5 answers

Is it better to take high school classes that are fun, or beneficial to college and career?

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I want to become an engineer (Robotics or Aerospace Engineering). Currently, I'm left with a choice of taking classes like Mandarin Chinese (which would look good on resumes, and college applications), or classes like Engineering Principles, Electronics, and Robotics. I don't really want to take a language, but it could be beneficial. I plan on serving in the military (preferably Marines as a combat engineer officer), and translators get paid more (like $300 more or something a month). Or I can take classes like CTE and STEM classes, and complete a career pathway in engineering that is apparently recognized as a credential of value. I'm just curious as to what would look better on college applications, and job resumes (Bilingual or credentials)?
Also, if I were to complete the career pathway, I would have to quit band. My teacher says that he could probably get me a scholarship for band though. Is it still worth it to complete a pathway?
Finally, if I were to keep band, I wouldn't be able to complete the pathway, but I would still be able to take Engineering and Robotics.
What' s my best option? Thanks!
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5 answers

G. Mark’s Answer


This is a very interesting question, because I'm going to give what seems to be a "too easy" answer. However, while there are classes that are "only" fun -- one extreme -- and classes that are "not fun" and "only beneficial to college and career", most are not at those extremes. I point this out because I've always told my students that "You'll likely enjoy what you're good at, and you'll likely be good at what you enjoy." There's also that very salient quote, "Do for work what you would do for play, and never work another day." Your goal should not be solely to make lots of money or get lots of awards, since those are really indirect and hopefully-effective enhancements to enjoyment. Enjoying your life is your real goal.

The lesson here is that you should spend a LOT of time examining just what it is you can do to combine these things. Your goal is to have classes that are fun for you and prepare you for a career doing something that will make you happy and make your life as fun as possible. Now, as I pointed out earlier, examples at the extremes are exactly that -- extremes -- and likely rare. So look for a compromise that doesn't hit either of those extremes. IOW, avoid "success" classes that are painful to take, and "fun" courses that provide you with nothing useful in the way of skills or experience. My bet is that your high school will have lots of courses that will enable you to do that.

John’s Answer


In one of your other questions, you asked about the military academies. To get into the US Naval Academy, I took a pretty aggressive class schedule. I took 4 years of math, science, English and 2 years of a foreign language. I had to drop band my last 2 years in high school, but once I got to USNA I tried out for and was accepted in the Drum & Bugle Corps which was a blast. Dropping band in high school was a difficult decision and since it sounds like your undecided and still exploring your options, I would definitely offer the same advice I did to your other question. Talk to your guidance counselor about what your interests are and get an idea of what will be expected when you apply for each option. The academies have high academic standards as do many colleges. Other colleges that also have ROTC programs have easier acceptance criteria. I believe OCS uses a 'test in' approach and your class 'resume' wouldn't make as much difference. Get some help from someone who knows or can help you find out the requirements for getting into the school(s) you're interested in and start considering your options. They'll also be able to help you find out which schools will interest you most. You've got some great choices ahead of you and the more information you have, the better you'll feel about your decision. Best of luck, Christian.

John recommends the following next steps:

  • Make a list of your top interests for college/career
  • Rank those interests
  • Talk to a school guidance counselor about options that will match your interests

LouAnna’s Answer


I don't know that there is a wrong choice for you. I always tell my college students to take classes in things they couldn't learn on their own. Could you learn languages without taking them in high school? Sure! There's Rosetta Stone and other programs that could teach you. Could you learn about engineering and robotics on your own. Maybe, but it might be better to learn those from a teacher. Also, the more you can learn now that can help you make choices in the future, the better. For example, if you take robotics and engineering and don't love them, it's better to know now than later. The reverse is also true. If you take robotics and engineering and DO love them...you now know that you want to pursue them with passion and determination.

As far as college applications and job postings...again, no wrong choice. The classes and the language will both look good. You don't have to figure everything out today. You just choose a path and make the most out of the classes and the opportunities that come along. The language might get you more money or it might not (for example, say you study Chinese, but in 3 years the job you want says preference is given to those who speak Spanish, or German...you just can't predict that far ahead). I wouldn't focus solely on the money, but which path might open other doors for you.

Good luck!

LouAnna (louannadg.com)

LouAnna recommends the following next steps:

  • Google jobs you want or colleges you want to go to and see what their requirements are.
  • What do you think you can learn on your own and what you should probably learn by a teacher?

Brittney’s Answer


Hi Christian,

I think that you should try to incorporate a mix in your schedule of fun classes with more challenging, rigorous classes that will be beneficial for applying to college. Speaking from experience, I think I started high school with too challenging of a workload where I tried to take every AP class possible and it wasn't realistic for me given my extra curriculars in sports. I think that you should challenge yourself in your schedule, however should make sure to have a healthy mix and take several courses through out high school that you may find more interesting or less stressful! In addition, I think that this will give you a more widened perspective on potential career possibilities and will show to future universities and/or employers that you are well-rounded.

Taylor’s Answer


In your case, I would definitely take the opportunity to a foreign language like Mandarin Chinese. Foreign languages look great on a resume or college application, and the Military would most likely give you the best hands-on experience when it comes to Engineering anyway.

Christian. I hope that I was able to help you make this crucial decision good luck,


Taylor Gall

Taylor recommends the following next steps:

  • let Your school counselor know what your goals are and don't be afraid to ask them there opinion.