You’ll spend your entire high school experience building an academic résumé that will one day earn you an acceptance letter from your college or university of choice. Although many students will (and should!) focus on extracurriculars and community service, you should also choose your high school classes selectively. Colleges want students who embrace challenging courses and learn to excel, so here are six classes you should take in high school to prepare for college-level academics.
1. Basic and advanced math
No matter what degree you want to pursue in college, you’ll have to complete two years of core curriculum classes before specializing in your studies. Basic and advanced math courses are some of the best high school classes to prepare you for college. You’ll get familiar with new concepts and formulas before moving on to a more rigorous university setting. You should take at least one math class every year as part of your core courses. Research what high school classes colleges look for, and you can chart your mathematical future by what you’ve already accomplished and which areas would be most challenging. While it’s important to challenge yourself, don’t overwhelm yourself either—you should pick math classes that challenge your study habits but don’t tank your GPA.
2. Honors classes
Students who want to really prepare for college in high school can start taking honors classes as early as freshman year, so talk with your school counselor about honors courses ASAP. You’ll dive deeper into subject matter, which results in more studying and time management practice. You’ll also practice essential skills that you’ll need in college while making your transcript stand out from students who take standard classes. Try one or two honors courses as an underclassman to get a feel for how well you do with more challenging material.
Related: Should I Ace Easy Classes or Push Myself in Hard Ones?
3. Reading and writing courses
College students write numerous essays and research papers every semester and in almost every class—not just English courses. Taking reading and writing courses in high school will make extensive papers less intimidating later. Planning and drafting essays will become second nature, but your English classes can also come with other benefits. Sign up for writing or reading classes with a local community college to gain credit hours through dual enrollment—it’s a head start that counts toward your future degree, and you won’t have to repeat these classes in college if you make sure the credits transfer. Starting college courses early frees precious time you can spend on more difficult university courses, and it can get you across the graduation stage faster.
4. Advanced Placement classes
Advanced Placement (AP) classes teach students what it’s like to take challenging college-level courses. The intense workload and study schedule will make most university classes feel like a breeze because you’ll know how to handle whatever comes your way. AP classes also boost your GPA by counting more toward your GPA than standard courses. Your final exam scores could also help you earn college credit or qualify for scholarships as they act as proof of academic excellence.
Related: What's the Difference Between AP and Dual Enrollment Classes?
5. Foreign languages
Most high schools require students to complete at least two years of a single language—but you’re only benefiting yourself if you try to take classes all four years. Why? You can continue that education by completing language requirements at your future university. And don’t be afraid to experiment outside the norm and pick something more unusual than Spanish or French. If your school offers Latin, it can offer you an invaluable linguistic understanding of root words in English—which will also help you on the SAT—and all the romance languages, which can help you learn other tongues later. Whether you choose Latin, Spanish, or Mandarin Chinese, these are high school classes that colleges look for in prospective students. Plus, excellent final grades could help you skip the beginner’s-level language course in college and head straight to intermediate classes if you continue studying the same language.
6. Arts or performance classes
Colleges and universities want students who can absorb new information and excel, but they also want a well-rounded student body. Consider taking courses in arts you feel passionate about—a subject area that’s often overlooked in education today. Painting, pottery, or theater classes are some of the best high school courses for college-bound students. You’ll learn more about yourself and develop expressive outlets while improving your teamwork and communication skills. Your college applications will show both individual passion and community spirit through artistic endeavors.
Related: Join These Art Clubs to Boost Your High School Résumé
These are just a few high school class options you can take advantage of to prepare for college. Focus on your core subjects, add unique classes like arts and languages, and challenge yourself with honors or AP subjects—it’s all about finding the best balance for you. Your dedication and hard work will pay off by impressing college admission committees and preparing you for the college experience.
Not sure if you’re prepared for college? Find out with this article on How to Know If You’re Ready for College to see where you may need improvement.