Balancing Rigor and Passion

Balancing Like an Expert


Your future college has a good idea which classes are the most rigorous at your high school.

But do you?

After you learn how to walk, high school generally is your first major balancing act. From Day One, you need a plan, and that begins with preliminary meetings with your counselor. Remember, this is a crucially formative time to develop into a sought-after candidate in the college community.

“If you want to be somebody…if you want to go somewhere…you better wake up and pay attention.” (“Sister Act 2”)

Explore your options

Colleges can spot opportunities lost, so succeeding in the most challenging courses available (taking into consideration your personal academic goals) is an absolute must. Also, explore honors and AP tracks in assorted programs. Standard Biology will give you a flavor of the basics required from science students. Honors Biology will improve your reading strengths and time management skills by a significant margin and give you the confidence to select more Honors, AP or International Baccalaureate courses, where available. Work with your counselor to establish the appropriate tracks in English, Social Studies and the STEM progression. 

You want to demonstrate to your future college the challenges you have met. But know that an unweighted grade doesn’t equally compare with the accomplishment of a weighted course. 

If your school has limited options, check out online and local community-college courses. Your ability to exhibit self-directed education goals and flexibility goes a long way toward standing out in a highly competitive race to win college acceptance.

Questions for success

By the end of your freshman year, ask yourself:

  • Do I feel challenged by the courses I have taken and intend to take?
  • Will I feel prepared for college-level math/science/writing work?
  • Am I set up for a well-balanced academic program that will provide me with a good foundation for college?

Balancing these comes from carefully chosen electives. Maybe it’s too early to decide what you are going to do in your future work life. But think about your interests and passions. Consider areas you may know little about at age 14 but might find fun and enlightening. Frequently, students decided on their work choice because of a particularly stimulating elective they took in high school.

Electives provide options and balance 

Electives say a lot about one’s passion in a subject or interest area. 

  • Enjoy gaming?
    Take an Advanced Java elective.
  • Curious about business?
    Sign up for an accounting, micro-finance, or marketing class.
  • Devoted to saving the planet?
    Explore environmental science courses.

When you hit upon an elective that resonates, follow through. Look for ways to apply your in-class learning in real-world ways.


Take an environmental science elective knowledge and think outside the box. Seek out an opportunity to collaborate with your peers and become a trailblazer for expanding a school recycling program and dedicating resources or funds to serving a low-income population. 

Finally, colleges want to see a prospective candidate that will use their willingness to stretch and learn in unique and compelling ways. This ability shows a college you have what it takes to make a difference on their campus and beyond.

Now is the time to get it all rolling.