I guess I've also tended to focus on having them do a few things well rather than cover a high volume. I wanted them to be really strong in the basics, and otherwise enjoy their high school years. That's why I looked at the basic requirements and called it good. How do you all find that balance while remaining competitive?
Some students thrive on an intense schedule, or they are so smart and focused that they can accomplish 7 credits in the time it takes other students to do 5. Other students like it less, but they do it in pursuit of a specific goal. Or bc their parents force them, lol.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing less, it's just that few students are going to make it into an extremely competitive university by being really strong in the basics. People just need to make the decision with their eyes open.
Now if your student is working to their maximum potential in each of those five core areas and you increase the challenge and the work load each year, how are they not competitive?
Maybe it's just my quirk. I like fewer classes with greater depth. I found it more effective to build important-to-me cultural literacy issues like fine arts, philosophy, or world religions into existing classes spread out over more than one year.
They are not competitive because there are plenty of students working to maximum potential in 6, 7, or even 8 rigorous academic classes instead of 5. I'm not saying everyone should attempt that, it's just that one needs to be aware of what makes you competitive at certain schools. For the record, my kids go above the 4x5, but nowhere near the standard transcript for highly selective schools.
A transcript with more academic classes is not always superior in reality, but it is almost always superior in terms of admission chances. Again, speaking of competitive to ultra competitive schools here. Also, if you are putting in the work and the hours on philosophy or art through history history and literature, you can certainly create another credit even if all of the material was interwoven. You do not have to say, we are now pausing history and moving on to philosophy, kwim?
Some schools are absolutely adamant that they want to see the student taking rigorous classes, and plenty of them. Their answer to you saying you prefer fewer classes with more depth would be that they want to see more classes with the exact same depth. When we are at a presentation with University of Georgia, a boy with a stunning number of advanced classes already told the rep that his amazing ECs were so time-consuming that he couldn't take all of the available APs in his senior year. Should he eliminate A or B? The rep's answer? "We want to see you take all available APs." But I'm curing cancer in my spare time, and I want to really delve into my classes . . . "We want to see you take all available APs."
So, there are definitely specific things that certain schools want to see. You can get a good idea of what these are by visiting their web site, visiting the campus, going to on the road presentations, and checking out sites like College Confidential.
I don't think one approach is superior to the other. You just have to know what will increase your odds of getting into certain schools, and then decide if that fits in with what you want high school to look like.