Your High School Classes Will Open the Doors to College

Because you are planning to go to college, it’s important you take the right classes in high school. Beginning in ninth grade, the majority of your classes should be ones that will prepare you for admission to and, perhaps even more importantly, success in college. When it comes time to apply to college, you want to make sure you meet the admission criteria for ALL colleges in which you are interested. Always remember it is much better to be “over prepared” than “under prepared.”

Here’s what you need by the end of your senior year in order to meet the admission expectations at a majority of colleges:

Four full years of English classes. This includes courses in which you study writing and courses in which you read literature. Colleges know you need to be able to write well in nearly every career. You need to be able to read and analyze, and you need to develop strong communication skills!​ Four full years of math classes. 
Students who take math in each year of high school are far more successful in college than students taking only three years. Math is the tool you will use for many other classes, especially those in science. Your math classes should include at least four of the following six classes, taken in this order:
  • Pre-algebra
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II and/or Trigonometry
  • Precalculus
  • Calculus
Never “skip” a year of math in high school because you will lose your momentum. If you do not take math in your senior year, you will find that the math classes required in college will be very difficult!
Three to four years of laboratory science classes.
 You will have the strongest background if you have taken at least one year each of:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
Two years, at a minimum, of social sciences. Most college freshmen studied World History and US History in high school. Other social science options include:
  • Government
  • ​​Sociology
  • Geography
  • Psychology
Two to four years of foreign language. More and more colleges are requiring a minimum of two years of language study while in high school, as an admission criterion. Because many colleges require students to study a second language, it is important that you expose yourself to the study of languages while in high school.​​ A small number of colleges require one year of visual or performing arts prior to admission. Participation in these classes throughout high school can help you develop a “special talent” that will make you a highly qualified applicant. 

Most colleges require students to meet certain college prep curriculum standards, but just meeting the minimum is not necessarily the best way to prepare for college. Strong preparation means going beyond the minimum—allowing you to start your college career in college-level courses, not remedial courses designed to help you catch up or review high school material—for NO CREDIT!

Athletes: Make sure you work with your counselor and coaches so your classes meet the standards of the NCAA Eligibility Center.


Back to: Guidance for Freshmen