When deciding between the courses offered by your high school, you will likely have many questions about what is best. Making better decisions earlier along the high school pathway can lead to a more balanced, stronger transcript for applying to college. Here are 4 guidelines to keep in mind when choosing high school courses. While there may not always be a clear path, particularly during the earlier years, following these guidelines will certainly help.
- Challenge Yourself– You should take courses in which you know you will be both challenged and successful. Curriculum choice should never be based solely on getting the highest GPA. By choosing higher level courses, you are effectively preparing yourself for the rigor of college and demonstrating that you are ready. Application readers take into consideration what level of classes were available to students and will certainly take notice if it seems that a student was being ‘lazy’ and/or not challenging themselves.
- Balance Your Schedule – You should balance your curriculum strength from year to year and refrain from taking all advanced courses one year and none the next. Students who overload on challenging classes risk overextending themselves and thus not getting the grades they would have otherwise been able to obtain. It is also important for you to remember that senior year counts although courses will not be completed before application time. Colleges want to see that you are consistently challenging yourself and almost all colleges will look at mid year and final grades for seniors.
- Meet College Requirements – While you most likely have not made your college choices before senior year, there are basic core requirements which almost every school has for freshman applicants. You should keep these in mind early on so that you are able to fulfill the requirements by graduation.
- Follow your Interests – If you are particularly interested in a certain subject, college major or career, you should take some stronger courses in subjects related to those. Not only does this allow you to pursue your own interests or passions, it also strengthens your case for admission to certain college majors and/or programs. For example, if a student wants to go into engineering, they should focus on taking stronger science and math courses. It is important to keep in mind that you should not neglect to take your core subjects in pursuit of those electives which interest you more, but you can certainly replace the less important classes with them.
Whether it is an IB program, AP courses, AICE, Dual Enrollment or something else offered by your high school, you should thoroughly consider your options and choose a path which will allow you to be both successful and challenged. Remember that if your high school does not offer courses which challenge you enough or interest you, there are always other options to consider such as local community college courses, online courses or self studying for AP exams. If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to schedule a time to sit down with your high school guidance counselor to go over your options or give a college admissions office a call.
Some examples of college admissions requirements and tips for course selection:
NACAC – High School Classes Required for College