College Planning Guide

What courses to take in high school

"Did you take it easy or did you tackle tough college prep classes?" That's the first thing an admission counselor will ask when reviewing your application to college. Why? Because admission counselors know that students who have challenged themselves in high school and have a good academic foundation are most likely to succeed in college -- no matter what their major.

That's why you'll want to plan your schedule carefully: Stretch yourself in those areas where you do best, and take solid college prep courses across the board.

Put English on your schedule every semester. Strong writing, reading comprehension, and vocabulary skills are absolutely critical to your success.

Keep crunching the numbers. You need algebra and geometry to succeed on college entrance exams, in college math classes, and in most careers. In your junior and senior years, tackle more advanced courses.

Explore earth and space and all the sciences. You'll need at least six semesters in increasingly difficult subject areas.

Round out your curriculum with social studies. Take a mix of six or more U.S. history, world history, government, economics, and geography courses.

Go French or Spanish, Latin, or Italian. At least two years of a foreign language are required by most colleges.

Get involved in the arts. Research shows that students who balance their core curriculum with art, music, and drama do better in school and on standardized tests.

Above all, meet with your guidance counselor at least twice a year to review your academic record and stay on top of the courses you need to get into the college of your dreams.