Spring semester is time to start thinking about what courses you’ll be taking next year. One of the most important components of the college application process is your high school curriculum. In fact, the courses you take in high school can be as important as your grades in those courses. With that in mind, no matter what year you are in high school, it’s essential to think carefully and make informed decisions about the courses you’ll be taking next year.
When reviewing your curriculum, admissions counselors first and foremost want to see students pursuing a challenging curriculum. This means they expect you to take courses in all core subject areas – math, science, English, history, and foreign language – for as many years as you can. Colleges also expect you to push beyond the minimum requirements at your high school. If your school requires 2 years of foreign language, try to take 3 or 4 years. If your school requires 3 years of math, try to take 4 years.
Colleges will also pay attention to the level of difficulty of your courses based on what’s available at your high school. Whether your school has AP courses, IB courses, or honors or advanced courses, you ideally should stretch to take those courses (while still keeping in mind how you’ll perform academically in each course). Preferably, your challenging courses will also be balanced across the core subject areas, regardless of your particular interests or strengths.
It’s important to note that admissions counselors will take into account the curriculum and courses available to you at your school. If your school does not offer AP or IB courses, you are not expected to take them. Similarly, if your school doesn’t offer any curricular flexibility and everyone has to take the same courses, it will not be held against you in the application process.
When deciding which courses to take, you want to strike a balance between showing you are willing to embrace a challenge and maintaining strong grades. In order to help you make the best choices, you should familiarize yourself with the course offerings at your school, as well as your school’s requirements. Look at the course listings and talk to students and teachers about what to expect in upcoming years. And, of course, discuss your curricular plan with your college counselor or college advisor.