate for sophomore year. 

• Keep in mind that certain classes are prerequisites for harder classes. While showing increased rigor is good, if your child wants to take certain advanced-level classes as an upperclassman, he or she will need to take the right classes to get there. For example, an advanced placement chemistry class might require a student to take honors or advanced algebra II simultaneously (and that class may have required honors geometry as a freshman). The school course catalog lays out the different course sequences so you and your student can ensure you’re following the right sequence when it comes time to register for high school classes. 

• Graduation requirements might not fulfill certain colleges’ admission requirements. The guidance counseling office can advise your student, but it’s important to realize that some colleges and universities have strong transcript preferences for high school applicants. If your student’s high school requires two years of a foreign language to graduate, for example, but your student is aiming for the Ivy League, he or she should do a little research. Some highly selective colleges prefer three or more years of foreign language classes. 

• Middle school performance lays the groundwork. The argument that middle school academics do not matter simply isn’t true. Middle school academics set students on a particular path and teach them the habits needed in high school. So, a student taking all honors classes in middle school is more likely to understand the workload and diligence required in high school. And the students in the middle school honors track are most likely to be recommended for high school advanced placement and honors classes. 

If your child has the academic ability and interest in pursuing challenging classes in high school, make sure he or she is on the right track in middle school. We often see freshmen who didn’t take honors classes in middle school become frustrated when they have to double up on classes as sophomores in order to hop over to the advanced course sequence. 

Our advice to parents of middle school students is to consider the future. Middle school sets students on a path, so if your student has big goals and dreams of that competitive college, it’s not too early to help them get there. 

Erin Gibson is operations manager with Huntington Learning Center. Reach her at (228) 832-1226 or 

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