College-bound students should carefully consider which classes to take each year in high school. Colleges want students who take challenging courses and who build a good foundation to expand on after high school. The completion of the following courses is usually expected of prospective students.
You should take an English course (English I, English II, English III, and English IV) every year of high school. The aim of all English courses is to develop your oral and written communication skills, critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. These are all important for college and beyond.
Most colleges require three or more credits of math, including algebra I, geometry, and algebra II. In order to look good in the admissions process, you should also take a fourth or even fifth unit of math, such as trigonometry, calculus, finite mathematics, etc. You will use math in college and in most careers, so take as many courses in this subject as you can.
You should have three or more credits of natural science (physical science, biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) for college admission. At least two science units should be laboratory based. Science courses help develop your critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Most colleges require three or more credits of social sciences, including U.S. history, U.S. government, economics, world history or geography, etc. Consider taking a fourth credit of social studies if your schedule allows.
Many colleges prefer at least two credits of the same foreign language, but it's a good idea to take more if you can. Stick with the same foreign language throughout high school, so you will have advanced training in that subject. Consider taking two or more years of French, Spanish, Latin, etc.
Many schools require at least one credit of visual and/or performing arts. Course examples may include art (painting, sculpture, printmaking), band (concert, symphonic, jazz), chorus (concert, soul, madrigal), theater (acting, directing, costume design), etc. Check with your counselor to see what various courses in the arts are offered at your school.
Most colleges require a basic knowledge of computers. Be sure to take a course that includes basic computer terminology and hardware operation.
Some colleges require a credit or half a credit of health and/or physical education. Even if the college you are interested in attending does not require these two courses, you would still benefit from taking them in order to acquire an attitude for good health.
If the college you want to attend does not require credits in the arts, computer sciences, or health/physical education, then you should still take these subjects as electives. Furthermore, if you want to explore some possible career options or already have an idea of what you would like to major in at college, use your elective courses to get a head start. Interested in business? See if your high school offers a course in marketing or logistics. Want to work for a newspaper after college? Take a high school journalism class to get experience on what it's like to put a newspaper together. Interested in photography or graphic design? See if your school offers a yearbook class as an elective. Electives give you the opportunity to follow your passions and develop new interests. However, you shouldn't have a light load when it comes to electives either. If you excel in foreign languages, consider taking that fourth year of Spanish as an elective. If you have a knack for math, go ahead and take that fourth or fifth year so you will look good in the admissions process.
Honors/Advanced Placement Courses
Colleges want students who challenge themselves. Taking the highest level that you possibly can (while still making good grades) in subjects such as English or math will give you an edge in the admissions process. Talk to your school counselor about the possibility of taking honors or advanced placement (AP) classes.
On average, the courses mentioned above are expected for college admission. However, keep in mind that requirements for admission may vary from school to school. Some colleges may require additional courses, while others require less. Be sure to check with your college(s) of interest to see what courses are required.