If only choosing courses were as easy as opening the door...

The ABCs of Choosing Courses

If only choosing courses were as easy as opening the door...
If only choosing courses were as easy as opening the door...

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a high school student stressing about the SAT, or double AP Ultracalculus ABCD-III, or maybe gym class. We all have our worries about the various things we have to do, pass, or ace if we want to succeed in life. Now, when you haven’t started the glorious journey, and you’re planning your courses from your low-vantage point seat of an eighth grader, you occasionally make some mistakes. Like, major mistakes.

At least at my middle school, eighth graders are required, before graduating middle school, to:

  • Choose all courses for your freshman year
  • Choose all courses for all subsequent high school years
  • Choose your top five colleges
  • Choose your intended major
  • Memorize all course requirements (4 years math, 4 years English, 2 years foreign language, so on and so forth)
  • Choose between honors, on-level, AP, Pre-AP (yes, AP and Pre-AP are both offered in some courses), remedial, extra remedial (okay, it’s called “models based”) AB Pre-AP, BC Pre-AP, AB AP, BC AP, and accelerated for all courses

Of course, it’s easy enough to change your 8th grade plan, and most people do about a thousand times before they graduate. Unfortunately, if you get far enough following it, it becomes essentially written in stone. For example, I decided at the mature and responsible age of 13 that I wanted to take my “computer competency” course online (makes a lot of sense, right?).

As it turns out, most online courses are great; you don’t have to deal with crusty old teachers breathing down your neck and you never have to listen to anyone. Just learn material, pass final. Easy enough, except for computer competency. Apparently, the real final exam is actually administered prior to enrollment. Essentially, it’s a web scavenger hunt as the program instructions for downloading your course send you to jump through various hoops on 12 different websites in an epic quest to figure out how the heck this thing is supposed to work.

I spent several hours on, according to my computer history, literally 16 different sites desperately attempting to purchase my textbook and take the friggin’ class. As it turns out, friends of mine have taken gym, Latin, health, and economics online, with none of these shenanigans.

To add irony to injury, when I finally got to start the program, my diagnostic test revealed that I (the person not “computer competent” enough to figure out said program) was in the top 95 percentile of computer competency. This begs the question of how on Earth the other 94% figured it out.

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The only thing I can say I’ve learned from this experience: never, ever do what your 8th grade self would. It’s a bad idea.


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