The Best High School Classes for Collegiate Success
Learn which classes can best help students prepare for college.
To prepare students for success in college, high schools are providing increasingly rigorous course options to help students establish a foundation for continuing education. According to the College Board, colleges today are “looking for a solid foundation of learning that you can build on in college.” As colleges view high school transcripts as a student’s blueprint of their educational experiences, students should immerse themselves in a combination of academic core classes, along with concentrated subjects that focus on a students’ pathway for potential future studies. By engaging in solid high school collegiate prep courses, students are better prepared for the transition into higher education experiences.
The College Prep Overview
To prepare for college, students can plan their schedule by looking at the guidelines for each core subject area. For the best college prep courses, students should focus primarily on core classes, and then choose elective classes as options that will enhance their skills as a collegiate student.
Students should take four units of English while in high school, which can focus on literature, writing, and research courses. Most specifically, an emphasis on composition will help build a foundation for collegiate success, as writing is a large component of continuing education. As College Board advisors further support, students should plan to “take English every year. Traditional courses, such as American and English literature, help you improve your writing skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.” Considering that the skills learned in English are often used in almost all courses, a solid understanding of this subject area may help support students in their overall academic success.
According to the College Prep Curriculum, three units of mathematics are “essential,” which may include courses like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and even calculus. Not only will math courses help build a foundation for the college courses, but students, “need algebra and geometry to succeed on college entrance exams, in college math classes, and in most careers,” as indicated by the College Board. Also, the earlier students complete math courses, the more quickly students may be able to advance. As students move towards more challenging courses, colleges will be able to see a student’s potential for higher-level work; this not only makes the student a desirable candidate, but also helps the student continue his/her college preparation studies.
Students should take three units of social science courses, which should include American history, world history, and government and/or economics courses. By taking social science courses, students are able to “understand local and world events that are happening now by studying the culture and history that has shaped them. Social sciences round out (the) core curriculum,” according to the College Board.
Four units of science, including earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics, will provide students with a well-rounded exposure to the varying realms of science. Also, according to the College Board, science foster critical analytical skills that help students bridge the gap between theory and reality.
While students often have many foreign language options, students should plan to take at least three units of a language, and focus on the same language for at least two of those units. Not only does the study of foreign language help students learn conventions of grammar and linguistics in more depth, but the study of a foreign language also, “shows colleges you're willing to stretch beyond the basics. Many colleges require at least two years of foreign language study, and some prefer more,” according to the College Board. Also, if a student is unsure of his/her intended college major, then studying a foreign language often opens more doors for potential careers and concentration areas. Many college majors now require foreign language studies, and taking the courses early throughout high school eases the transition towards such focus areas.
Students should also experience elective courses, as electives also reveal information about a student’s interests and will provide students with specific abilities that may prove helpful when in college. For example, students should take computer courses, or graphic design courses, as technical skills and abilities are required at almost all colleges and universities.
Also, students may choose to take fine arts, including studio art or music. Not only will colleges be able to recognize an individual’s interests through your elective options, but according to the College Board, “Research indicates that students who participate in the arts often do better in school and on standardized tests. The arts help you recognize patterns, discern differences and similarities, and exercise your mind in unique ways, oftentimes outside of a traditional classroom setting.”
Advanced Placement (AP) Courses
For students seeking an ambitious challenge, or for those who want to test their collegiate skills while still in high school, Advanced Placement Courses provide students with the rigor of college, while also providing additional foundational support for continuing education. As College Board advisors support, “Through college-level AP courses, you enter a universe of knowledge that might otherwise remain unexplored in high school; through AP Exams, you have the opportunity to earn credit or advanced standing at most of the nation's colleges and universities.”
Currently, there are approximately thirty seven AP courses which cover twenty two subject areas. Once a student enrolls in an AP course, he/she is able to get ahead on college work by improving on critical problem-solving skills. In addition, taking AP courses demonstrates that you have an ability to manage in-depth, challenging class work.
Not only do AP courses provide students with a beneficial challenge, but some colleges and universities even provide college credit for the passing of AP exams. At the end of each course, a student has the option of taking the AP exam, and if the student passes, then he/she can check with colleges and universities to determine whether or not their AP course can be transferred for collegiate credit. AP courses have been praised as an economically affordable way to gain college credit, and they can also significantly expedite a student’s college enrollment duration.
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