Fresh classes for a fresh year

Course selection advice from upperclassmen to freshmen


The course catalog for Jefferson academics.

Jessica Feng and Reena Wang

Students lined up outside Student Services, four-year plans scattered about the hallways, and the ever-present chatter of summer courses. While the sophomores, juniors, and seniors have experience picking which classes to take, it’s the freshmen’s first real opportunity to choose classes. Much of the stress of picking courses comes from the anticipated long-term effects. The classes students take now affect which classes and Senior Research Labs they can take in the future.

This year, sophomore Julia Kao-Sowa is taking both AP Biology and AP Chemistry in addition to Spanish 3, TJ Math ⅚, HUM, and Gym. In particular, AP Biology is a course that many sophomores and juniors take.

“My classes are pretty tough but they aren’t too bad. AP Bio is really fun and Dr. Del Cerro is a really good teacher. I think the most important thing is managing my time well,” Kao-Sowa said.

The importance of a language is often forgotten in a school so focused on science, math, and technology. Spanish is often said to be one of the harder languages at Jefferson. According to students currently taking the course, Ap Spanish Language teaches more than just vocabulary, it teaches valuable life skills as well.

“It [AP Spanish Language] is often considered a difficult class to succeed in at TJ. However, I believe that it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. It’s a very fun and engaging class, and the study of Spanish has many practical solutions in the real world,” junior Justin Feng said.

On the more technological and mathematics side, there are classes like AP Computer Science (APCS), Energy Systems, Artificial Intelligence, and Mobile App Develop.

APCS is a very popular course that many students take in their sophomore, junior, or even freshmen year.

“I think APCS is a class worth taking even if you’re not necessarily very invested in computer science because it teaches you creative ways to think about a problem and multiple approaches on how to solve one,” sophomore Caroline Sun said.

Once students finish APCS, they are eligible to take more advanced courses such as Mobile and Web App Development.

“Mobile App Development is a good class for those trying to learn more about programming, and while the workload is challenging, the class is fun as long as you manage your time wisely,” junior Matthew Kurapatti said.

Artificial Intelligence is another one of the post-AP courses with APCS as a prerequisite.

“I would recommend it [Artificial Intelligence] because I felt that it was a very nicely structured course that taught me a lot about Python programming and gave me an introduction to other applications of CS,” senior Anna Xu said. “I had Mr. White who was an amazing and entertaining teacher, and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in CS.”

Although TJ is a STEM-focused school, many students still enjoy classes in English and other non-STEM related courses and are able to fit them into their schedules.

“I’ve really enjoyed taking singleton AP Lit this year–I’ve only had teamed humanities in the past, and this year I’ve really enjoyed how the teacher has a lot of freedom to choose books that don’t have to be tied to a history curriculum and I feel like we’ve spent so much more time discussing and really going in depth with every book we read,” senior Reilly McBride said.

From a counselor’s perspective, course selection is a struggle to find a balance between challenging classes and those that require less time. Students need to think about their extracurriculars and other activities when choosing courses.

“Look for balance in your schedule; this includes what you do after school too. Take into consideration what your workload is currently like, what activities you’d like to be involved in next year, and what ‘extra’s you’ll have (i.e. SAT prep, college applications, etc.),” counselor Alexa Scott said. “I often hear that, say, 3 APs might not sound so hard, but when you take everything else into consideration, it can be.”

Above all, asking the advice of fellow classmates and upperclassmen can prove more beneficial than an adult’s perspective on a particular class.

“Ask around. Do your research. Talk to your busmates, classmates, teammates, upperclassmen, teachers, and trusted adults about their favorite classes and their workloads. Don’t just take your counselor’s word for it,” Scott said.

TJ offers a variety of courses for students of different interests, whether it is in STEM or other subjects. As students continue to worry about which classes they are going to take the next year, it’s good to take into consideration classes in which you are actually interested, not just classes for the credit or if it looks good on a college application.

“Choose the classes that you really want to take as opposed to what you think looks good. You’ll tend to do better in them and your transcript will support your actual interests,” Scott said. “TJ is supposed to be fun; take the stuff you came here to do.”