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Lower Merion School District


Course Selection

Course selection is at the heart of the high school experience, and reflects the growing independence students achieve at this stage of their education. Course selection for the following school year typically occurs over several weeks in the month of February, and involves conversations with teachers, the school counselor, and the student's family. Find more details through any of these links:


If my child wants to change or drop a course, what's the procedure? When is the deadline?

Students should contact their counselors to set up a meeting to request a schedule change, but should be aware that the complex nature of school-wide enrollment and scheduling make it difficult to change courses once the school year has begun. Monday, 9/17 is the last day to withdraw from a first semester or year-long course without it appearing on the student's transcript. For further details, see the online Student Handbook.

8th Grade, selecting courses for 9th: I'm worried about my daughter's workload if she takes all Honors classes, but that is what her 8th grade teachers are recommending. How can I help her decide what to take?

Unfortunately, there is no single or easy answer to this question. A great place to start is to contact your student's counselor. Many students do take all Honors courses in 9th grade and find that they can handle the workload and obtain excellent grades. However, others find that the workload is too heavy and they feel stressed or overworked by having five academic Honors classes. Note that Honors classes may assign up to an hour of homework per night.

If a student is uncomfortable with a particular subject area or struggles in one particular area to maintain a high grade, it might be better for the student to take that class at the College Prep level. Conversely, if a student is planning to take all College Prep classes but excels in a particular subject area, he or she might consider taking on the challenge of trying that subject as an Honors class.

9th Grade, choosing courses for 10th: My son doesn't tell me much about school. I've heard kids have to take Health in 10th grade. What does that mean for his schedule and should he factor it in when choosing classes?

Health is a graduation requirement. Nearly all students take Health in 10th grade and that is what the counselor will recommend. If there are extenuating circumstances (such as Special Education classes, or a student transferring to LM after 9th grade, or a schedule that includes courses at Central Montco Vocational Technical School), Health can be postponed to another year. 

Since Health takes up two class periods in the four-day cycle, students will find their schedules a little tighter in 10th grade than in other years. This is important to note for course selection. The same course load that would provide a student with two study halls in other years will leave them with no study halls in 10th grade because of Health. That could be challenging if the student participates in a sport or has other reasons to make up tests or meet with teachers during study halls.

10th Grade, choosing courses for 11th: We are so confused about AP classes! How many APs should my son take? Will colleges think he isn't challenging himself if he doesn't take every AP he can? Also, he loves Art but should he take an academic elective instead so it looks better on his transcript?

There is no right answer to this question and no magic number of AP classes to take. College representatives will say that they definitely want to see students challenge themselves, but that does not necessarily mean taking AP classes in every area. The student and parent/guardian need to take into consideration strengths and weaknesses, level of interest, time-consuming outside activities, etc. When deciding upon the number of AP classes to take, we encourage students to think carefully about workload, because taking too many APs can tip students into a stressful and unmanageable situation.

In many cases, the scope of an AP class is different than that of an Honors class -- for example, AP U.S. History covers 500 years of history as opposed to Honors covering 100 years. A conversation with the teacher can be helpful. I would recommend that the student's interests be a guiding principle in course selection. If a student loves art, he or she might want to try AP Art to explore the interest in a deeper way. Not only will it make school a happier place, which generally makes for a more successful student, but it also shows colleges another dimension to the applicant.

We strongly encourage students to have a discussion with their counselor about achieving balance in their schedules. Think about the hours of homework along with hours spent on sports and activities, and hours working or spent on family commitments. Is there enough time to fit everything in? 

11th Grade, choosing courses for 12th: Is it important for students to show a progression in their course load from junior to senior year? For example, if a junior took 3 AP classes, will colleges look to see that the student increased to 4 AP classes in senior year?

Colleges look at the strength and rigor of the student's curriculum and do not necessarily count the courses. If a student continues to challenge him/herself in the 12th grade, that is fine.

What does a challenging schedule look like? It depends on the student's interests and abilities. For students who have been taking Honors-level classes, 3 AP classes are often very challenging but still manageable. (We have seen that 4 AP classes can sometimes lead to an unmanageable workload and too much stress for students.) An alternative but equally challenging schedule might include fewer AP classes but other non-AP academic options, such as Genetics or Literary Traditions.

In all considerations around course selection, we believe it is important for students to pursue their own interests and choose a schedule that will stretch them academically, rather than trying to guess what colleges want to see in a schedule.

My daughter has always struggled with her language class and it has become more difficult every year. She wants to drop it for senior year and do something else. Is that okay? Will it look bad to colleges?

Colleges generally want students to complete at least two years of a world language; most will prefer to see that a student has studied the same language for at least three years. If a student chooses to drop a language, the replacement course is important. For example, does the student want to double up on science classes because that is a passion?

For younger students who are struggling with their world language class, it is generally preferable to switch to try another language after two years rather than dropping a language from the schedule entirely.

Conversely, students who have a knack for languages may decide to add a second language to their schedule. For example, it is not uncommon for students who took Latin in middle school to add in French or Spanish as an elective beginning in 9th or 10th grade. Lower Merion also offers Japanese, but it cannot be added as an elective until 11th grade.