If you are getting ready to apply for college, what classes you take can make all the difference!
When you start filling out your college applications, admissions counselors will definitely be looking to see what classes you took. The question then becomes: what classes are the best bet to getting that big acceptance letter? The honest truth is that this will vary from person to person. Depending on what you intend to major in, colleges will be looking for different things in your high school transcript. Here are my best tips for how to tailor your class schedule to get you into your top choice degree program.
Don’t fill your schedule with Easy-A credits
By the time you reach your senior year of high school, you’ve probably gotten most of your graduation requirements out of the way. However, it won’t look good on college applications if it appears that you took the easy classes and didn’t challenge yourself. It’s perfectly okay to take one or two fun credits if you have extra room, but don’t load your entire schedule with cooking and PE classes.
AP classes are great, but not a deal-breaker
My high school was very academically competitive, so my guidance counselor was constantly harassing me to take more AP classes and double-up on math credits. If you’re applying to big time academic colleges or intending to major in something STEM related, AP classes on your transcript will definitely look good, but in some situations it’s not going to give you a leg-up. I only took one AP class in my four years of high school, but I still got into all 13 of the colleges I applied to. On the other hand, certain AP credits will get you out of taking GenEd classes in college.
Challenge yourself academically
This is not the same as taking AP classes. If you took a regular level math class your freshman and sophomore year, but moved up to an honors level class for you junior and senior year, it will show colleges that you are challenging yourself. This also pertains to grades. If you get a C in English your freshmen year, but got a B the next year and an A the year after that, it still shows that you have improved. Challenging yourself means that if honors classes are a breeze for you, maybe you should try out an AP level course and see how it goes. If you struggle with learning in a classroom environment, trying an honors class, or maintaining A’s in the basic level classes could still be seen as challenging yourself.
Take classes that correspond to your future career
I’m majoring in Music Education, so obviously I filled my schedule with music classes and teaching classes. My senior year I took AP Music Theory, but I never took any other AP’s because they didn’t have anything to do with my career path. Since I was applying to college as a music major, admissions counselors wouldn’t have really cared if I took every possible AP science and math class. They probably let me in because it looked like I was spending as much of my time as possible studying what I intended to study at their university– teaching music. Vice versa, if I was trying to major in something like engineering, my plethora of choir and education classes would have looked like a waste of time.
Look into Dual-Enrollment, Vocational School, or Completer Programs
If you’re someone who knows what they want to major in early on in your high school years, there are a lot of great opportunities out there to get ahead of the game before you go off to college. Getting involved in these types of programs show colleges that you are serious about your intended career. Dual-Enrollment allows you to split your time 50/50 between high school and community college. This is a great way to get some college credits under your belt and save some money once you enter your 4-year degree program. A Vocational School is usually drawn in from the entire surrounding county and offer course loads that are specifically tailored to a certain career. Completer Programs are a set track of classes in your high school that usually culminates with an internship in that field. I took about 90% of the classes in the Early Childhood Education completer program at my school, and I’m glad that I did because a lot of the things I learned in my freshman year of college were almost like a review of things I had already studied.
The bottom line
I know it sounds crazy, but don’t always trust what your guidance counselor tells you. A lot of times, the administration is more focused on getting their school to rank highly compared to other schools. My high school had the highest SAT scores in the county, the highest AP test scores in the county, and offered more AP classes than anyone else around. That’s a great thing to see when families are looking for somewhere to move to, but it doesn’t matter as much to individual students trying to get into college. My best advice is to determine what your goal is (aka your future career) and then decide what classes would be the most valuable toward reaching that goal.
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