Updated: Apr 5
Come junior and senior year, it might seem as though the one topic on everyone’s mind is the college admission process. Are you involved in enough extracurricular activities? Have you demonstrated leadership? Have you taken your SAT/ACT? When should you start writing college essays? While all of these factors are incredibly important to college admissions, taking the time to adequately plan your courses for Junior and Senior year is just as crucial. Overall, the most important advice regarding course scheduling is to take challenging classes that you can manage and to leave time for extracurricular activities.
It is crucial to note that certain universities, and certain majors at certain universities (especially STEM-related majors), will want to see that you have taken specific courses during your time in high school. For example, MIT wants to see that you have taken: one year of high school physics, one year of high school chemistry, one year of high school biology, math through calculus, two years of a foreign language, four years of English, and two years of history and/or social sciences. Harvard wants to see that you have taken four years of English, four years of a single foreign language, at least two years of history (preferable American history, European history, and one additional advanced history course), four years of mathematics, and four years of science (physics, chemistry, biology, and one of these at the advanced level). While you will still have a shot at being admitted to these universities without having taken said courses, ensuring that you take the courses that your prospective schools want to see will put you ahead of your competitors.
That said, if you know of specific colleges that you are interested in, look into their course requirements now. Get ahead on making sure that you take courses that will make you a competitive applicant. If you happen to know what major you plan to apply to, do research on that specific major as well and on what courses will best prepare you for success in college. If you want to major in science, taking more advanced placement science courses in high school (ie. AP Physics, AP Chemistry, and AP Biology), will both impress admissions advisors and prepare you for the rigor of the work you will receive in college.
Courses that most top-colleges would like to see:
1. Four years of English
2. At least three years of math:
3. At least three years of history:
World history or World geography
4. At least three years of science:
Physics or Chemistry
Earth Science/ Space Science
5. Two years of foreign language
6. One year of visual and performing arts
7. One year of college-preparatory elective
In the UCs, these courses are referred to as A-G courses. If you would like to see what the A-G courses are, please click on the following link: https://hs-articulation.ucop.edu/agcourselist
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