Course sequencing? What does this mean? Imagine you are about to choose courses for your junior or senior year and realize that certain courses are not available due to prerequisites such as grades or course difficulty. Why does this matter? Because colleges value the rigor or difficulty of coursework, and standardized test scores are positively correlated with subject matter mastery (meaning if you do well in hard classes your scores tend to be higher).
Here are some suggestions for what to look for by grade level as it relates to course sequencing. One important year to focus upon is 7th grade. Not for college planning obviously. But why this grade? Well, the math you take in 7th grade is on the SAT or ACT, or Math SAT Subject Tests. Did you know the track you get on in 7th grade or 8th grade English, Math, or History tends to affect courses you can take all the way through high school? So, to students and parents alike: treat middle school course selection and grades with the understanding that the impact of those choices are longer lasting, and 9th grade high school is not just a reboot. Although colleges do not look at 8th grade transcripts or before, what you know and can do in each subject as well as the level of class you take in high school are directly related to choices made in middle school and even earlier!
So, when struggling in a class, or when thinking that it does not matter due to age: remember, it does. Not just because life should matter regardless of your age, but because there are trajectories we choose, and we are seeking to reimagine those paths and understand those choices earlier.
For high school students, always try to take more challenging courses whenever possible. The more challenging the course, the more likely students in your class will be better behaved, more focused, and more motivated to do well and therefore help you. Also, you’ll tend to learn more in terms of content breadth and more deeply, which goes back to subject matter mastery. With the fundamental study skills also applied, most students can step up to more challenging classes.