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What to Do If You Can't Take the Class You Want

With school starting, many high school students are still finalizing their classes for this year. Scheduling conflicts and cancelled classes are common these days due to teacher shortages around the country.

Will this impact a student's admissions outcomes?

Surprisingly, admissions officers are incredibly understanding when a student is not able to take a class—as long as there is a valid reason. In fact, students are only expected to take advantage of the classes that are available to them. If there is something that is out of a student's control, it is important that the application makes a note of this.
Here is what students can do if they find themselves in this situation:
  1. If you are a freshman, sophomore, or junior, you may be able to take this class in the future. 
  2. For seniors, speak to your school or college counselor about how to proceed. And consider #3 through #10 on this list!
  3. If all the colleges on your list require a letter of recommendation from your school or college counselor, they can explain why you were not able to take the class in the letter. 
  4. If you are applying to colleges that do not require a counselor letter of recommendation, draft a few sentences (no more than that!) explaining why you were not able to take the class and add the statement to the "Additional Information" section of your application.
  5. Some high schools will allow a student (especially a high-achieving one) to take the class as an "independent study." If this is permitted, make sure your transcript accurately reflects the title of the class, and that you are getting credit and a grade for it.
  6. If this class is absolutely necessary to take and your school will not permit an independent study, consider taking this class online through an accredited high school. There are dozens of reputable online high schools that offer a long list of traditional classes. Just remember that online classes are not suited for every learner. Sometimes these classes are better taken in person.
  7. Your local community college or local four-year university might offer a similar class. Be aware of timing, though. College classes might not work well with your schedule. And the content covered doesn't always match up perfectly with the high school class, so you need to make sure you are prepared to handle the demands of a college class.
  8.  Review your school's profile. This is a document that is supposed to be updated every single year and should list the curriculum offerings at your school. The school profile is expected to be sent by your school or college counselor with an official transcript to colleges that require this. If the class you wanted to take is no longer offered at your school, make sure the profile accurately reflects that. 
  9. If you have to self-report classes and grades on your application, make sure to list outside classes clearly. For example, if you are taking an online class (outside of your "home" high school) during senior year, list the class and indicate where you are taking it in the section on the application for senior year coursework. 
  10. If you take a class outside of your high school, ask your school or college counselor whether or not your high school reports these classes on your official transcript. If not, you will need to send official transcripts from these outside institutions to the colleges on your list (if self-reported classes/grades are not permitted).

READ MORE: 5 Things I Told My Daughter at the Beginning of Junior Year

Scheduling conflicts and cancelled classes should never disadvantage a student. Just make sure the reason you are not able to take a class is valid. Elective classes should take a backseat to core academic subjects (English, math, science, history, foreign language) and high school graduation requirements. Not taking Calculus or Spanish for senior year in order to take Introduction to Business or get an early dismissal is not the same as having a true scheduling issue. Colleges will be flexible when there is a reason to be.