Tips To Help Students Connect Course Selections With Future Decision-Making & Aspirations

November 14, 2022
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Imagine, if you will, the inner dialogue that occurs for millions of high school seniors every fall as they compile the various artifacts that represent who they are and what they have done for submission to colleges, universities, and other opportunities. In hopes of being admitted, they make the best possible case by authoring essays, curating activities, and explaining the academic journey reflected on their transcript. They know that their grades and test scores will be used to compare them with others. But, beyond the quantitative comparisons, they come to realize that the quality of their course taking–the breadth and depth of the courses on their transcript–are used to gauge their intentions and whether they are serious in their postsecondary ambitions.

The decisions a student makes about which courses to take, when to take them, and how, can have major impacts on opportunities later in high school and for their postsecondary trajectories. When senior year hits, students must question: Did they take enough foreign language credits to meet a college’s requirements? Did they put together a strong portfolio of arts, humanities, sciences, applied experiences, and accelerated coursework? 

Whether a student has a chance to be considered for their aspirational next step is largely dependent upon decisions they made several years beforehand. The quality of the transcript is the result of what choices the student made in the past. And, for most students, the quality of those choices made in the past was determined by the quality of advice and level of expectation which surrounded them. 

Counselors Can Be a Pivotal Resource in Expanding Understanding and Consideration 

Counselors deeply understand how these factors and course selections determine competitiveness during the college application phase, but are often overwhelmed with the volume of students they support and limited personalized information on each student. Unfortunately, many students and families are not fully aware of the importance of these choices until senior year when it is too late to access opportunities or fill in gaps. 

Counselors can be a pivotal resource to ensure that students make thoughtful, informed, and intentional decisions about course selection throughout high school. Use the tips below to add additional ways to educate and expand understanding about the importance of course selection for students and families each time they must make course selections. Taking these steps can help students make better decisions for their high school trajectory, be more aware of upper-level options, and set them up for postsecondary success, without moments of crisis or learning about opportunities after it’s too late to do something about it. 

Connect goal setting with course selection. 

Course selection is one of the most important series of decision points for students while in high school. It is vital that students understand the importance of these decisions and formally connect the course selection process with their short-term and long-term goals. Consider building in goal-setting exercises and reflection on goals in tandem with selecting courses. Structure ways for students to articulate their goals and do a check on whether their course selections will help or hinder their success in meeting those goals. Have students repeat these exercises during each course selection cycle. This both ensures the courses students are taking align with their goals and forces students to more cohesively and tangibly see their high school choices as working towards their postsecondary hopes and dreams.

Visually show how course options relate to other opportunities down the line.

It is hard for most students–especially in their freshman or sophomore years–to really understand how different courses build upon one another as prerequisites and what different postsecondary opportunities require for students to even be considered. Find ways for students to clearly understand these different pathways and options. During the course selection process, consider finding a way to visually show students how courses relate to one another, requirements for upper level course options, and how the courses they are selecting now fit into requirements and expectations for high school graduation, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, apprenticeship requirements, trade school openings, and any other relevant postsecondary trajectories. 

Preview what is ahead as it relates to course selection.

Many of the most content-rich and interesting courses or programs in high schools are only available to students when they are juniors and seniors. And, many of these have requirements for students to fulfill before they are allowed to enroll or be considered for participation. Use the course selection process to give younger students a view into the options that will be available to them during later years and make clear the prerequisites and other necessary requirements. Doing this helps to increase equity of opportunity for students as it makes sure all students have access to the relevant information and requirements early. It also increases engagement with school work and current courses as students can see purpose in what they are doing now and build excitement over opportunities to come. 

Share information to improve the quality of the course experience. 

Beyond just sharing what is required and what is available for students to take in terms of courses, share wisdom and lessons learned to help students have the best overall experience while they are selecting courses. Counselors know that when students delay an introductory-level required course until later in their high school trajectory, students can feel social discomfort being much older than peers when they do take the course. Doing this can also create scheduling challenges down the line which may eliminate other course electives from consideration for a student. Help students understand these potential unintended consequences when making course selections. Consider building in junior and senior student mentors into the course selection process who can help convey these lessons from a firsthand, learned perspective. Finding ways to expand student understanding and consideration as they make course selections help them to be thoughtful and forward-looking through the process rather than just thinking about the immediate semester.

Imagine, if you will, the inner dialogue that occurs for millions of high school seniors every fall as they compile the various artifacts that represent who they are and what they have done for submission to colleges, universities, and other opportunities. In hopes of being admitted, they make the best possible case by authoring essays, curating activities, and explaining the academic journey reflected on their transcript. They know that their grades and test scores will be used to compare them with others. But, beyond the quantitative comparisons, they come to realize that the quality of their course taking–the breadth and depth of the courses on their transcript–are used to gauge their intentions and whether they are serious in their postsecondary ambitions.

The decisions a student makes about which courses to take, when to take them, and how, can have major impacts on opportunities later in high school and for their postsecondary trajectories. When senior year hits, students must question: Did they take enough foreign language credits to meet a college’s requirements? Did they put together a strong portfolio of arts, humanities, sciences, applied experiences, and accelerated coursework? 

Whether a student has a chance to be considered for their aspirational next step is largely dependent upon decisions they made several years beforehand. The quality of the transcript is the result of what choices the student made in the past. And, for most students, the quality of those choices made in the past was determined by the quality of advice and level of expectation which surrounded them. 

Counselors Can Be a Pivotal Resource in Expanding Understanding and Consideration 

Counselors deeply understand how these factors and course selections determine competitiveness during the college application phase, but are often overwhelmed with the volume of students they support and limited personalized information on each student. Unfortunately, many students and families are not fully aware of the importance of these choices until senior year when it is too late to access opportunities or fill in gaps. 

Counselors can be a pivotal resource to ensure that students make thoughtful, informed, and intentional decisions about course selection throughout high school. Use the tips below to add additional ways to educate and expand understanding about the importance of course selection for students and families each time they must make course selections. Taking these steps can help students make better decisions for their high school trajectory, be more aware of upper-level options, and set them up for postsecondary success, without moments of crisis or learning about opportunities after it’s too late to do something about it. 

Connect goal setting with course selection. 

Course selection is one of the most important series of decision points for students while in high school. It is vital that students understand the importance of these decisions and formally connect the course selection process with their short-term and long-term goals. Consider building in goal-setting exercises and reflection on goals in tandem with selecting courses. Structure ways for students to articulate their goals and do a check on whether their course selections will help or hinder their success in meeting those goals. Have students repeat these exercises during each course selection cycle. This both ensures the courses students are taking align with their goals and forces students to more cohesively and tangibly see their high school choices as working towards their postsecondary hopes and dreams.

Visually show how course options relate to other opportunities down the line.

It is hard for most students–especially in their freshman or sophomore years–to really understand how different courses build upon one another as prerequisites and what different postsecondary opportunities require for students to even be considered. Find ways for students to clearly understand these different pathways and options. During the course selection process, consider finding a way to visually show students how courses relate to one another, requirements for upper level course options, and how the courses they are selecting now fit into requirements and expectations for high school graduation, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, apprenticeship requirements, trade school openings, and any other relevant postsecondary trajectories. 

Preview what is ahead as it relates to course selection.

Many of the most content-rich and interesting courses or programs in high schools are only available to students when they are juniors and seniors. And, many of these have requirements for students to fulfill before they are allowed to enroll or be considered for participation. Use the course selection process to give younger students a view into the options that will be available to them during later years and make clear the prerequisites and other necessary requirements. Doing this helps to increase equity of opportunity for students as it makes sure all students have access to the relevant information and requirements early. It also increases engagement with school work and current courses as students can see purpose in what they are doing now and build excitement over opportunities to come. 

Share information to improve the quality of the course experience. 

Beyond just sharing what is required and what is available for students to take in terms of courses, share wisdom and lessons learned to help students have the best overall experience while they are selecting courses. Counselors know that when students delay an introductory-level required course until later in their high school trajectory, students can feel social discomfort being much older than peers when they do take the course. Doing this can also create scheduling challenges down the line which may eliminate other course electives from consideration for a student. Help students understand these potential unintended consequences when making course selections. Consider building in junior and senior student mentors into the course selection process who can help convey these lessons from a firsthand, learned perspective. Finding ways to expand student understanding and consideration as they make course selections help them to be thoughtful and forward-looking through the process rather than just thinking about the immediate semester.

Imagine, if you will, the inner dialogue that occurs for millions of high school seniors every fall as they compile the various artifacts that represent who they are and what they have done for submission to colleges, universities, and other opportunities. In hopes of being admitted, they make the best possible case by authoring essays, curating activities, and explaining the academic journey reflected on their transcript. They know that their grades and test scores will be used to compare them with others. But, beyond the quantitative comparisons, they come to realize that the quality of their course taking–the breadth and depth of the courses on their transcript–are used to gauge their intentions and whether they are serious in their postsecondary ambitions.

The decisions a student makes about which courses to take, when to take them, and how, can have major impacts on opportunities later in high school and for their postsecondary trajectories. When senior year hits, students must question: Did they take enough foreign language credits to meet a college’s requirements? Did they put together a strong portfolio of arts, humanities, sciences, applied experiences, and accelerated coursework? 

Whether a student has a chance to be considered for their aspirational next step is largely dependent upon decisions they made several years beforehand. The quality of the transcript is the result of what choices the student made in the past. And, for most students, the quality of those choices made in the past was determined by the quality of advice and level of expectation which surrounded them. 

Counselors Can Be a Pivotal Resource in Expanding Understanding and Consideration 

Counselors deeply understand how these factors and course selections determine competitiveness during the college application phase, but are often overwhelmed with the volume of students they support and limited personalized information on each student. Unfortunately, many students and families are not fully aware of the importance of these choices until senior year when it is too late to access opportunities or fill in gaps. 

Counselors can be a pivotal resource to ensure that students make thoughtful, informed, and intentional decisions about course selection throughout high school. Use the tips below to add additional ways to educate and expand understanding about the importance of course selection for students and families each time they must make course selections. Taking these steps can help students make better decisions for their high school trajectory, be more aware of upper-level options, and set them up for postsecondary success, without moments of crisis or learning about opportunities after it’s too late to do something about it. 

Connect goal setting with course selection. 

Course selection is one of the most important series of decision points for students while in high school. It is vital that students understand the importance of these decisions and formally connect the course selection process with their short-term and long-term goals. Consider building in goal-setting exercises and reflection on goals in tandem with selecting courses. Structure ways for students to articulate their goals and do a check on whether their course selections will help or hinder their success in meeting those goals. Have students repeat these exercises during each course selection cycle. This both ensures the courses students are taking align with their goals and forces students to more cohesively and tangibly see their high school choices as working towards their postsecondary hopes and dreams.

Visually show how course options relate to other opportunities down the line.

It is hard for most students–especially in their freshman or sophomore years–to really understand how different courses build upon one another as prerequisites and what different postsecondary opportunities require for students to even be considered. Find ways for students to clearly understand these different pathways and options. During the course selection process, consider finding a way to visually show students how courses relate to one another, requirements for upper level course options, and how the courses they are selecting now fit into requirements and expectations for high school graduation, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, apprenticeship requirements, trade school openings, and any other relevant postsecondary trajectories. 

Preview what is ahead as it relates to course selection.

Many of the most content-rich and interesting courses or programs in high schools are only available to students when they are juniors and seniors. And, many of these have requirements for students to fulfill before they are allowed to enroll or be considered for participation. Use the course selection process to give younger students a view into the options that will be available to them during later years and make clear the prerequisites and other necessary requirements. Doing this helps to increase equity of opportunity for students as it makes sure all students have access to the relevant information and requirements early. It also increases engagement with school work and current courses as students can see purpose in what they are doing now and build excitement over opportunities to come. 

Share information to improve the quality of the course experience. 

Beyond just sharing what is required and what is available for students to take in terms of courses, share wisdom and lessons learned to help students have the best overall experience while they are selecting courses. Counselors know that when students delay an introductory-level required course until later in their high school trajectory, students can feel social discomfort being much older than peers when they do take the course. Doing this can also create scheduling challenges down the line which may eliminate other course electives from consideration for a student. Help students understand these potential unintended consequences when making course selections. Consider building in junior and senior student mentors into the course selection process who can help convey these lessons from a firsthand, learned perspective. Finding ways to expand student understanding and consideration as they make course selections help them to be thoughtful and forward-looking through the process rather than just thinking about the immediate semester.

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Imagine, if you will, the inner dialogue that occurs for millions of high school seniors every fall as they compile the various artifacts that represent who they are and what they have done for submission to colleges, universities, and other opportunities. In hopes of being admitted, they make the best possible case by authoring essays, curating activities, and explaining the academic journey reflected on their transcript. They know that their grades and test scores will be used to compare them with others. But, beyond the quantitative comparisons, they come to realize that the quality of their course taking–the breadth and depth of the courses on their transcript–are used to gauge their intentions and whether they are serious in their postsecondary ambitions.

The decisions a student makes about which courses to take, when to take them, and how, can have major impacts on opportunities later in high school and for their postsecondary trajectories. When senior year hits, students must question: Did they take enough foreign language credits to meet a college’s requirements? Did they put together a strong portfolio of arts, humanities, sciences, applied experiences, and accelerated coursework? 

Whether a student has a chance to be considered for their aspirational next step is largely dependent upon decisions they made several years beforehand. The quality of the transcript is the result of what choices the student made in the past. And, for most students, the quality of those choices made in the past was determined by the quality of advice and level of expectation which surrounded them. 

Counselors Can Be a Pivotal Resource in Expanding Understanding and Consideration 

Counselors deeply understand how these factors and course selections determine competitiveness during the college application phase, but are often overwhelmed with the volume of students they support and limited personalized information on each student. Unfortunately, many students and families are not fully aware of the importance of these choices until senior year when it is too late to access opportunities or fill in gaps. 

Counselors can be a pivotal resource to ensure that students make thoughtful, informed, and intentional decisions about course selection throughout high school. Use the tips below to add additional ways to educate and expand understanding about the importance of course selection for students and families each time they must make course selections. Taking these steps can help students make better decisions for their high school trajectory, be more aware of upper-level options, and set them up for postsecondary success, without moments of crisis or learning about opportunities after it’s too late to do something about it. 

Connect goal setting with course selection. 

Course selection is one of the most important series of decision points for students while in high school. It is vital that students understand the importance of these decisions and formally connect the course selection process with their short-term and long-term goals. Consider building in goal-setting exercises and reflection on goals in tandem with selecting courses. Structure ways for students to articulate their goals and do a check on whether their course selections will help or hinder their success in meeting those goals. Have students repeat these exercises during each course selection cycle. This both ensures the courses students are taking align with their goals and forces students to more cohesively and tangibly see their high school choices as working towards their postsecondary hopes and dreams.

Visually show how course options relate to other opportunities down the line.

It is hard for most students–especially in their freshman or sophomore years–to really understand how different courses build upon one another as prerequisites and what different postsecondary opportunities require for students to even be considered. Find ways for students to clearly understand these different pathways and options. During the course selection process, consider finding a way to visually show students how courses relate to one another, requirements for upper level course options, and how the courses they are selecting now fit into requirements and expectations for high school graduation, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, apprenticeship requirements, trade school openings, and any other relevant postsecondary trajectories. 

Preview what is ahead as it relates to course selection.

Many of the most content-rich and interesting courses or programs in high schools are only available to students when they are juniors and seniors. And, many of these have requirements for students to fulfill before they are allowed to enroll or be considered for participation. Use the course selection process to give younger students a view into the options that will be available to them during later years and make clear the prerequisites and other necessary requirements. Doing this helps to increase equity of opportunity for students as it makes sure all students have access to the relevant information and requirements early. It also increases engagement with school work and current courses as students can see purpose in what they are doing now and build excitement over opportunities to come. 

Share information to improve the quality of the course experience. 

Beyond just sharing what is required and what is available for students to take in terms of courses, share wisdom and lessons learned to help students have the best overall experience while they are selecting courses. Counselors know that when students delay an introductory-level required course until later in their high school trajectory, students can feel social discomfort being much older than peers when they do take the course. Doing this can also create scheduling challenges down the line which may eliminate other course electives from consideration for a student. Help students understand these potential unintended consequences when making course selections. Consider building in junior and senior student mentors into the course selection process who can help convey these lessons from a firsthand, learned perspective. Finding ways to expand student understanding and consideration as they make course selections help them to be thoughtful and forward-looking through the process rather than just thinking about the immediate semester.

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Imagine, if you will, the inner dialogue that occurs for millions of high school seniors every fall as they compile the various artifacts that represent who they are and what they have done for submission to colleges, universities, and other opportunities. In hopes of being admitted, they make the best possible case by authoring essays, curating activities, and explaining the academic journey reflected on their transcript. They know that their grades and test scores will be used to compare them with others. But, beyond the quantitative comparisons, they come to realize that the quality of their course taking–the breadth and depth of the courses on their transcript–are used to gauge their intentions and whether they are serious in their postsecondary ambitions.

The decisions a student makes about which courses to take, when to take them, and how, can have major impacts on opportunities later in high school and for their postsecondary trajectories. When senior year hits, students must question: Did they take enough foreign language credits to meet a college’s requirements? Did they put together a strong portfolio of arts, humanities, sciences, applied experiences, and accelerated coursework? 

Whether a student has a chance to be considered for their aspirational next step is largely dependent upon decisions they made several years beforehand. The quality of the transcript is the result of what choices the student made in the past. And, for most students, the quality of those choices made in the past was determined by the quality of advice and level of expectation which surrounded them. 

Counselors Can Be a Pivotal Resource in Expanding Understanding and Consideration 

Counselors deeply understand how these factors and course selections determine competitiveness during the college application phase, but are often overwhelmed with the volume of students they support and limited personalized information on each student. Unfortunately, many students and families are not fully aware of the importance of these choices until senior year when it is too late to access opportunities or fill in gaps. 

Counselors can be a pivotal resource to ensure that students make thoughtful, informed, and intentional decisions about course selection throughout high school. Use the tips below to add additional ways to educate and expand understanding about the importance of course selection for students and families each time they must make course selections. Taking these steps can help students make better decisions for their high school trajectory, be more aware of upper-level options, and set them up for postsecondary success, without moments of crisis or learning about opportunities after it’s too late to do something about it. 

Connect goal setting with course selection. 

Course selection is one of the most important series of decision points for students while in high school. It is vital that students understand the importance of these decisions and formally connect the course selection process with their short-term and long-term goals. Consider building in goal-setting exercises and reflection on goals in tandem with selecting courses. Structure ways for students to articulate their goals and do a check on whether their course selections will help or hinder their success in meeting those goals. Have students repeat these exercises during each course selection cycle. This both ensures the courses students are taking align with their goals and forces students to more cohesively and tangibly see their high school choices as working towards their postsecondary hopes and dreams.

Visually show how course options relate to other opportunities down the line.

It is hard for most students–especially in their freshman or sophomore years–to really understand how different courses build upon one another as prerequisites and what different postsecondary opportunities require for students to even be considered. Find ways for students to clearly understand these different pathways and options. During the course selection process, consider finding a way to visually show students how courses relate to one another, requirements for upper level course options, and how the courses they are selecting now fit into requirements and expectations for high school graduation, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, apprenticeship requirements, trade school openings, and any other relevant postsecondary trajectories. 

Preview what is ahead as it relates to course selection.

Many of the most content-rich and interesting courses or programs in high schools are only available to students when they are juniors and seniors. And, many of these have requirements for students to fulfill before they are allowed to enroll or be considered for participation. Use the course selection process to give younger students a view into the options that will be available to them during later years and make clear the prerequisites and other necessary requirements. Doing this helps to increase equity of opportunity for students as it makes sure all students have access to the relevant information and requirements early. It also increases engagement with school work and current courses as students can see purpose in what they are doing now and build excitement over opportunities to come. 

Share information to improve the quality of the course experience. 

Beyond just sharing what is required and what is available for students to take in terms of courses, share wisdom and lessons learned to help students have the best overall experience while they are selecting courses. Counselors know that when students delay an introductory-level required course until later in their high school trajectory, students can feel social discomfort being much older than peers when they do take the course. Doing this can also create scheduling challenges down the line which may eliminate other course electives from consideration for a student. Help students understand these potential unintended consequences when making course selections. Consider building in junior and senior student mentors into the course selection process who can help convey these lessons from a firsthand, learned perspective. Finding ways to expand student understanding and consideration as they make course selections help them to be thoughtful and forward-looking through the process rather than just thinking about the immediate semester.

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Imagine, if you will, the inner dialogue that occurs for millions of high school seniors every fall as they compile the various artifacts that represent who they are and what they have done for submission to colleges, universities, and other opportunities. In hopes of being admitted, they make the best possible case by authoring essays, curating activities, and explaining the academic journey reflected on their transcript. They know that their grades and test scores will be used to compare them with others. But, beyond the quantitative comparisons, they come to realize that the quality of their course taking–the breadth and depth of the courses on their transcript–are used to gauge their intentions and whether they are serious in their postsecondary ambitions.

The decisions a student makes about which courses to take, when to take them, and how, can have major impacts on opportunities later in high school and for their postsecondary trajectories. When senior year hits, students must question: Did they take enough foreign language credits to meet a college’s requirements? Did they put together a strong portfolio of arts, humanities, sciences, applied experiences, and accelerated coursework? 

Whether a student has a chance to be considered for their aspirational next step is largely dependent upon decisions they made several years beforehand. The quality of the transcript is the result of what choices the student made in the past. And, for most students, the quality of those choices made in the past was determined by the quality of advice and level of expectation which surrounded them. 

Counselors Can Be a Pivotal Resource in Expanding Understanding and Consideration 

Counselors deeply understand how these factors and course selections determine competitiveness during the college application phase, but are often overwhelmed with the volume of students they support and limited personalized information on each student. Unfortunately, many students and families are not fully aware of the importance of these choices until senior year when it is too late to access opportunities or fill in gaps. 

Counselors can be a pivotal resource to ensure that students make thoughtful, informed, and intentional decisions about course selection throughout high school. Use the tips below to add additional ways to educate and expand understanding about the importance of course selection for students and families each time they must make course selections. Taking these steps can help students make better decisions for their high school trajectory, be more aware of upper-level options, and set them up for postsecondary success, without moments of crisis or learning about opportunities after it’s too late to do something about it. 

Connect goal setting with course selection. 

Course selection is one of the most important series of decision points for students while in high school. It is vital that students understand the importance of these decisions and formally connect the course selection process with their short-term and long-term goals. Consider building in goal-setting exercises and reflection on goals in tandem with selecting courses. Structure ways for students to articulate their goals and do a check on whether their course selections will help or hinder their success in meeting those goals. Have students repeat these exercises during each course selection cycle. This both ensures the courses students are taking align with their goals and forces students to more cohesively and tangibly see their high school choices as working towards their postsecondary hopes and dreams.

Visually show how course options relate to other opportunities down the line.

It is hard for most students–especially in their freshman or sophomore years–to really understand how different courses build upon one another as prerequisites and what different postsecondary opportunities require for students to even be considered. Find ways for students to clearly understand these different pathways and options. During the course selection process, consider finding a way to visually show students how courses relate to one another, requirements for upper level course options, and how the courses they are selecting now fit into requirements and expectations for high school graduation, college admissions, scholarship opportunities, apprenticeship requirements, trade school openings, and any other relevant postsecondary trajectories. 

Preview what is ahead as it relates to course selection.

Many of the most content-rich and interesting courses or programs in high schools are only available to students when they are juniors and seniors. And, many of these have requirements for students to fulfill before they are allowed to enroll or be considered for participation. Use the course selection process to give younger students a view into the options that will be available to them during later years and make clear the prerequisites and other necessary requirements. Doing this helps to increase equity of opportunity for students as it makes sure all students have access to the relevant information and requirements early. It also increases engagement with school work and current courses as students can see purpose in what they are doing now and build excitement over opportunities to come. 

Share information to improve the quality of the course experience. 

Beyond just sharing what is required and what is available for students to take in terms of courses, share wisdom and lessons learned to help students have the best overall experience while they are selecting courses. Counselors know that when students delay an introductory-level required course until later in their high school trajectory, students can feel social discomfort being much older than peers when they do take the course. Doing this can also create scheduling challenges down the line which may eliminate other course electives from consideration for a student. Help students understand these potential unintended consequences when making course selections. Consider building in junior and senior student mentors into the course selection process who can help convey these lessons from a firsthand, learned perspective. Finding ways to expand student understanding and consideration as they make course selections help them to be thoughtful and forward-looking through the process rather than just thinking about the immediate semester.