It’s almost time to start picking high school courses for next year. These decisions are important, and students should choose carefully.  Class choice demonstrates a student’s initiative and drive as much as their academic aptitude. One class on a transcript won’t affect whether a student is accepted or denied by a college, but the combination of classes can make or break a student’s chances.

Here are some tips for selecting high school courses:

  1. Meet the requirements to graduate. Make sure your student takes all the required courses for graduation. This is true whether your student attends a physical school, virtual school, or is homeschooled. Requirements may be from the school itself or state requirements. Check your student’s school’s website for specific information on these requirements.
  2. Pursue real interests. Take the core subjects: English, science, math, social sciences, and foreign language. Then fill out the rest of your schedule with courses that demonstrate your interests. Explore music, robotics, or art;  just make sure you have the right balance of rigor. So, how to decide between AP European History and AP Psychology? Students need to be honest. Is psychology a class they want to take because of a potential interest and challenge, or do they think it will be easy? In all cases, students should take the most challenging courses available in the subjects that interest them the most.
  3. Show colleges a positive pattern. Make sure you have a high level (or an improving degree) of rigor throughout your high school years. This includes senior year!
  4. Embrace challenge. Taking rigorous courses, like honors, accelerated, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), and Dual Enrollment (DE) make a student more desirable to a college. Doing well in those kinds of classes demonstrates that you can handle college-level material. That said, taking many advanced courses is not required, but it is recommended, especially if your student wants to attend a selective university.
  5. Accept the courses your school offers. High schools provide colleges with a school profile that lets colleges know about that school’s course offerings, grading scale, graduation requirements, and other information. From this school profile, colleges are able to see the full curriculum that was available to you.  Don’t worry if your school does not offer a certain curriculum; colleges initially compare you in the context of what your high school offers. However, if your school lacks a strong curriculum, this leads us to #6…
  6. Consider online and dual enrollment options. Online and Dual Enrollment courses allow students to take a wider variety of courses beyond what their high school may offer. Through these mediums, students can take classes not offered by their school, including AP level courses. Check with your school prior to enrolling in an online or Dual Enrollment class to confirm that the credit will be accepted.
  7. Consult with teachers, a high school counselor and/or an expert college advisor from International College Counselors. Some difficult decisions may need to be made about which courses to take and how to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Students should take courses that will challenge them, not crush them.
  8. Meet the requirements for top choice colleges, majors and programs. Many colleges, especially the selective ones, have specific admissions requirements for entering students, For example, the University of California system requires students to take a year-long course of visual or performing arts. Harvard and the University of Michigan strongly recommend that students take four years of a single foreign language. An engineering program may require students to have reached a certain level of math by high school graduation. Research each school, major, and program individually. Make sure any and all minimum requirements are met.
  9. Shun Senioritis.  Many admissions offices will check an applicant’s senior year program and performance before offering admission. Colleges and universities want students who push themselves to excel all the way through high school, and/or show a trajectory of improvement.  Extra effort demonstrates that they are ready for the challenge and adventure ahead! Colleges have been known to rescind the acceptances of students who perform poorly during their senior year, so continue to work hard through graduation!

For any and all help with choosing the right high school courses and-or with the college admissions process, contact International College Counselors. Visit or call 954-414-9986.


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