9 Tips for Choosing the Right High School Classes

If success in the college admissions process is important, then your student needs to choose the right classes.

The high school transcript is almost always the most important document in a student’s application. Keep in mind, though, rarely would there ever be one particular class on a transcript that would determine the applicant’s outcome.

While there’s no 100% guaranteed future college admissions formula, there are some strong patterns for success.

Here are some tips to guide you:
1. Meet the high school requirements. High schools have a list of required credits that must be taken in order to graduate.  Most colleges (online and otherwise) require a high school diploma to enroll in any program that grants bachelor degrees.

2. Take a balanced set of classes.  Typically, a student should try to take courses each year in English, science, math, the social sciences, and foreign language.

3.  Choose a smart range of college-prep courses.  A student doesn’t need to take AP Everything to get into college, but course choice depends on the selectivity of the colleges a student wants to attend.   Demanding and challenging honors, accelerated, AP, International Baccalaureate (IB), and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) courses make a student more desirable to a school. However, colleges recognize a student can only take advantage of accelerated courses if her high school provides them.  If AP courses or International Baccalaureate programs are not offered at a high school, colleges understand and only expect that a student will excel in the opportunities to which there is access. Colleges also understand different schools have different requirements that may restrict what courses a student can take.

4.  Show colleges a positive pattern.   Colleges like to see a high level (or an improving degree) of rigor and success throughout a student’s high school years. This includes the senior year. Have you heard this famous question: “Is it better to take a course where I know I can get an ‘A’ or should I take a harder course and risk getting a lower grade?” The answer is: “It’s best to get an ‘A’ in a harder course.”  For those who find this answer unacceptable, we advise students to take the higher course if the student thinks she can get a “B.” Normally “C” or below means that a student is simply in the wrong level. The key is that students need to seek challenge, not avoid it, and succeed in the challenges chosen.

5.  Know the admissions guidelines for top choice colleges.  Many colleges, especially the selective ones, have specific admissions requirements for entering students, for example, a foreign language requirement. It is best to research each school individually.  Make sure your student meets any and all minimum requirements.

6.  Pursue intellectual interests.  It’s OK to take courses of a personal interest like filmmaking or fashion, just make sure it is not at the expense of a schedule’s overall rigor. Honesty is very important when a student is deciding between different courses. Is he or she choosing drama because of a real excitement about it and the challenge it presents, or is the motivation powered by a desire to avoid a different (and perhaps difficult) academic subject?

7. Consider online and dual enrollment options.  Are you very interested in physics but your school does not offer Physics C? Now, with the internet and dual enrollment, students can take almost every class imaginable! Be sure to check with your school prior to taking an online or dual enrollment class to confirm credit will be accepted.

8.  Consult with teachers, a high school counselor and/or an expert college advisor from International College Counselors on what courses are most appropriate. Some difficult decisions may also need to be made about which courses to take and how to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

9.  Do not catch Senioritis! Many admissions offices will check an applicant’s senior year program and performance before offering admission. Additionally, schools may rescind an acceptance if a student performed poorly during the senior year.

Students who push themselves to excel all the way through high school, or show a trend of improvement are the type of student colleges welcome.  Colleges take “extra effort” to be a good sign that a student will do the same at their school.

For help from an experienced college advisor, please contact the expert college counselors at International College Counselors at www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.

This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 200 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.

About International College Counselors


International College Counselors provides expert college counseling on undergraduate and graduate college admissions, financial aid, tuition, essays, and college applications to domestic and international students.

The college counseling and college coaching services are tailored to address the goals, needs, and dreams of each student. Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors, is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and also received an MBA from Harvard Business School. International College Counselors’ achievements include being recognized as one of South Florida’s Top 100 Small Businesses in 2012.

International College Counselors has offices in New York, New York; White Plains, New York; Miami Beach, Florida; Miami, Florida; Hollywood, Florida; Coral Gables, Florida; Palm Beach, Florida; Boca Raton, Florida; Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela.

For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.