Colleges look for students who take the most demanding courses available. But they also expect students to do well in those courses.

If your high school offers an array of advanced classes, it may be tempting to try to take them all. But beware of overburdening yourself: Too many tough courses can lead to high stress and lower grades.

Instead, choose advanced courses in the subjects that you enjoy the most and can succeed in. If you’re unsure of how much work you should take on, discuss your choices with your school counselor, a teacher, or a parent.

Options to investigate include:

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate
Many high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Students in these classes complete advanced, college-level coursework. At the end of each course, they take a standardized test to prove they have learned the material.

Students with high scores can receive college credit at many colleges around the country, and admission officers view enrollment in AP and IB courses as evidence that students sought out challenging coursework while in high school.

Dual Enrollment Courses
A growing number of high schools are partnering with local colleges to provide dual enrollment courses. In these programs, students can earn college credit by taking the same courses as students at a nearby community college.

In some cases, the dual enrollment classes take place in the high school during the school day. Others require students to attend regular classes on the college campus.

Because of the variety inherent to dual enrollment offerings, colleges may or may not accept dual credits. However, having dual enrollment courses on your application shows that you’re interested in challenging yourself academically.