Strategically choosing the proper high school coursework can be a critical factor in the college admissions process. The high school transcript is arguably the most important component of the application as it illustrates rigor of curriculum and demonstrates commitment. Selecting the right combination of courses throughout high school can increase chances of admissions, especially at selective colleges.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you complete your high school’s graduation requirements – Graduation requirements can vary from high school to high school. It is important to know what the requirements are and have a reasonable plan in place for completing them. Consider taking core classes in English, science, math, social studies, and foreign language throughout high school in order to demonstrate a rigorous schedule.
- Select a smart mix of AP/Honors/IB/College Prop Courses – The importance of selecting the most rigorous coursework available at your school partially depends upon the selectivity of the college you want to attend. At selective colleges, rigor of curriculum is equally as important as GPA. A highly selective school will expect students to take the most difficult classes available at the high school. In general, if the student has an affinity for an AP/IB/Honor’s course, we recommend taking it. However, if the student doesn’t have an aptitude for a particular subject, a college prep class might be the right choice. The student should be relatively certain he or she will be able to achieve an acceptable grade (at least a “B”) in the rigorous class.
- Consider dual enrollment, community college or online options – Perhaps your school does not offer the class you want. If you have an interest, the possibilities are endless. This shows initiative and can be a great way to take a class you want and earn college credit at the same time. If you are taking the class to fulfill a high school requirement, make sure your school will accept the credits before enrolling in the class.
- Demonstrate an upward trend with grades and rigor – Admissions officers want to see that students continue to challenge themselves throughout high school. It is equally important to succeed in the challenges selected. This is also true of 12th grade classes. Colleges (especially selective ones) expect students to challenge themselves in their senior year. Beware that many schools will ask to see first semester grades prior to an admissions decision, so don’t slack off in your senior year. Also, a college can rescind an acceptance if the student performs inadequately during their senior year.
- Know admissions requirements for your major at you top choice schools – Some selective schools may require four years of language, others require physics for an engineering major or calculus for a business major, etc. It is essential to know what is required and meet those requirements in order to increase your chances of admissions.
- Pursue your passions and intellectual interests – If you have a passion for music, take music classes! High school can be a good time to explore options and opportunities. As long as you have a balanced and a rigorous schedule, it is OK to take classes in which you are interested.
Colleges are looking for students who push themselves, maintain high grades, trend upwards, and are able to successfully demonstrate their readiness for the challenges ahead.