For many high school students, the 2014-15 school year will begin in just over a month. This has many parents and students already thinking about next year’s class schedules. As a former high school counselor, I advised students to carefully schedule their classes to maximize college acceptance chances. But what classes do you need to take to wow the college admissions staff? Do you really need to take that fourth year of Spanish? AP biology?
While the high school transcript is only one piece of the college admissions decision, it is the most important piece. A general rule of thumb is to take five solid academic courses: a year in English, math, social studies, science and foreign language. Most colleges also require a year of visual and performing arts.
But how many of these should be advanced placement or honors classes?
Advanced placement classes are college-level classes offered on the high school campus starting in the sophomore year. Advanced courses require additional homework and extensive reading. Colleges like to see a student who takes on a challenge, and advanced classes reflect this.
How many advanced courses to schedule in a semester should depend on what other interests and activities you are involved in. If you excel in science but struggle in English, taking advanced courses in science and regular English classes may make sense. A “C” in an AP English class will not impress the college admissions staff. Additionally, a good science student could double up on advanced courses like environmental science or AP biology.
To maximize your chance of acceptance to colleges, a good question to ask yourself is, “What is the most rigorous schedule that I can be successful at?”
While many students have completed the bulk of their high school’s graduation requirements at the end of their junior year, this does not mean they should take two open periods in the 12th grade. Taking it easy your senior year is a thing of the past, and a strong senior schedule will prepare you for the rigors of college. It will also impress the college admissions staff. A fourth year of math is a must.
High school guidance counselors and teachers can be a valuable source of information regarding class selection. Researching a favorite college will also be helpful as there are minimum admissions requirements.
or example, at the University of Nevada, Reno, students must have a minimum of three science courses. Most UC campuses would like to see three or even four years of foreign language on a transcript.
The Center for the Arts In Grass Valley is sponsoring summer workshops on college admissions and college applications that Jill Haley is instructing. For more information go to http://thecenterforthearts.org/center-arts-2014-summer-camps/.