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Definition of coursework

Examples of coursework in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'coursework.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

1890, in the meaning defined above

Dictionary Entries Near coursework

Cite this entry.

“Coursework.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coursework. Accessed 28 Apr. 2024.

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What Is A High School Coursework?

The core courses students must take are those needed for their diplomas. These courses include English Composition, Algebra, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. Students may choose to take additional math courses as electives. The core curriculum lays the foundation for students to further their education by learning more about each of the subject areas. It provides the knowledge necessary to succeed in college and prepares students for a career in a particular area.

Many students begin their high school coursework by taking the SAT. This help s them decide what subject to major in, but the SAT should not be used as a primary entrance exam. Instead, students should focus their efforts on preparing for the SAT. They should consider taking AP exams in the core subjects for which they’re tested. Such exams, also known as sitting exams, will give a better indication of how well students will perform in the core subjects.

After the SAT, students should pursue a variety of options to help them prepare for college-level tests. They should consider taking AP classes, writing a sample exam, learning about different types of textbooks and reading them, and attending college-level seminars and conferences. By doing so, students will have a better chance of performing well on future exams and securing a place in a top-tier college.

What is a coursework? It is an outline or direction that students need to follow to achieve a particular goal. The topics covered in coursework may include mathematics, social studies, history, English, science, and other similar courses. Most schools provide some coursework in English composition, American government, and history. In many cases, these require independent study and do not require prerequisite courses.

What is a college coursework? College coursework is a set of books, research materials, and lessons required to earn a degree at a college level. Many students complete their high school coursework in a year or less. College coursework typically covers subjects such as mathematics, reading, writing, and social studies. Some colleges require students to complete additional courses, which are termed “core” courses.

Why do students need to know what is a high school coursework? In today’s society, individuals want to be successful and obtain a certain amount of college credit in order to make the best choices for their lives. Without this knowledge, they may end up putting themselves in a situation where they are unable to get accepted into a good school, because they did not take the time to learn about the various subjects that are required for college. Also, without this knowledge, they may end up missing out on some of the many wonderful opportunities that will open up for them once they start attending college.

What is a high school coursework? While you certainly need to have some understanding of what is a high school coursework, you should also have a good understanding of why it is a required subject for those who wish to go to college. Taking the time to learn what is a high school coursework will help prepare you for your future.

Why is a high school coursework important? It is important for students to understand why they should do well in school. For one thing, this coursework helps them develop skills that will enable them to do well in college. For another thing, it can demonstrate to future employers that you have what it takes to succeed in college. By taking the time to learn what is a high school coursework, you can help ensure that you get into the college of your choice, and that you will be able to graduate with a set amount of college credits.

What is a high school coursework? There are several different types of coursework that you can take, in order to learn what is a high school coursework. Some of these types of courses include foreign language, mathematics, science, history, English literature, physical education, music, and foreign languages. Some schools also have religious-based courses. Whatever type of coursework you are looking to learn, you can find it online. Simply searching the term “high school coursework” on any search engine will return a number of results where you can find what is a high school coursework online.

As you can see, a high school curriculum is important in order to succeed in college. You want to be prepared for what is a high school curriculum, so that you know what to expect from your future school. You can learn what is a high school coursework by doing a search online. You can complete the course work on your own time, from the comfort of your own home.

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[ kawrs -wurk , kohrs - ]

  • the work required of a student in a particular course of study; classroom work .
  • curricular studies or academic work .

/ ˈkɔːsˌwɜːk /

  • written or oral work completed by a student within a given period, which is assessed as an integral part of an educational course

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Word history and origins.

Origin of coursework 1

Example Sentences

Derek Dodson is practicing with the Georgetown University soccer team for a rescheduled season while preparing for the resumption of senior coursework next week.

In San Diego, and throughout the state, an unconscionable number of students are failing or haven’t completed their coursework.

She took a full load of classes in the spring, summer and fall, and in November completed all the coursework for an undergraduate degree in psychology.

Pevzner, who took over the program in 2017, still heads into the field—though day to day he focuses more on developing coursework and swapping insights with similar programs around the world.

Although most schools have increased their offerings of online coursework, the number and sizes of in-person classes vary widely, as does the density of students in on-campus housing.

Digital art coursework at the Rhode Island School of Design simultaneous with an English Ph.D. at Yale?

Her pre-college education had been weak, and Leo was utterly unprepared for the academic part of the coursework.

An obsession with college preparation permeated all of our coursework.

The ad-hocs spent their time badmouthing the profs and tearing apart their coursework.

Created by the Great Schools Partnership , the GLOSSARY OF EDUCATION REFORM is a comprehensive online resource that describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies for journalists, parents, and community members. | Learn more »


Core Course of Study

Also called core curriculum , core course of study refers to a series or selection of courses that all students are required to complete before they can move on to the next level in their education or earn a diploma. In high schools, a core course of study will typically include specified classes in the four “core” subject areas—English language arts, math, science, and social studies—during each of the four standard years of high school. Since elementary and middle schools generally offer students a predetermined academic program with fewer optional courses, the term core course of study nearly always refers to requirements in high school programs.

In some schools, the core course of study may also entail additional credit requirements in specified subject areas, such as the arts, computer science, health, physical education, and world languages, but not all schools may define their core courses of study in this way. A core course of study typically does not include electives —optional courses that students choose to take and that may or may not satisfy credit requirements for graduation.

The general educational purpose of a core course of study is to ensure that all students take and complete courses that are considered to be academically and culturally essential—i.e., the courses that teach students the foundational knowledge and skills they will need in college, careers, and adult life. Yet depending on the structure of the academic program in a particular school, the core course of study may be different for some students. For example, some schools offer distinct academic programs in parallel with their regular academic programs—such as International Baccalaureate or theme-based academies , among many other possible options—and students enrolled in these programs will likely have to satisfy different requirements to complete the program or earn a diploma.

Credits are awarded when students complete a course with a passing grade. Therefore, increasing subject-area credit requirements effectively increases course requirements. This is why states may attempt to influence the quality or effectiveness of academic programs by modifying state-mandated credit requirements: schools may offer a wide variety of math courses and academic tracks, but they all offer courses in the subject area of math. Still, there is a nuanced distinction between core academic courses and credit requirements: some history courses, for example, may be elective in a school while others are considered part of the core course of study. To complete the core course of study and satisfy a school’s graduation requirements, then, students will need to pass the required history courses , not just earn a specified number of history credits .

For decades, high schools have typically used some form of graduation requirements to ensure that students complete a specified selection of courses before they are awarded a diploma. States have also passed legislation that determined minimum credit requirements in a selection of subject areas for public high schools, although districts and schools can elect to increase those requirements. To this day, graduation requirements still vary considerably from state to state and school to school, both in terms of (1) the total number of courses or credits required in each subject and (2) the kinds of courses or learning experiences required.

In the latter part of the twentieth century, however, graduation requirements—including mandatory courses and other learning experiences, such computer-literacy or community-service requirements—became objects of reform. Growing calls to improve academic achievement and student preparation led states, districts, and schools to increase course and credit requirements as a mechanism for elevating academic expectations and improving education results. For example, many states moved to require that all public high school students complete four “years” (or credits) in English, and to increase credit requirements for math, science, or social studies from two years (a formerly common requirement) to three or four years. Some states even now require students to complete specific courses, not just specific credit requirements—for example, students may be required to complete four “years” of math up to and including courses deemed to be at an “Algebra II” level or above. Schools also used the core course of study, and any attendant graduation requirements, as a way to improve the academic achievement, attainment, and preparation of more students, while also mitigating learning loss , learning gaps , achievement gaps , and opportunity gaps .

Pedagogically and philosophically, the core course of study, as a reform strategy, is related to concepts such as access , equity , high expectations , and rigor . The basic rationale is that increasing requirements in the “core” subjects will not only improve student learning and skill acquisition, but it will give graduates more educational and career options because they will graduate better educated and prepared. The core course of study, as a reform strategy, is also related to learning standards (i.e., the general educational intent is similar), but course requirements are distinct from standards: a core course of study establishes minimum course requirements, while standards establish minimum learning requirements. Many learning standards may be addressed or taught in a course, but standards are not specific to certain courses (although they are typically organized by subject area and grade level). Learning standards describe knowledge and skill expectations, but those standards can be met either within or outside of a course.

Some education leaders question whether it is sufficient or useful to simply require students to take more courses, when such requirements do not guarantee that students will actually learn more in certain subject area or graduate better prepared for adult life. Since courses may be more challenging or less challenging, and since students may learn a lot or not learn much in any given course, many educators argue that states, districts, and schools should require students to meet learning standards, not just complete courses, because standards describe the specific knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire. For example, reform strategies such as proficiency-based learning require students to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills outlined in learning standards before they can pass a course, move on to the next grade level, or graduate. If schools have a core course of study in place, students may take more courses, but they may also be able to pass those courses with low grades and without having acquired the knowledge and skills described in learning standards.

Less commonly, core courses of study, learning standards, and other attempts to standardize what gets taught in schools may be perceived by some parents or public figures as a form of “forced curriculum ”—i.e., an attempt to control what gets taught to students. In most cases, such criticism mirrors larger political debates and ideological fault lines in the United States, such as whether and how schools should teach the science of evolution (a highly politicized topic). While core courses of study and learning standards are, in fact, overt attempts to standardize education and ensure that students learn certain foundational knowledge and skills, the majority of educators do not see ominous or ideological intent behind these strategies.

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high school coursework definition

How to Write a Coursework

high school coursework definition

Coursework projects do not resemble essays, research papers, or dissertations. They are the combination of all three. Students spend less time writing coursework than on making a term paper, but this type of work requires more time and efforts than an ordinary essay - it is made of several essays. Thanks to our guide, each student can discover how to write coursework. If you are running out of time or lack experience to complete the specific coursework, we recommend using our coursework writing services to hire professional academic writers.

What is Coursework and Why Does It Matter?

Coursework definition: General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) coursework is a typical academic assignment, given in the course of study to evaluate the student’s knowledge, skills, and identify the final grade. Many students face this type of writing in the US colleges. One of the examples is a coursework UTD (The University of Texas at Dallas) - the requirements of this institution are strict, and many students fail to submit their papers and pass the corresponding courses.

Such type of assignment helps to have the ‘detective’ hat on: a student observes, examines, and evaluates the chosen topic using credible, up-to-date, and relevant sources. Working under controlled conditions is important. Participating in every school class will help to prepare good coursework by the end of the term. Take a look at the examples of what students of various profiles may face:

  • English Composition - English coursework is an extended essay in most cases. A student has a right to pick the topic. The tutors provide their students with the list of recommended titles to choose from, sources to observe & analyze, and a format (e.g., a comparison between different relevant articles)
  • Sciences - coursework for science is a complicated assignment. Such type of work appears in the form of a scientific paper to test what a writer investigates and reports independently.
  • Geography - geography coursework is about collecting, reporting, and explaining information to reply to a certain geographical question or offer solutions to the problem. One idea is to explore the usage of a shopping mall or analyze the recent tornado. No matter whether you have to prepare a coursework Columbia or such paper for other educational institutions, keep in mind these differences!

Types of Coursework Explained

English Language coursework is the most common type of this assignment. At advanced GCE level, the student will be expected to write a couple of essays, totaling 3,000 words. Every assignment is 20 marks maximum.

Types of Coursework

An analytical essay : Evaluate, compare, & contrast 3 different sources of data interconnected by a common theme; written /spoken / multimedia content. Discuss different uses for targeting various audiences. Learn more on our blog.

Original essay with a supportive commentary : A student will have to come up with a single piece of media writing in the observed modes (written, spoken, or multimodal). Add a supporting piece with details about the aspects of English language. English Language & Literature coursework is a bit different. The basic requirements are the same, and the parts are:

An analytical study : Sharing an analysis of the chosen piece and its relation to the related content. It will show how well the writer understands the original piece. Tutors grade such works based on the:

  • Use of the proper terminology and the coherence of the written words;
  • Understanding & evaluation of the way a structure, form, and language create the written & spoken word;
  • Opportunity to observe relationships between various pieces of writing.

Creative writing & commentary : Produce a creative piece that imitates the style of the assessed text. Share comments to backup your understanding. The goal is to show the knowledge, prove the competence, and use appropriate language skills in communicating with the target audience. You will also need a relevant coursework resume (review) in both cases. Keep on reading to learn how to write coursework of A level.

How to Write a Coursework: Guide for Students

Several factors may lead to the coursework being disqualified. It is a serious matter! The risk factors include:

  • Plagiarism - it is the worst thing that could happen to any type of academic assignment. Lots of relevant information is available on the world wide web today, and the tutors are strict about the issue of plagiarism. Write everything in your own words! If you decide to insert the quotes from the sources, apply the suggested citation format and develop a list of references. Sign the declaration claiming it is your original project. If you're unsure about how to approach this, seeking professional help by choosing to write my coursework can be a wise decision.
  • Word count - do not ignore the specific requirements concerning the length of the coursework. Specify if the footnotes, appendices, & references are included in the word count.
  • Topics - go through the list of available themes. If there is an examination planned on the specific topic, try to pick another idea for the coursework.
  • Tutor’s assistance - do not ignore the help of your instructor, ask them to provide guidance on what to write. Ask the questions to learn more details, but keep in mind they can go through the 1st draft once and just offer some general recommendations.

Choosing a Topic for Your Project

Dedicate enough time to this extra important question. Select the field of your interest if it is possible to relate it to the course. That is the golden rule of choosing a coursework topic - keep in mind the rest of the hints:

  • Analyze the offered list of topics or develop yours
  • Pick a topic from the area of your expertise related to the studied subject
  • Select the topic you are interested in
  • Choose the topic you’ve started to observe in the past
  • Check how much relevant, up-to-date information is available on the Internet about each of the topics
  • Pick what you can measure, change, & control (they call it a ‘fair test’)
  • Use the ideas of previous researchers and students
  • Do not choose a topic with a vast scope - you risk struggling to research it correctly

10 Good Coursework Topics

  • Non-traditional Forms of Poetry with TC Tolbert
  • Documentary Foundations: Usage of Oral Histories with Beth Alvarado
  • Traditional Forms of Poetry
  • Hermit Crabs: Type of Fiction
  • Writing the Autobiographical Poem
  • Creative Non-Fiction on the Examples of New Journalists
  • Authors without Borders
  • Writing the Sticky Stuff
  • Socially Engaged Literary Arts
  • Common Vocabulary

Research & Data Collection

Research is an integral part of coursework. Have you written research papers before? If yes, you will find it easier to select proper primary & secondary sources and gather the necessary information (evidence to support the main point - thesis). Depending on the required paper format, cite & reference the following sources:

  • Books & e-Books

Base the project on a specific hypothesis. The research must start with minimum one hypothesis. The research stage for some topics may consist of visiting websites to collect information. Leave another time for collecting the data as it is the heart of the research. Three methods of data collection are known:

  • Direct personal investigation : The one an author does individually (using literature and findings from previous studies);
  • Interview/Questionnaire : The researcher should gather the data from the respondents asking questions regarding required data;
  • Discussion with community leaders : Community leaders are approached to fetch information for the necessary data.

In case a student works on a scientific experiment, they should pay attention to planning the analysis with the help of rigorous scientific methods (keeping in mind the Health & Safety precautions you take). Review background information and theories. Take notes to express what you expect to occur to compare & contrast it to what happened in real life. In the write-up stage, one has to evaluate and present the findings.

6 steps to writing a good introduction

Writing a Coursework Outline

The writing process follows the research. Do not start it without preparing an action plan and scheduling the work - a paper pin for English coursework is based on an extended essay . An outline will look different for the science coursework projects. The goal of creating a plan is to prevent a writer from being disorganized and waffling.

Writing a Coursework Outline

Let us explain coursework outline on the specific example - a project on the global pursuit of lower costs and the role of human rights.

Start with the brief introduction explaining why it might be a topic of interest for many people. Mention those vast corporations like Wal-Mart abuse human rights by choosing and using child labor in the factories.

Provide an overview of the problem . Define human rights and costs. Pick the definitions from the official dictionaries and cite them properly when inserting in the text. Try to explain the terms in your own words.

Develop a body of the coursework , start with the case for & against ethical business practices. Using evidence and examples, list the arguments supporting ethical business practices and another side of the coin. Include a business case for ethical practices after the opening body paragraph.

Move to discussing ethical responsibilities ; explain why business organizations should care about the ethical aspects of their activities. After three sections of the body, one can conclude the paper. It can be a good idea to share a fact or statistics stressing the importance of research problem in the essay conclusion. End up with the reference list that may look this way:

  • Klein N (2000) No Logo (Flamingo, London)
  • Marcousé I, Gillespie A, Martin B, Surridge M and Wall N (2003) Business Studies 2e (Hodder Arnold, Oxon)
  • Royal Dutch Shell (2006) 4th Quarter Financial Report at (site example)


Additional Elements

Supporting materials and pictures are a must! The sciences & geography projects require tables, charts, graphs, and other types of images to illustrate the complicated topic. Not only should you add the pictures - it is essential to interpret and reference each of them. A separate part of the coursework where the student list and explains every visual element is Appendix , and it is an optional part. The presence of appendix increases the chances to earn an A+.

How to Write an Introduction for Coursework?

Most of the students underestimate the role of introduction & conclusion when it comes to writing an essay. An eye-catchy introduction is a key to success. The primary purposes of a coursework introduction are:

  • To grab the reader’s attention
  • To introduce the topic
  • To explain the research importance
  • To come up with a compelling thesis statement

The opening paragraph shows the depth of the writer’s acquaintance with the topic. Look at the expert tips below. They will help to learn how to write a coursework introduction to make the tutor want to read your entire paper.

What Is an Introduction?

The introduction of GCSE coursework is the opening paragraph that aims to interpret the central questions and purposes of the entire paper. It should have several elements to be effective. Those are:

  • A hook sentence
  • Background information
  • Problem significance
  • Solid thesis statement

Advice from our Experienced Writer

How to write an introduction to coursework? The quality of this part predetermines paper’s success. Look at some common mistakes writers do while working on the coursework introduction - try to prevent them!

Ignoring the prompt. Many students tend to neglect the tutor’s instructions. It is critical to read the prompt several times, highlight the main points, research question, rules, and grading rubric details.

Missing a plan. The prompt does not always say to develop a coursework outline. Without a plan for every separate section, it is impossible to write a flawless piece step-by-step. No matter whether you have to write a term paper, research paper, dissertation, or C3 coursework, get ready with the detailed plan. Once you understand how to write an introduction, it will be easier to develop the rest of the paper.

For those who need a helping hand in ensuring their work meets all the standards and deadlines, don't hesitate to buy coursework from trusted professionals.

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Your Guide to Conquering College Coursework

Getting good grades in college can be a lot tougher than in high school. For many students, it requires building new skills and establishing new habits. Learning those skills now—before starting college—will help make your transition as easy and as successful as possible.

Mary Sharp Emerson

The transition from high school to college is a big one. Meeting new friends, living on your own, and creating your own schedule are just some of the new, exciting challenges that await you.   

In the excitement of starting a new life on campus, college coursework can sometimes become a second priority.

However, adjusting to college coursework is often the biggest challenge of all. Even the best students may be surprised at how difficult college courses are. The subject matter is more complex. The workload is larger. And instructors’ standards are higher.

Mastering college-level courses requires a new level of independence, advocacy, engagement, and time management.

You can prepare yourself to succeed before you even get to campus. Identifying the skills you need, and building those skills into established habits, will help make your transition to college academics, and college life, easier, less stressful, and more successful.

Be engaged in your college coursework

College courses require your full attention and active participation.

And the more you engage with your teachers, teaching assistants, and classmates both in and out of the classroom, the easier it will be for you to succeed in that class.

The importance of active listening

Active listening is one of the most critical parts of engaging in a course, according to Gina Neugebauer, assistant director of Harvard Summer School’s Secondary School Program.

“Professors and teaching assistants can tell if you’re actively listening. They notice if you’re taking notes and making eye contact. They also notice if you’re distracted by your phone or computer,” notes Neugebauer.

Active listening means not checking your social media accounts or texting friends during class.

It also means really giving the instructor and your classmates your full attention.

It sounds easy in theory but it takes practice. It can be tough to not think about all the work you have or your next party. But the more you work on actively listening, the easier it will be to not get distracted and miss important information in class.

Different ways to actively participate

Beyond active listening, there are many ways to participate in a course. And you can tailor your level of engagement to your personality and comfort level.

“It’s all about gauging what you’re comfortable with,” says Neugebauer.

“You may not be the person who raises their hand all the time but you actively respond to online discussion posts, for example. You may not feel comfortable talking in front of hundreds of students in a large lecture hall but you take advantage of TA office hours and email the instructor with questions.”

But don’t be afraid to push yourself if you aren’t someone who usually speaks up in class.

It’s ok to start small. Work on raising your hand in small seminars or discussion sections. As you gain confidence, you’ll find it gets easier to answer questions and share your opinions.

Build independence and advocate for yourself

In college, you are responsible for your own success. You will need to advocate for yourself and know when—and how—to ask for help. That requires a level of independence that you may not have needed in high school.

The good news is that instructors and teaching assistants want to help you.

“Instructors, on the whole, enjoy hearing from you. And they’d rather hear from you right from the start, rather than have you struggle on your own for three weeks,” says Neugebauer.

If you have a question about an assignment, send your instructor an email. Are you upset about a grade you got on a recent test? Visit your instructor or TA during office hours to discuss what went wrong and how you can improve.

But remember, says Neugebauer, professors are busy and you are only one of many students.

“Your email should include your full name, what course you’re taking, and a brief description of your question or concern. And you cannot expect an answer at 2 a.m. because that’s when you’re studying. When you reach out to an instructor, give them 24-48 hours to respond.”

And remember, always be respectful and non-confrontational.

Challenge yourself in a college course. Get a sneak peak at college life.

Explore summer programs for high school students.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

If you have excelled in high school without extra help, you might be tempted to persevere on your own.

In college, Neugebauer points out, asking for help is the norm.

“Once you get into your undergraduate program, you’ll find that almost everyone has, at some point, asked a TA for extra tutoring, gone to a tutoring center, or a writing or math center for extra help. It’s part of the learning process of an undergraduate program,” Neugebauer says.

Colleges have a variety of support systems in place to help you succeed.

TA office hours are a great place to start if you find yourself struggling with a specific concept or assignment. Peer tutoring programs enable you to learn from students who have been through the course themselves. Academic coaches can help with more general study tips or exam-related stress.

The key is seeking out help proactively, before you get too far behind. As the courses become more difficult, catching up becomes increasingly difficult.

Build time management techniques

Balancing everything that comes with life on a college campus can be difficult for many incoming college students.

“The biggest challenge we see facing high school students who are trying to adapt to college life is overcommitment. Students want to engage in every activity, a full course load, and even sometimes a part-time job. They don’t schedule enough time for self-care, quiet time, doing laundry, and plenty of study time. All those things take time,” Neugebauer says.

Good study habits and time management are key to avoiding the stress that comes from getting overcommitted.

Neugebauer recommends getting into the habit of keeping an accurate and up-to-date calendar.

“The best thing I can recommend is a calendar, such as Google Calendar. Use it to schedule everything: your class, your lunch time, time at the gym. It may seem counterintuitive, but work on scheduling literally everything, even sleep.”

Be sure to include assignments, tests, and other deadlines, as well as office hours for your instructors, TAs, and academic coaches.

Use your calendar to block off dedicated study time. And once you schedule it, stick to it! Avoid the temptation to procrastinate or use that time to hang out, play video games, or scroll on your phone.

Your calendar should also include dedicated time for self-care.

Regular mealtimes, good exercise habits, and a full night’s sleep are not only critical for your physical and mental health. You’ll also be surprised at how much they contribute to your academic success.

Challenge yourself as you engage in college coursework

Getting outside your comfort zone is a critical part of preparing yourself for the exciting challenges that await you in college.

“Being uncomfortable allows for growth. It means saying to yourself, ‘this is new. I want to try it. I want to see how it feels.’ This is all about adapting to a new environment but also examining yourself as a person,” says Neugebauer.

Taking on a new challenge—regardless of the ultimate outcome—builds resilience, mental toughness, and confidence, all of which you will need to succeed in your college courses.

But, warns Neugebauer, it’s also important to know your limitations.

“That uncomfortable feeling should be manageable. It should be a challenge but not so challenging that you feel panicked and wake up in cold sweats every night. It should be something that gets you a little nervous but also excited about what you’re involved in every day.”

However you decide to challenge yourself, it’s never too early to start if college is in your future. The sooner you start identifying and mastering the skills you need in college, the better prepared you’ll be to succeed right from day one.

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About the Author

Digital Content Producer

Emerson is a Digital Content Producer at Harvard DCE. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and Yale University and started her career as an international affairs analyst. She is an avid triathlete and has completed three Ironman triathlons, as well as the Boston Marathon.

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The Complete Guide to High School Course Descriptions for Homeschoolers

Other than creating a transcript , writing high school course descriptions is probably one of the most intimidating tasks for a homeschool mama. You've prepared your teen for college , but now you have to show exactly how. Yikes!

Hey, don't let yourself get uptight about them until you know for sure if you will need them — because most of the time you will not! And if you do, there is still no need to worry, because writing them is really not that difficult.

Today I'll clue you in on when you need course descriptions and how to write ones that don't sound like you have no idea what you're doing, lol. Because I know the fear is real! Deep breaths; I've got you!

high school coursework definition

I wrote course descriptions for my eldest because she was applying to a college that suggested that homeschooled applicants provide a “detailed curriculum guide” as part of their application package. This “detailed curriculum guide” was not required, but they said it would be “helpful in providing a fuller picture of the student's academic background.”¹ Since this was a competitive school, we decided to give them as much information as we could to show them that my daughter's homeschool curriculum was adequate and even rigorous.

Since then I've had two other children apply and get accepted to college, and because they took basically the same curriculum as their older sister (so I had many of the descriptions written already), I sent course descriptions in with their applications.

But you know what? In the case of the two younger children, I didn't really need to. Because the colleges they were applying to did not specify that course descriptions were necessary.

And that's the determiner of whether or not you need to write course descriptions: if the college asks for them.

If they don't, then there is no reason to bother with them. It's that simple.

The way to tell is to go to the college's website and check under their admissions section. Many colleges now have a specific page addressed to homeschoolers. It is on this page that they will make clear exactly what they prefer to receive from us — and if they don't mention course descriptions, you probably don't need to write 'em!! And if they don't have a page for homeschoolers at all, then you are most likely safe in assuming they don't require that kind of paperwork.

HOWEVER, I would hasten to say that when in doubt, it never hurts to call and talk to someone in the admissions department. I know a lot of us homeschool moms are introverts and hate making phone calls like that *raises hand*, but it will be worth it for peace of mind. Do your research and then you won't need to be worried about doing the wrong thing.

Now, if you want to create course descriptions, because you are proud of your self-designed unit studies, or you want to prove that your child took courses that could be considered Honors courses, or you would just feel better giving as much information to the college as possible — or you just like making extra work for yourself, lol — then it is my opinion that you should by all means go right ahead. Some people say that colleges will reject someone who submits paperwork they didn't ask for; I'm just not sure I can buy that. But again, pick up the phone or write an email if you are at all unsure.

But if you DO need to write course descriptions, how do you write them?

I'm here to tell you that once you get the hang of it, you can bang them out in just minutes apiece.

Before I go any further, let me clarify something that you may be wondering about: course descriptions are a separate document from the transcript. The transcript shows courses, credits, and grades ONLY. That will ALWAYS need to accompany a college application. (If you need more info about how to create a transcript, see How to Make an Impressive Homeschool Transcript . There you'll find a printable form you can use!) Course descriptions, on the other hand, are short summaries giving the details about each course — and you put them all together into a document of their own. So yea. :-)

There are a few pieces of information that you want to be sure to include in each course description. These are: 1) the name of the course (which can be a name you give it or the one from the curriculum company — your choice),  2) the resource(s) used, 3) how a grade is determined (is it based on tests, papers, completion of activities, etc.) 4) how many credits the course is worth, and 5) some combination of the following: a) the general objective of the course, b) the content and/or skills the student will learn, and/or c) the activities the student will do. I know it seems like a lot, but each description will follow basically the same formula, so it becomes fairly simple once you've practiced a couple times.

The absolutely easiest way to write a course description is to copy and paste the description (or portion(s) thereof) that the publisher has on their website. Yes, I've done this; and I don't think it's a violation of copyright laws, for the simple reason that I'm not using it to make any money from, nor am I distributing it to the masses. But that's just my personal viewpoint. I've never called a publisher to ask if I could do it, so if you are uncomfortable then by all means go with your conscience. Here is an example (the copied-and-pasted portion is underlined merely for purposes of illustration — do NOT underline it in your actual document):

Marine Biology

This is an advanced high-school course for 1.0 credit which concentrates on marine wildlife and marine habitats. It provides a survey of members of each biological kingdom that live in marine environments. The student will learn about the microscopic organisms that make life in the ocean possible, including details about their interesting habits and life cycles. In order to take this course, students must have completed a first-year biology course. A dissection lab module is also included. Text: Exploring Creation with Marine Biology , by Sherri Seligson. Grading for this course is based on chapter tests and quarterly exams.

The caveat about this is that not all publisher descriptions make good course descriptions. They are writing more for advertising purposes, and so their description may sound too informal or sales-y and would look silly on a college application. Or their description might not have all the information needed, and by the time you have to insert that and make it sound good, you often might as well just write your own, anyway.

The next easiest way to write a course description is to use the table of contents for whatever textbook or curriculum you are using. I just go down the chapter titles and subheadings and make a list with commas in between, like this (again, topics copied from the table of contents are underlined for the purposes of illustration — I would NOT underline them in the formal document):

Grammar/Composition 9

This 1.0 credit course is the first half of a two-year course in intensive grammar study and writing instruction. Topics covered include punctuation, sentence parts and classes of sentences, complements (including subjective, object, objective, and retained object and objective complements), substantives, verb tenses and moods, adjective and adverb phrases and clauses, prepositions and conjunctions, as well as outlining, word usage, the argumentative essay, paragraph development, sentence effectiveness, poetry, idioms, and other short compositions such as the character sketch. The student will learn how to use editing symbols and practice editing given passages and their own work. The student will diagram difficult sentences fully. Text: Communicating Effectively, Book 1 , by Rod and Staff Publishers. Grading for this course is based on chapter tests and written assignments.

The purpose of this 0.5 credit course is to educate the student regarding the governments of the United States, the individual states, and our local communities. Special emphasis is placed on understanding the U.S Constitution. Topics covered include the definition of government and examples of various types of government from history; the historical basis for the U.S. government; Congress–how Representatives and Senators are elected, what are Congress’s duties, powers, and limitations, how a bill becomes a law, impeachment; the Executive–electing the President, the President’s role as Commander in Chief, the Cabinet; the Judiciary–District Courts, the Supreme Court; the Amendments to the Constitution; state governments, constitutions, and legislatures; local governments; taxation and spending; international relations; and a discussion of contemporary issues in government, such as health care. In addition to the text, students read a selection of primary source documents, essays, and speeches. Text: Exploring Government , by Ray Notgrass. Grading for this course is based on weekly quizzes, cumulative exams, and writing assignments.

This is an introductory high school 1.0 credit course which investigates key subjects in biology, including the definition of life, DNA, the scientific method, and classification of organisms. Bacteria, fungi, atoms, osmosis, photosynthesis, cells and their functions, genetics, and evolution are all covered, as well as invertebrates, arthropods, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Text: Exploring Biology , by Dr. Jay L. Wile. Grading for this course is based on chapter tests and lab participation.

This 1.0 credit course continues instruction in the French language with subjects typically found in a third year high school French course, such as regular and irregular verbs in the future, conditional, pluperfect, future perfect, and subjunctive tenses; reflexive verbs; possessive adjectives and pronouns; demonstrative adjectives; relative pronouns; indefinite adjectives and pronouns, comparatives and superlatives, and other language-specific idioms and grammar concepts. There is written instruction from the text and oral interaction via computer voice-recognition software and student-teacher dialogue. Resources: Breaking the French Barrier, Level 2 (all), by Catherin Coursaget and Micheline Myers; and Tell Me More French, Level 3 . Grading for this course is based on chapter tests and completion of computer exercises.

Voilà, copying the table of contents does half the description for you, and you just flesh it out with the other information listed above.

Here are examples in which I used the table of contents, but also listed the readings for the course (if it's a really long reading list, just use some form of the word “include” and only name a few):

British Literature–Early to Mid 19 th Century

This 0.5 credit course uses the deep reading of great literature to expose the student to techniques that will improve his/her own writing. Lessons cover tone, characterization, description, persuasive writing, imagery and poetic language, setting, person, and humor, as well as discussing romanticism, historical fiction, and the persuasive essay. Reading List: selected poems by William Blake, Pride and Prejudice (Austen), Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott), Essay on Scott (Thomas Carlyle), selected poems from Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, and Shelley, Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), and Rebecca and Rowena (Thackeray). Text: British Literature: Early -Mid 19 th Century , by Michael Gaunt. Grading is based on completion of comprehension questions and written assignments.

World History

This 1.0-credit course presents World History from a bi-fold perspective, not only presenting historical peoples and events, but also studying primary source material from and literature about the time periods under examination. In addition, group discussion is used to encourage discernment in methods of interpretation. The course covers ancient civilizations including Israel, Persia, non-Western civilizations, Greece, and Rome; the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation; the Age of Exploration, the Scientific Revolution, and the American and French Revolutions; the British Empire, modern Asia, Africa, and Latin America; World War I, World War II and the Cold War, finishing with a discussion of the beginning of the 21 st Century. The reading list is extensive, including excerpts from The Code of Hammurabi, The Odyssey, The Republic, The Edict of Milan, The Magna Carta, the Ninety-five Theses, Calvin‘s Institutes, War and Peace, and many others, as well as the entirety of Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis), The Cat of Bubastes (G.A. Henty), Julius Caesar (Shakespeare), The Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis), Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan), A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), Pride and Prejudice (Austen), and The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom). Text: Exploring World History , by Ray Notgrass. Grading for this course is based on weekly quizzes, cumulative exams, and written essays.

If you are not using a formal curriculum because you've made the course yourself, or maybe you're wanting to give credit for time doing an activity such as a sport, music lessons, or some type of work, another way to write a course description is to list the books read or the activities done for the course. Try to identify which content or skills are represented by what the child has done. You can specify that the grade given is based on meeting a specified time commitment or completing certain tasks.  Here are some examples (I only designed our own courses for electives, so my examples are limited to those):

This 0.5 credit course is comprised of daily Bible study, family discussion, church attendance, and reading and completion of the study guide for the book Saved Without a Doubt , by John MacArthur. This is a pass/fail course.

Driver’s Education & Training

This 0.5 credit pass/fail course represents the student’s learning how to drive and passing his/her driver’s permit and driver’s license tests. The student will attend an interview with the insurance agent. The student will receive practical instruction as dictated by Missouri State law, which calls for a minimum of 40 hours behind the wheel, of which 10 hours must be at night. A passing grade is given for the student completing the minimum time requirement, passing all tests, and receiving his/her driver’s license.

Standardized Test Prep

This 0.5 credit course consists of the student working through several SAT and ACT test preparation guides, including reading, practice problems, and practice tests and essays. The student will register and take each exam twice, sending the score reports to three colleges. This is a pass/fail course.

This 0.5-credit course consists of daily practice and weekly instruction in the art of playing the violin. Student will also perform in a recital. Text: Suzuki Violin Method, Book 4 . Minimum time commitment per week is 3 hours. Grading for this course is based on meeting the minimum time commitment and completing goals for learning musical pieces and theory.

Home Economics–Early Childhood Development

This 0.5 credit pass/fail course represents the student’s learning how to care for small children in the home environment. The student will be able to select and design age-appropriate activities and care for children of more than one age level at the same time. The student will be able to prepare food and implement daily scheduling. The student will know how to respond to injuries and/or emergency situations. A passing grade for this course will be given upon successfully completing practical experience of a minimum of 60 hours, including a minimum of 20 hours under employment for a family other than his/her own.

You've probably already noticed I've written all of these in the future tense. That's just my preference; you could write them in the past tense, also. When I wrote them I was thinking about college catalogs — in their course descriptions, they tell you what the class WILL be about. And in my teaching classes way back when, we used to write lesson plan objectives in SWBAT form: Student WILL be able to… There is no standard here; do what you prefer.

You can also see that some are longer and some are shorter. This depends on the course itself. Remember, you are trying to help the college admissions office understand that your child received an adequate high school education. Give enough information to make that clear; but don't make the description any longer than it has to be to achieve that objective. A long paragraph is about the longest you want to get.

I've heard some people say that ALL of your course descriptions should fit on one page. Um, I think that's basically impossible. I group the courses together by subject and make the entire document look nicely formatted, and mine have always been 4 – 5 pages. I use one staple in the left hand corner.

Another thing I do is to include a note at the very top that says that course names with asterisks are courses that are currently being taken during senior year. And then I make sure to put an asterisk after the courses that applies to. That way the admissions office knows that those courses will not appear on the transcript.

Everything you need to know about writing course descriptions for your homeschooled student's college applications! Includes examples to copy!

The last page of my course description document has always been a grading scale. Since this is something that can vary from one high school to another, it is a helpful information for colleges to have. Mine looks like this:

I would be remiss if I didn't throw out a casual warning here that it is easier to do these as you go along, even if you are not sure you will need them. Waiting until senior year when the college application is due, and then you have to recreate all the courses going back for four years, and you may have even gotten rid of some of the curriculum by now, is not a lot of fun. Don't ask me how I know. Um.

Phew!! At the moment I bet you feel like you've gotten a fire hose of information. I'm impressed you made it this far!! Probably the best thing to do right now is to pin this article so you can look at it later if/when you need it. Then just take it one piece of information at a time, one course at a time, and you will conquer the task of creating course descriptions for your student! I have confidence in you!

P.S. As a reward for reading ALL THE WAY to the end, I will give you permission to copy and paste any of the course descriptions on this page (or portions thereof) that might apply to you, for use ONLY in your child's course description document to be sent as part of their college application packet. How's that for a bonus?? :-)


which is so much easier to cut and paste! And there is a full sample of what a course description document can look like — the exact same one we submitted to colleges!

For more help in dealing with ALL the craziness wonders of homeschooling high school, join my Facebook group, It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School . The discussions there are informative and encouraging! :-)


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27 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to High School Course Descriptions for Homeschoolers”

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Thank you so much. This is really a lifesaver. You made it possible and I pulled it all off in one evening. Thanks!

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Woot! Yay! That’s EXACTLY why I wrote the post. Thanks for letting me know it was helpful for you! :-)

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Very helpful! Thank you! I was wondering about those of us who don’t really “grade” our kids in the traditional sense and therefore how to report an actual letter grade. If my DD has proven to me that she knows and understands the material, she moves on and passes. To state that her grades are based on “pass/fail” for every subject throughout high school would look bad, I would think. As does giving an A for every single subject. Suggestions?

I don’t have an answer for you, Peggy. I agree that P/F for everything is not a good idea; and I have a personal pet peeve about homeschool transcripts with all A’s, because to me that’s not often the truth. Obviously it might be for the occasional child, but I think most children will get at least one B! But I don’t know how to fill out a transcript when there have been no tests or papers that have been graded along the way. I’ve always been kinda paranoid about being sure that we had an objective way to evaluate learning for each course. Sorry I can’t be more help!

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Wow. Thank you so much.

You’re welcome! :-)

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Thank you so much! This post was incredibly helpful. I also just joined your FB group. Thank you again!

Yay, Nikki, I’m glad you were helped! And welcome to the group! :-)

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Thank you for sharing. Many of us who homeschool in South Africa utilize a lot of information and work from USA and UK. Our children can only choose between writing the South Africa matric IEB the Cambridge matric or GED. So we appreciate all you share with us thank you

Wow, how cool is that? You’re welcome! Happy to help. :-)

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Hi Ann, thank you for all the free information about corse description and transcripts. I want to ask you, if you have any idea if is appropriate to include in the transcripts the results of the TerraNova test that we did every high school year? I’ll appreciate your help. Thank you!

Hi Mary! No, I don’t think you need to include that. I don’t even recommend including results of the ACT or SAT, which are much more well-known tests. The transcript is for courses and grades only, imho. Test scores can go elsewhere on the application. Great question! :-)

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I have left my name and email several times to get the swipe file for the descriptions for courses and have yet to receive them. Could you please send it to me? Thank you so much, Kathy Dreher

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Thanks so much for this! It will be helpful.

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Thank you for taking the time to provide all of this information! I am in the first year of high school with my oldest child. It is the first time that I have felt anxiety as a homeschooler, although I have been homeschooling throughout her entire education. I am gaining some confidence as I go from homeschool friends and from those that have posted helpful information online, like yourself. I am very grateful!!

You’re welcome, Cara!

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I’m using a high school English curriculum that combines literature, grammar, and composition each year. Do you think English 1, 2, 3, and 4 are ok to use as course titles, or are colleges wanting descriptive titles such as “American Literature and Composition”?

I think if it can be called by a specific name, then do so. American Literature implies that it will also involve composition, so you don’t need to say “and composition.” But I used English 9 and English 10 when we were doing mostly grammar with a little bit of writing. We did lit only for grades 11 and 12, and then it was British Literature and Shakespeare Tragedies (for example). I did that because some colleges specified that they wanted to see literature courses. But if the colleges your kid is applying to don’t specify, then English 1-4 could easily work.

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So glad I stumbled upon this page. Not sure how to get the swipe file but I’d love it! Please send to [email protected]

Hi Brittany! Just click on the purple button at the bottom of the article. The one that says “Send me the swipe file!” I think you’ll be asked to put in your email address again, and then you will get sent the link for the file. (But since I have your email address, I’ll go ahead and get it sent to you.) Thanks for stopping by!

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I can’t believe I found you! I’ve been so stressed over doing this course description….I have to say I’m shedding some tears of joy right now. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HELPING US!!!

BUT, I am not seeing the purple button to get the swipe file anywhere on this page. please send to [email protected]

Never mind, something changed on my page and now I see the request box. But I still am so grateful and wish I could give you a huge hug for helping to ease my anxiety and lessen my load.

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Hello! I am an intern the Ohio State University for school social work. The high school where I am completing my internship is not very well known and I would like to gain some attention from the community by creating a course description book so that everyone is aware of what is offered at this amazing high school. So far I have a list of courses that make very little sense to me. Although your post has been very helpful, I still don’t know where to begin! Since your post is geared more towards homeschooling, would I still be able to utilize some of your descriptions? Although this coursebook would be distributed throughout the school and community, there is no profit involved and I am strictly doing it to help the school. Also, any advice is welcomed. Thank you so much for your expertise and time!

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Can I still download a copy of your course description document as mentioned here? The links don’t seem to work anymore, thank you!

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Agree. This information was very helpful. However, I am not able to open the links either. Would it still be possible to receive the template?

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So just to clarify, You do not group courses by year, only by subject? Thank you so much for writing this article!

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There is no link for the free course description help. What do we do to access that?

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Navigating Academic Rigor: What It Means and Why It Matters

Navigating Academic Rigor: What It Means and Why It Matters

In the journey through high school and into the world of college admissions, there's a term that you'll likely encounter frequently: academic rigor. But what exactly does it mean, and why does it matter?

As a high school student and aspiring college student, you’re faced with making sense of how college applicants are profiled for admissions. Well, your GPA, or grade point average, is a key indicator of your college readiness, but did you know that most colleges are going to look at your GPA in the context of academic rigor?

And, although academic rigor will be an important consideration for admissions, it’s also something you need to pursue with a balanced approach. In fact, many motivated high school students will find it difficult to strike a balance between academic achievement and other important life activities — sometimes activities as essential as resting, socializing, exercising, and relaxing…

In this blog post, we'll delve into the concept of academic rigor, its significance in both high school and college admissions, and how to navigate it successfully.

Defining Academic Rigor

Academic rigor isn't just about a class being hard or a teacher assigning lots of homework. Academic rigor is a multifaceted concept that encompasses critical thinking, combining knowledge and concepts in new ways , and complex applications of learning.

In short, academic rigor is not the same thing as academic difficulty per se .

Academic difficulty typically refers to how accessible or inaccessible the learning content is for the students being taught, or it may refer to the quantity of learning (amount of reading, homework, etc.) students are expected to do.

Academic rigor requires teaching that fosters deeper forms of questioning, understanding, and analysis — a comprehensive approach to learning that involves:

  • depth of content
  • conceptual complexity
  • higher-level mastery of content — such as performing critical analysis, applied problem solving, or synthesizing concepts to generate new insights
  • effective use of advanced study skills in tasks related to note taking, critical thinking, research, and writing…

Academic Rigor — Common Misconceptions

A common misconception about rigor is that it’s just about presenting more challenging content, more advanced concepts, and demanding greater quantities of homework!

Certainly fast-paced instruction and having to keep up with a big reading load or above average amounts of homework can all make a course “difficult.”

Most education experts agree, however, that academic rigor is really about mastering content at a deeper level and about the kinds of thinking students engage and develop.

Academic rigor is not quantified by how much gets crammed into a school day — it is measured in depth of understanding.

Interested in learning more attend one of our free events, learn how to perfect your application essays for ultra-competitive colleges.

Friday, May 3, 2024 12:00 AM CUT

Discover insider tips and tricks for crafting a memorable personal essay and supplemental essays that stand out, from a Former Harvard Admissions Interviewer and a Northwestern Application Reader!


In her book How to Plan Rigorous Instruction , instructional expert Robyn Jackson says that teachers can incorporate greater academic rigor by  “selecting content that is ambiguous, is complex, is layered, and has implicit meaning.”

This kind of complex and ambiguous content makes fertile grounds for a key component of academic rigor: higher-order thinking.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

In 1956 educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom published the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (aka Bloom’s Taxonomy ). Bloom put common learning processes into a hierarchical order, contrasting lower-order thinking with higher-order thinking.

Bloom’s taxonomy offers insights that can help us grasp what academic rigor really means.

Lower-Order Thinking

  • memorizing and summarizing information
  • understanding information on a surface level
  • comparing and contrasting terms or concepts

Higher-Order Thinking

  • probing and questioning ideas and concepts
  • understanding and articulating nuances of meaning
  • applying concepts and ideas creatively: for authentic problem solving or generating new perspectives…

By the way, this doesn’t mean lower order thinking is “inferior” in some essential way. In fact, a skilled teacher would typically understand that lower-order tasks are important foundational steps that prepare students to be successful in achieving higher levels of content mastery and understanding.

The Ingredients for Rewarding Academic Rigor

A sad reality is that too many students — and too many of their teachers perhaps —  associate rigor with the quantity of work assigned — as in being asked to spend more and more time doing homework, being expected to grasp complex concepts without proper support and preparation, or having excessive amounts of reading and memorization to do every week…

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Courses with extra work are indeed more difficult, but that kind of difficulty doesn’t always measure up to what academic rigor is really all about.

Academic rigor means making learning challenging in a way that should foster excitement, build confidence, and help students cultivate disciplined forms of critical thinking, argumentation, and problem solving.

Rigorous learning experiences help students understand knowledge and concepts that are complex, ambiguous, or contentious, and… encourage students to think critically, creatively, and more flexibly, and to question their assumptions and think deeply, rather than simply utilize memorization and information recall.

- baylor university — “academic rigor”.

Defined this way, academic rigor shouldn’t stir up dread or angst in students. Instead, academic rigor is something that should make you feel excited and inspired, especially when your teachers add relevance and authenticity to the mix by connecting the learning to topics and real-life problems that resonate with your deeper interests and passions.

Academic Rigor in High School

Your high school years are a prime time for you to embrace academic rigor. Most high school settings offer students a variety of courses that have different levels of academic rigor.  

Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Honors courses, for example — when taught by skilled teachers — should offer you not just accelerated pacing but also higher levels of academic rigor.

Engaging in these rigorous courses not only prepares you for the academic demands of college but also demonstrates your commitment to learning. Colleges value students who actively seek out challenges and display a willingness to explore new horizons.

Finding the Academic Rigor That’s Right for You

If you’re not finding the right opportunities for academic rigor at your school, talk to your school counselor or seek help at your school’s college and career center. 

In addition to offerings at your high school, you may also find that local community colleges or other institutions of higher learning in your larger community offer college bridge programs or similar programs that allow you to enroll directly into college courses while still in high school.

Finally, another great option for finding the right opportunities to get the academic rigor you want in subjects you’re interested in is to explore online education offerings . During the pandemic online learning was sometimes seen as an unfortunate necessity, but educators, families, and students also discovered that high quality online learning options can offer both wider horizons and some surprising educational advantages.

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Academic Rigor and College Admissions

Colleges are interested in applicants who have engaged with academic rigor in their high school journey. And, most likely, if you’re aspiring to attend a competitive school, you’re already well aware that taking more rigorous courses in high school can make a big difference when you apply to college.

You realize that admissions officers understand that courses with more academic rigor will help you hone your study skills and critical thinking skills — giving you an edge when it comes to applying for college and to showcasing your potential for ongoing academic success.

You’re not wrong about that... 

When admissions officers evaluate your academic achievements, they’ll be considering not only your GPA (grade-point average) but also the academic rigor of the courses you completed in high school.

Except for GPA, academic rigor is perhaps more important than any other factor for college admissions at many schools: more important than class rank , than your college admissions essay , or than the letters of recommendation submitted by your teachers and counselors.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), “strength of high school curriculum” is the third most important factor for admissions out of sixteen important factors . 

Moreover, the highest ranking factor — “the GPA earned in college prep courses” — also involves academic rigor. This means enrolling in at least a few Advanced Placement, Honors, IB, or similar courses can have a significant impact on college admissions.

When it comes to advanced or accelerated courses, Harvard’s admissions officers recommend that “students pursue the most demanding college-preparatory program available, consistent with each student's readiness for particular fields of study.”

Unfortunately, this pursuit of the most demanding courses can create lots of stress for high school students striving to compete to get into top colleges! 

But remember that admissions officers at top schools consider the larger context of your high school environment when evaluating your academic rigor. They typically assess academic rigor not by the measure of any single course, but in the context of your cumulative high school transcript.

Does your school offer AP courses? An International Baccalaureate program? Both? Neither? We know you did not design your school’s curriculum, and we only expect you to take advantage of such courses if your high school provides them… Again, we only expect that you will excel in the opportunities to which you have access.

- yale college — “advice on selecting high school courses”.

Course selection is important, but equally important is how you perform in those courses. Admissions officers are looking for evidence of academic rigor, a superior GPA, and evidence of improving academic ability over the course of several years.

When it comes time to apply to college, submitting a transcript with a strong GPA and rigorous courses covering a range of foundational subjects should help you stand out and showcase the following qualities:

  • impressive breadth and depth of background knowledge
  • a motivation for lifelong learning
  • superior study skills
  • an ability to persevere and excel under pressure
  • organizational and time management skills

What if taking classes with more rigor means it’s harder to maintain a 4.0 GPA?

In other words, you’re asking, what’s more important, the GPA or academic rigor?...

That’s a great question.

Remember that colleges and universities will in most cases be looking at your overall high school accomplishments — not looking for perfection.

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In general, a wise goal would be to know your limits, but within those limits, pursue the most challenging and relevant courses possible.

That said, here are some tips to help you avoid self-sabotaging your GPA!

  • Start early in terms of enrolling in rigorous courses and
  • Avoid cramming too many college prep courses into your schedule in a single school year
  • When the time approaches to select your courses for the next term or school year, get advice from counselors and teachers about how high to aim
  • Research the content and course requirements before deciding if an advanced or accelerated course is a good fit
  • Think about your overall time commitments for the school year
  • Be strategic and practical when it comes to maintaining good grades
  • Seek out an experienced tutor as soon as possible if there’s any doubt about your ability to succeed on your own
  • Test the waters early in harder classes — there’s often a brief window of time when you can drop one course and add an alternative course if you discover you’re really not prepared to succeed in the more advanced course

All of this brings us to our next topic — the temptation to take on too much academic rigor…

The Risks of Overloading on Rigor

Remember, your wellbeing is just as important as your academic pursuits!

While academic rigor is undeniably valuable, overloading on rigor without careful planning can lead to burnout, stress, and negative impacts on your mental health.

Most students will find that taking on more academic rigor is challenging. But, excelling academically should be just that — challenging — and not debilitating!

Unfortunately one common mistake is taking on too many AP courses or other college prep courses in the same year, or taking accelerated classes in subjects that don’t match your aptitudes or that you’re not properly prepared for academically.

When your efforts to pursue academic rigor start triggering excessive stress, frustration, or self doubt, you may be taking on too much, or you may not be getting the learning support you need to persevere and to succeed.

It’s commendable to aim high, and it’s understandable that students aspiring to college feel pressure to take on more… But honoring your passions and meaningful personal interests, balancing your commitments to extracurriculars , part-time jobs, or family responsibilities, and recognizing and accepting your limits — as well as pushing your limits — are all important to success.

Some stress is normal and healthy. Too much stress can be overwhelming and lead to more serious health issues — anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and so on…

Warning Signs of Taking on Too Much

  • tense muscles, headaches, a tight jaw, teeth-grinding, a racing heart and sweaty palms
  • trouble sleeping
  • low energy, tiredness or exhaustion
  • the feeling of being on edge and irritable
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of motivation
  • the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Source: “Stress and Stress Management” Raising Children.net

The odds are tremendous that you’ll succeed and thrive over the long run by aiming high if you also take ownership of your own prior commitments, limitations, and self-care needs:

  • Striking a balance between challenge and achievement
  • Seeking support or resources for more effective — and less stressful — academic planning
  • Practicing self-care strategies to prevent burnout while still embracing academic challenges

Your aspirations for college and your college journey should fit into, not trample, your larger life journey !

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Being Intentional & Making Informed Decisions

As you navigate the path of academic rigor, it's crucial to make informed decisions that align with your personal interests and future goals.

  • Consider factors such as your passions, career aspirations, current workload, and available support.
  • Engage in conversations with your teachers, guidance counselors, and parents or guardians to gather insights and advice.

Academic rigor should be pursued with intention. It's not about ticking off boxes but about enriching your learning experience.

The College Board has some great recommendations for guiding decisions when choosing your high school classes:

  • Pursue your passions and interests
  • Pursue a well-rounded education
  • Build a strong holistic college profile by maintaining a balance when it comes to academic rigor, breadth of learning, GPA, and extracurriculars
  • Be willing to try new things
  • Take courses that colleges recommend, including a reasonable number of accelerated and advanced courses available to you

In essence, your pursuit of academic rigor is valuable as a means to an end, not an end in itself!

Being intentional is about seeing your educational journey as one with lots of opportunities for new challenges and growth, not as one with an endless number conquests and prescribed requirements to live up to.

The journey of education is about personal development, evolving self-awareness, aligning your decision making with your values, and cultivating intellectual curiosity.

Final Thoughts

As you navigate the labyrinth of high school scheduling and college admissions, academic rigor should be more than a buzzword and more than another requirement on an endless checklist…

First, keep in mind what academic rigor really means when looking at the educational opportunities available at your school.

Try to identify and enroll in courses that will foster deeper learning and higher order thinking.

The teachers and courses that truly offer you academic rigor will provide learning experiences that are supportive, intentional, and appreciative of different learning styles and interests.

This means you’ll be academically challenged and intellectually stimulated with engaging inquiry, analysis, and critical thinking. And, your teachers will typically be helping you discover the real-world relevance of your learning —  providing opportunities for authentic research or problem solving.

This kind of academic rigor will help you develop the kinds of higher order thinking you’ll need not only to boost your college applications but to nurture your curiosity and confidence and prepare you for greater success in college and professionally…

Second, remember that academic rigor is only one piece of the puzzle... Your pursuit of academic rigor should not overshadow your self-care needs, negatively impact your GPA, isolate you from peers, or keep you from growing and thriving through participation in meaningful extracurricular experiences .

Finally, don’t pretend there is not a lot at stake when it comes to the impact your college journey has on your future opportunities, friendships, and careers. But also don’t think you need to do it all without the rights resources and community…

The trick is to turn this high stakes journey into one that excites you and propels you forward, and not one that leaves you feeling exhausted, anxious, isolated, or burned out.

The good news is you really don’t have to go it alone…

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In fact, the students at Crimson enjoy the journey and succeed beyond their expectations by benefiting from  personalized advising, tutoring, and counseling and the support of a whole community of like-minded peers from around the world …

Did you know that students who sign on to Crimson Education’s College App, access the Crimson student community, and take advantage of Crimson advising and counseling support are 7x more likely to get into their top-choice schools?

In your pursuit of academic rigor, remember that it's not just about the destination but the transformative journey that molds you into a well-rounded and intellectually curious individual. Embrace the challenges, find your balance, and thrive in your academic endeavors.

And, get help when you need it… You don’t need to go it alone and you don’t need to learn how to get into college the hard way, or after it’s too late.   With the right guidance from knowledgeable Crimson Advisors, with help from supportive tutors and counselors, and like-minded students, as well as tools and resources to manage all your next steps, your college journey becomes an exhilarating, friend-filled and more fun-filled adventure.

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We encourage you to explore Crimson Education's wealth of resources and counseling services. We’ll help you discover your own amazing potential as you chart a college journey that nurtures your passions and lives up to your dreams.

Learn more about our College Admissions Counseling Services , or go ahead and  book a free consultation with a Crimson counselor today. Together, we’ll make sure you’re on the best path to the college of your dreams… 

Find out about our Crimson App and how to access your own personalized application roadmap.

About the Author

Keith Nickolaus

Keith Nickolaus

Keith Nickolaus is a former educator with a passion for languages, literature, and lifelong learning. After obtaining a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz and exploring university life in Paris, Keith earned his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and then worked for 16 years in K12 education before setting up shop as a freelance writer.

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Local News | Howard schools start times will stay the same…

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Local News | Howard schools start times will stay the same in the fall, Board of Education decides

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Current Howard County public school start times will remain in place when students return to classes in the fall, the school board decided Thursday, meaning high schools and some middle schools will continue to begin at 7:50 a.m. The board’s goal is to have no schools starting earlier than 8 a.m., and no later than 9:25 a.m., and members tasked Acting Superintendent Bill Barnes with figuring out a timeline for when that can happen.

High schools had begun at 7:25 a.m., until the Howard County Board of Education voted in February 2023 to push the start time forward by 35 minutes, to 8 a.m., hoping to make a positive impact on students’ health. Though high schools started the year in August with 8 a.m. start times, on Sept. 20 then-Superintendent Michael Martirano changed start times again , in an attempt to remedy bus delays affecting thousands of students.

High schools and some middle schools now begin at 7:50 a.m. Tier 2 middle schools start at 8:30 a.m. Tier 2 elementary schools begin at 8:35 a.m.; and Tier 3 elementary schools begin at 9:25 a.m.

The motion to continue current school start times next school year passed Thursday 6-1-1, with board member Antonia Watts opposing the motion. Board member Jolene Mosley abstained. The motion directing Barnes to provide the board with a timeline for no school starting before 8 a.m. passed 7-1, with board member Jackie McCoy opposing.

One path to attaining 8 a.m. start times would be to shift the entire schedule back by 10 minutes, but Chief Administrative Officer Jahantab Siddiqui, who has served as the system’s head of student transportation since January , said on April 11 that would result in a 9:35 a.m. start time for Tier 3 elementary schools, which would be detrimental to families.

The superintendent is traditionally responsible for setting school start times, and the board’s decision to discontinue its 8 a.m. mandate will allow the Office of Transportation to begin thoroughly planning routes to maximize efficiencies and explore options for future school years, Siddiqui said on April 11 .

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State announces $3 million to prep high school teachers to teach college courses

  • Published: Apr. 25, 2024, 3:07 p.m.


Ohio’s College Credit Plus program offers free college courses to high schoolers -- including textbooks. canva stock image

  • Laura Hancock, cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Kent State University and the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio are among recipients of $3 million in grants to create programs for high school educators to teach college courses under the College Credit Plus Program.

Ohio’s College Credit Plus program offers free college courses to high schoolers, including free textbooks, tuition and fees. The courses are rigorous but give students both college and high school credits.

In addition to Kent State and the ESC of Northeast Ohio, which is in Independence, the other recipients are East Central Ohio ESC in Belmont, Tuscarawas and Guernsey counties, Montgomery County ESC and ESC of Eastern Ohio in Canfield in Mahoning County, according to a statement sent Thursday by Gov. Mike DeWine and state education officials.

These five awardees will use the funds to cover tuition, textbooks and other materials to support teachers across various districts as they work to become credentialed to teach College Credit Plus courses at their high schools.

Laura  Hancock

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“Teachers play a critical role in shaping the future of Ohio’s students,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a prepared statement. “These grants will empower our dedicated educators to expand their expertise and provide exceptional learning opportunities that will prepare students for success.”

The ultimate goal for state educators is for more students to take the courses, which can save them and their families money over the long run.

“These grants will provide more opportunities for educators to get the knowledge, skills, and experience to teach higher-level courses that will foster a seamless transition from high school to college,” said Stephen Dackin, director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce.

“The College Credit Plus program is the gateway to a postsecondary degree for thousands of students, and increasing the number of credentialed teachers will allow even more families to save on college tuition and prepare their students for a successful future,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Mike Duffey.

Laura Hancock covers state government and politics for The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.

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Letters to the Editor: I helped write UCLA’s high school data science course. This is what our critics miss

A data science classroom with writing on a board at San Gabriel High School is seen last month.

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To the editor: As a co-author of the UCLA high school data science course maligned by UC Davis professor Norman Matloff in his Times op-ed article , I agree with him that data science is a field in which even professionals make serious errors. That’s why data science education must begin early and not be treated as a mathematical afterthought.

Mathematics is only one component of data science. Almost three decades of research have shown that students can and should learn important statistical concepts — the foundation of data science and the emphasis of our course — before learning more traditional mathematics.

Matloff’s selective context might lead readers to reach the wrong conclusions. He doesn’t mention that just 38% of high school freshmen who pass Algebra I go on to take Algebra II. Data science is not to blame — an outdated 1950s curriculum is.

Not all students will become statisticians, scientists, mathematicians or even University of California students. Does this mean that they must remain data illiterate?

I’m confident that each and every student who has taken our data analysis course has learned something of value to their career and everyday life. Are opponents of data science equally confident about the quadratic equation?

Robert Gould, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor of statistics and data science at UCLA.

To the editor: The decision to no longer allow data science to be taken in lieu of Algebra 2 as a UC and California State University prerequisite is the right one. Data science is an important complement to algebra, not a substitute.

What seems to be missing in this debate is the need for significantly more STEM instructors who are aware of and sensitive to the significant challenges faced by the underrepresented populations that make up the majority of students today.

Faculty are obligated to teach critical thinking skills afforded by disciplines such as algebra, but many forget that they are also obligated to provide pupils with a pathway to success that allows mastery of those same skills.

Christian Teeter, Los Angeles

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, what are ap classes why should you take them.

Advanced Placement (AP)


If you have started high school recently or are due to start soon, you might be wondering, "What are AP classes?" You might have heard that they are extra-advanced or that you can earn college credit by passing AP exams. But how do these classes work exactly?

Read on for our guide to AP courses and learn how these special classes can get you ahead.

What Is Advanced Placement?

Advanced Placement is a program run by the College Board (the makers of the SAT) that allows you to take special high school courses that can earn you college credit and/or qualify you for more advanced classes when you begin college.

So what are AP courses? They are designed to give you the experience of an intro-level college class while you're still in high school. Plus, you can get college credit for the class if you pass the AP exam.

AP classes were created in the mid-1950s as a response to the widening gap between secondary school (high school) and college. A pilot program in 1952 had 11 subjects, but AP didn't officially launch until the 1956 school year , when the College Board took over and named it the College Board Advanced Placement Program.

This program expanded rapidly over the years. These days, about 2.8 million students take AP exams every year in 38 subjects . It's also much more common for students to take multiple AP classes over the course of their high school careers.


Why Take AP Classes? 3 Key Benefits

Now that you know what AP classes are, why should you consider taking them? Below, we give you three potential benefits of taking AP classes.

#1: They Can Boost Your College Applications

Taking an AP class (or several!) is a great way to challenge yourself academically and show colleges that you're serious about your education. An AP class on your transcript signals stronger academic training, especially with high passing scores of 4 and 5 on the test.

In particular, getting a 5 on an AP test shows that you are more advanced in a subject than 80%-90% of advanced students —which looks very impressive to colleges!

Since AP courses are challenging and require you to study for a comprehensive exam, they teach you skills that will help you in college classes. According to the College Board, students who take AP exams get higher grades in college than those with similar grades who don't take AP exams.


You basically get a head start in college.

Many colleges say that they check to see whether you took the hardest courses available to you at your school . Taking AP classes is often the best way to show that you are challenging yourself academically at your high school.

For example, Yale states on its admissions website, "We only expect you to take advantage of [AP] courses if your high school provides them." In other words, if your school has AP courses and you don't take them, it might look as though you aren't challenging yourself .

To take a West Coast example, USC is more straightforward : "Students should pursue Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes whenever possible and if offered by high school."

Getting a high passing score of 4 or 5 further demonstrates your academic potential to colleges. (By the way, if you're curious about a college's suggested high school course load, look up its admissions website by searching "[School Name] admissions requirements.")

#2: They Can Show Your Passion

Taking AP exams is also a way to demonstrate real academic interest in a certain subject . For example, if you're an aspiring engineer, taking the AP Calculus and AP Physics courses and passing their respective exams will prove to college admissions committees that you're serious about engineering and have the skills necessary to pursue it.

On the other hand, if you're interested in political science or pre-law tracks , taking AP US History, AP US Government, AP Statistics, and/or AP Economics would show strong preparation for those subjects.

Or if you're hoping to be pre-med , taking AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and/or AP Calculus would indicate that you have the skills and background needed to handle tough pre-med classes as a college student .

Looking for help studying for your AP exam? Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

#3: They Can Get You College Credit

Some colleges give credit for AP classes. This makes it possible to graduate from college in a far shorter amount of time, ultimately saving you money!

For example, Harvard lets you apply for Advanced Standing if you've completed the equivalent of a year of college courses with AP exams. The University of Michigan, too, grants new students course credit and higher class placements for AP exams .

However, some colleges use scores to help place students in higher-level classes but don't allow these credits to fulfill graduation requirements, so you can't graduate any earlier . Similarly, other schools might let you earn college credit but have limits on which AP exams they'll accept.

As an example, Stanford University accepts AP credit from many science, language, and math AP courses but not any from history or English courses .

Washington University in St. Louis will grant some credit for AP tests but doesn't allow you to use these credits to meet general education requirements:

"A maximum of 15 units of prematriculation credit may be counted toward any undergraduate degree. These units will count toward graduation but will not meet general education requirements."

Despite all this, getting the boost into more advanced classes can help you work through a major more quickly and let you take more advanced and more interesting courses as a freshman. Even if you don't earn credit for your AP scores, AP classes can still get you ahead.

If you're curious about a college's AP policy, the College Board has a database you can use to look up any school's policy.


Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.

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Spurred by Teen Girls, States Move to Ban Deepfake Nudes

Legislators in two dozen states are working on bills, or have passed laws, to combat A.I.-generated sexually explicit images of minors.

Caroline and Mark Mullet sit next to each other on the concrete edge of a bed for plants outside a building labeled Issaquah High School.

By Natasha Singer

Natasha Singer has covered student privacy for The Times since 2013.

Caroline Mullet, a ninth grader at Issaquah High School near Seattle, went to her first homecoming dance last fall, a James Bond-themed bash with blackjack tables attended by hundreds of girls dressed up in party frocks.

A few weeks later, she and other female students learned that a male classmate was circulating fake nude images of girls who had attended the dance, sexually explicit pictures that he had fabricated using an artificial intelligence app designed to automatically “strip” clothed photos of real girls and women.

Ms. Mullet, 15, alerted her father, Mark , a Democratic Washington State senator. Although she was not among the girls in the pictures, she asked if something could be done to help her friends, who felt “extremely uncomfortable” that male classmates had seen simulated nude images of them. Soon, Senator Mullet and a colleague in the State House proposed legislation to prohibit the sharing of A.I.-generated sexually explicit depictions of real minors.

“I hate the idea that I should have to worry about this happening again to any of my female friends, my sisters or even myself,” Ms. Mullet told state lawmakers during a hearing on the bill in January.

The State Legislature passed the bill without opposition. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed it last month.

States are on the front lines of a rapidly spreading new form of peer sexual exploitation and harassment in schools. Boys across the United States have used widely available “nudification” apps to surreptitiously concoct sexually explicit images of their female classmates and then circulated the simulated nudes via group chats on apps like Snapchat and Instagram.

Now, spurred in part by troubling accounts from teenage girls like Ms. Mullet, federal and state lawmakers are rushing to enact protections in an effort to keep pace with exploitative A.I. apps.

Since early last year, at least two dozen states have introduced bills to combat A.I.-generated sexually explicit images — known as deepfakes — of people under 18, according to data compiled by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a nonprofit organization. And several states have enacted the measures.

Among them, South Dakota this year passed a law that makes it illegal to possess, produce or distribute A.I.-generated sexual abuse material depicting real minors. Last year, Louisiana enacted a deepfake law that criminalizes A.I.-generated sexually explicit depictions of minors.

“I had a sense of urgency hearing about these cases and just how much harm was being done,” said Representative Tina Orwall , a Democrat who drafted Washington State’s explicit-deepfake law after hearing about incidents like the one at Issaquah High.

Some lawmakers and child protection experts say such rules are urgently needed because the easy availability of A.I. nudification apps is enabling the mass production and distribution of false, graphic images that can potentially circulate online for a lifetime, threatening girls’ mental health, reputations and physical safety.

“One boy with his phone in the course of an afternoon can victimize 40 girls, minor girls,” said Yiota Souras , chief legal officer for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, “and then their images are out there.”

Over the last two months, deepfake nude incidents have spread in schools — including in Richmond, Ill. , and Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach , Calif.

Yet few laws in the United States specifically protect people under 18 from exploitative A.I. apps.

That is because many current statutes that prohibit child sexual abuse material or adult nonconsensual pornography — involving real photos or videos of real people — may not cover A.I.-generated explicit images that use real people’s faces, said U.S. Representative Joseph D. Morelle, a Democrat from New York.

Last year, he introduced a bill that would make it a crime to disclose A.I.-generated intimate images of identifiable adults or minors. It would also give deepfake victims, or parents, the right to sue individual perpetrators for damages.

“We want to make this so painful for anyone to even contemplate doing, because this is harm that you just can’t simply undo,” Mr. Morelle said. “Even if it seems like a prank to a 15-year-old boy, this is deadly serious.”

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another New York Democrat, recently introduced a similar bill to enable victims to bring civil cases against deepfake perpetrators.

But neither bill would explicitly give victims the right to sue the developers of A.I. nudification apps, a step that trial lawyers say would help disrupt the mass production of sexually explicit deepfakes.

“Legislation is needed to stop commercialization, which is the root of the problem,” said Elizabeth Hanley, a lawyer in Washington who represents victims in sexual assault and harassment cases.

The U.S. legal code prohibits the distribution of computer-generated child sexual abuse material depicting identifiable minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an alert warning that such illegal material included realistic child sexual abuse images generated by A.I.

Yet fake A.I.-generated depictions of real teenage girls without clothes may not constitute “child sexual abuse material,” experts say, unless prosecutors can prove the fake images meet legal standards for sexually explicit conduct or the lewd display of genitalia.

Some defense lawyers have tried to capitalize on the apparent legal ambiguity. A lawyer defending a male high school student in a deepfake lawsuit in New Jersey recently argued that the court should not temporarily restrain his client, who had created nude A.I. images of a female classmate, from viewing or sharing the pictures because they were neither harmful nor illegal. Federal laws, the lawyer argued in a court filing, were not designed to apply “to computer-generated synthetic images that do not even include real human body parts.” (The defendant ultimately agreed not to oppose a restraining order on the images.)

Now states are working to pass laws to halt exploitative A.I. images. This month, California introduced a bill to update a state ban on child sexual abuse material to specifically cover A.I.-generated abusive material.

And Massachusetts lawmakers are wrapping up legislation that would criminalize the nonconsensual sharing of explicit images, including deepfakes. It would also require a state entity to develop a diversion program for minors who shared explicit images to teach them about issues like the “responsible use of generative artificial intelligence.”

Punishments can be severe. Under the new Louisiana law, any person who knowingly creates, distributes, promotes or sells sexually explicit deepfakes of minors can face a minimum prison sentence of five to 10 years.

In December, Miami-Dade County police officers arrested two middle school boys for allegedly making and sharing fake nude A.I. images of two female classmates, ages 12 and 13, according to police documents obtained by The New York Times through a public records request. The boys were charged with third-degree felonies under a 2022 state law prohibiting altered sexual depictions without consent. (The state attorney’s office for Miami-Dade County said it could not comment on an open case.)

The new deepfake law in Washington State takes a different approach.

After learning of the incident at Issaquah High from his daughter, Senator Mullet reached out to Representative Orwall, an advocate for sexual assault survivors and a former social worker. Ms. Orwall, who had worked on one of the state’s first revenge-porn bills, then drafted a House bill to prohibit the distribution of A.I.-generated intimate, or sexually explicit, images of either minors or adults. (Mr. Mullet, who sponsored the companion Senate bill, is now running for governor .)

Under the resulting law , first offenders could face misdemeanor charges while people with prior convictions for disclosing sexually explicit images would face felony charges. The new deepfake statute takes effect in June.

“It’s not shocking that we are behind in the protections,” Ms. Orwall said. “That’s why we wanted to move on it so quickly.”

Natasha Singer writes about technology, business and society. She is currently reporting on the far-reaching ways that tech companies and their tools are reshaping public schools, higher education and job opportunities. More about Natasha Singer


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