Advice on course selection for 2024 with many performing arts electives in California

My D24 will need to finalize her course selection at a large public CA high school in August. She is extremely talented vocally and was just accepted to a year round advanced acapella group. She also does the spring musical as one class each year, which counts for p.e. credit. So right there that is 3/8 courses taken up by electives. Her school is on the block system and the requirements generally follow the UC A-G minimum requirements, with a couple of extras (health, etc.) The choir and MT programs at her school are excellent and they have won numerous state competitions in the past but she is unlikely to have a lot of other ECs. She is a gifted student with close to a 4.0UW but does not want to do summer school at the community college and enjoys a summer performance camp. Prior testing is usually off the charts in ELA, but low advanced in math (could have worsened since potentially). Math rigor is honors level, not top and she will do 3 years. Her high school has numerous APs and DE classes available to take on campus. So far they have tentatively scheduled APs in ELA and history. Another parent suggested subbing APES for honors Chemistry offered by the counselor, and taking AP Psych.

She has a 529 account and we are full pay. She is fairly likely to stay in state for College I would guess at this point and apply to highly selective schools. My guess is she will apply either as an English or maybe graphic art (so, thankfully not one of the most popular majors). We have yet to learn about the MT application process / major. I don’t see her being a music major since she will learn some theory but likes to do it her way/by ear and quit formal piano.

The counselor so far has met only with the student and parents were not welcome to attend. I sent some questions that are so far unanswered, the main one being can she complete the core requirements without summer school and have all of these electives. I’ve started a spreadsheet but will check that myself. I think not. Then, secondly I’m wondering if she should shoot for more APs vs. DEs. My personal suspicion is that AP scores might get a good look at TO or TB schools by 2024. Any thoughts are welcome. Thanks!

This is what our CA public high school recommends for the strongest non-STEM students:

Take core science classes first: biology, chemistry and physics then do one AP science senior year, APES is less rigorous than Biology which in turn is easier than Physics C and Chemistry.

Do a math course every year, finish with AP Stats in senior year if Calc is too hard.

Usually then you have AP Lang and Lit junior and senior year, AP Euro and US history sophomore and junior year (then maybe Econ senior year), and your foreign language through AP (in junior or senior year depending on starting level).

In your case with 3 electives already set, that fills the remaining 5 courses out of your 8. 6-10 APs is very typical for CA high schools, usually 1-2 sophomore year, 3-4 junior and senior years. I think that test optional schools may start looking more closely at actual AP scores in the future, given the limited information available from GPA.

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Can you list which courses she has taken so far and her tentative schedule?

DE courses will become part of her permanent college record so if she opts to take some DE courses, she should make sure that she will get A’s in these classes.


She has taken Honors English (with Ethnic Studies), Honors/enrichment integrated Math, Physics, Spanish 1 Health/Freshman Seminar (DE) combo (required at HS), Play Performance, Musical Theater 1, and Girls Acapella Choir.

They came up with this tentative sophomore schedule: H English 2, H/E Math 2, H Chemistry, Spanish 2, AP World History, Play Production, Advanced Acapella (counts for 2). Total 8

“Skeleton” for Jr/Sr: H/E Math 3, H Pre-Calc, English Lang AP, AP Lit, AP Gov, AP Micro Econ, AP US History, Spanish 3, Biology, Play Production (2), Advanced Acapella (4). Total 15/16

It is very common for honors hs kids to take language or history in the summer at CC. Almost without exception the CC classes are a breeze for the AP kids at the high schools, though we do have a pretty large and well regarded CC here. Her high school offers the most DE classes around. Our objective is more to get into a better college rather than to complete a lot of CC units. It’s really a toss up whether she will end up at a public or private college.

Another reality is that her performance classes are fixed, so we can expect some conflicts. I’d really like her to take graphic art as she won an award this year and it’s a good non-music area to explore as a career for her along with creative writing.

She’s capable with math but doesn’t enjoy it. Breezed through Physics with a good teacher. I think she would enjoy AP Bio. I asked already once for AP Bio this coming year instead of Chem, but the counselor said they don’t sub that for sophomores.

The sophomore course list looks fine. I wouldn’t make changes or bother with DEs unless you have conflicts that prevent taking key courses.

So seems like this would be junior year: AP USH, AP Lang, Math 3, Spanish 3, AP Bio, Play, Acapella.

Then senior year: AP Gov or Econ, AP Lit, Pre-Calc, Play and Acapella, leaving one science slot and one language slot. I would recommend putting APES (or another AP science) and AP Spanish in there, rather than doing both Gov and Econ.

At the UCs, having your AP foreign language (with a good score) can save a whole year of foreign language courses in college. And having science every year also looks better than an extra elective in Gov/Econ.

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Thanks. HS requires Econ and Gov but my bad it looks like that requirement is one quarter (5 credits each), though I would assume these two APs are full semesters (1 each).

With the proposed, she only would have one class open, not two.

Yes same in our school, it’s gov and econ in senior year, each is a half course. We don’t have the AP option but I don’t know if that would make it any longer. If so I would take the regular course and leave space for a science and a language. Amongst our top students only those who’d already completed the AP dropped Spanish in senior year (my kids were amongst the very few non-native speakers who didn’t stop and chose to do AP Spanish Lit in addition during senior year).

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She likes Spanish so far but it’s been incredibly easy on a computer program it seems during Covid. I agree it would be useful to get AP Spanish done as that seems to get you done at LACs. I would expect her to continue to do well in science but the counselor may have done it this way since she’s a good writer. If science is considered more rigorous then that might be helpful.

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Did find out from a friend that AP Econ and Gov together only take one semester so we have a little bit more breathing room. Seems like it would be good to score an AP science so I will persist with the counselor on that.

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Remember you want 4 APs between sophomore and junior years for maximum UC weighting (assuming none of the other courses are UC weighted). So AP WH followed by Lang, USH and AP science (Bio or APES) junior year. Senior year would then be a second AP science.

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