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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Academic Specialization in High School

Life is pretty cyclical in academia. Sophomores and juniors seem to be getting ready to register for next year's courses and we're getting lots of calls about course options. I sat down this morning to write a post about the curriculum choice that I think is a mistake and realized that I wrote about the same thing around this time in the past. If you don't want to click over, I'm talking about high school students tailoring their program to a certain major in order to "look good" on their college application.

Some people out there seem to think that a lopsided curriculum in high school is a great thing. They know what they want to be when they grow up and they just need to execute a finely crafted plan to get them there. These tend to be the same people show up at college orientation with four years of courses mapped out. We see this a lot and it doesn't always rarely works out the way the student planned.



At UVA, most students aren't doing work in a major until the second or third year. The exception is Kinesiology majors, who are admitted directly into the program. We hope that you'll see the first few semesters as a time to explore your options and determine if the paths that looked attractive in high school are still interesting. There are academic options that you aren't even aware of right now!  The path that seems clear in high school is apt to change. 

Sophomores and juniors, focus on getting strong courses in the core academic areas right now. Don't drop core subjects to go over board on one area. A lopsided curriculum doesn't "look good" to us. We want you to get a solid foundation so that you are prepared to go in any direction later on, not just the direction that is appealing right now.

I'm not talking about governors schools or magnet programs. My students at those schools tend to take care of their core. Perhaps that's mandated in some of those schools. I'm talking about students who don't establish a strong, broad foundation across the core subjects.

As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments.