Today's high school students can choose from a wide array of classes that prepare them for future careers or further study. No longer limited to the traditional home economics and wood shop classes of the past as add-ons to the traditional curriculum, teens can study languages, military science, communications and a range of technology applications. Personal finance and life skills classes, including dealing with infants, also help prepare teens for real life. Traditional college prep programs remain the focus at many high schools, but students can augment those choices with advanced placement courses, area studies programs and cross-discipline options, all designed to make them more attractive to college admissions personnel.
Students who view high school as a preparation for further education in college or university typically study a variety of traditional academic areas, including English language skills, social studies, mathematics and sciences. Foreign language study and mastery of reading and writing skills are generally also part of college prep high school programs. According to the August 2008 National High School Center report, "Preparing High School Students for Successful Transitions to Post-Secondary Education and Employment," such programs are geared to preparing students to be competitive in the college entrance process, as well as during postsecondary study itself. Beyond driver's education, computer skills and health classes, most college prep courses of study focus on purely academic rather than life skills.
The ubiquitous nature of technology in today's economy has led to an increase in the number and types of technology-based classes at some high schools. Students are no longer limited to simply learning how to use the computer keyboard and do basic word processing activities. Teens can and should pursue other interests, according to Randall Hansen of Quintessential Careers, such as programming; Web design; computer-aided drafting; and other, more complex computer skills. Technology-based communications classes give students the opportunity to learn online journalism skills, basic moviemaking and broadcast radio skills, among other interactive technologies.
Life skills classes are sometimes available in high school for students not planning to attend college, as well as for those with learning or behavioral disabilities. Driver's ed, health and personal finance fall into this category, as do updated versions of home economics and shop. Home ec classes are no longer simply basic cooking and sewing: They now cover life skills such as comparison shopping and child care. Programs for pregnant teens teach them a core high school curriculum, along with prenatal care, nutritional eating and how to care for their infant children. Learning-disabled teens might be able to take courses in basic life skills such as counting money, simple job skills and managing the public transportation system.
Physical and Mental Fitness
The Reserve Officers' Training Corps provides college students military training and college scholarships in exchange for a future military commitment. At the high school level, students with an interest in the military can enter the Junior ROTC program. In addition to a traditional high school college prep course load, JROTC students practice military marching, drills and formations, and they study military science. They also must meet strict physical fitness standards and perform a specified number of community service hours each semester. JROTC students typically also participate, in uniform, at ceremonies in their communities, including parades, flag raisings and Memorial and Veterans day observances.