High schooler’s course selection is a task that should be taken seriously. Building a strong transcript doesn’t happen overnight: it’s a 4-year process.
Colleges are looking for rigorous high school coursework, which helps them evaluate your preparedness for college-level classes. This means you should take as many advanced and AP classes as possible. Students interested in highly selective schools should aim for seven or more.
For those seven, we recommend:
AP World (Soph)
AP Eng 3 (Jr)
AP Physics (Jr)
AP Eng 4 (Sr)
AP Stat (Sr)
AP Science (Sr)
AP Psych (sometime)
Core class progression:
|9th||Pre-AP Eng 1||Pre-AP Geometry||Pre-AP Bio||World Geo or AP Human Geo|
|10th||Pre-AP Eng 2||Pre-AP Alg 2||Pre-AP Chem||World or AP World|
|11th||AP Eng 3 (Lang)||Pre-AP Precal||AP Phys||US History*|
|12th||AP Eng 4 (Lit)||AP Cal or SAP Stat||AP (Chem, Bio, Phys 2 or C, Env Sci)||Dual Credit Gov/Econ or AP Gov/Econ|
*Most “smart kids” are pushed toward APUSH for their junior year. It’s a rigorous course, but more importantly, it’s a timesuck (hours every night spent reading and annotating). Especially for juniors taking mostly AP cores and electives, APUSH is one to avoid.
Colleges like to see at least three years of the same foreign language and you must have Fine Arts credit and PE credit (if not covered by band or athletics). Start your foreign language classes as a freshman and don’t wait until your senior year to get your PE credit.
Colleges like to see a stable or rising trend of grades throughout high school – choose classes accordingly. Know your strengths and make those your most difficult classes. It’s also important to work hard to master the subjects you’re not as strong in.
If you need help or tutoring, ask for it. Remember, each year builds on another, so waiting too long can cause even more difficulty in the future.
Dual Credit vs. AP
Many schools offer dual credit classes, which means you can earn college credit at the same time you are earning your high school credits. AP classes can also help you earn college credits if you pass the AP exam.
While it’s easier to get college credit through dual credit than AP, the schedule is less rigorous (mornings/afternoons off for parts of the week), but at some high schools the grade isn’t weighted as much for GPA.
If you’re close to getting into or slipping out of a ranking tier (top 7%, top 10%, top quartile, etc.), choosing the class with more GPA weighting is more influential to your prospective colleges.