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The Importance of High School Course Selection for College Admissions

Navigating the path from high school to college can be a daunting task for many students. As someone who has worked in college admissions, I've seen firsthand how crucial it is for high school students to thoroughly research the colleges, and programs they are interested in. One of the most critical aspects of this research is understanding the specific high school courses required by certain college programs or majors. Failing to meet these requirements can limit a student's options, and potentially delay their academic and career goals.


Why Research is Essential

Every college and university has its own set of requirements and recommended courses for incoming students. While standard high school graduation requirements provide a good foundation, they may not cover the specific prerequisites needed for certain fields of study. For instance, a student aiming for a degree in engineering may need to complete advanced math and science courses, while a prospective business major might benefit from economics or statistics classes.


The Consequences of Not Doing Your Homework

  1. Missed Opportunities: Without the proper coursework, students might find themselves ineligible for their desired programs. This can lead to missed opportunities at top-choice schools or require additional coursework in college, extending the time and cost to complete a degree.

  2. Increased Stress: Discovering the need for additional prerequisites at the last minute can be stressful and overwhelming. Proper planning can alleviate this burden, allowing students to focus on excelling in their chosen courses.

  3. Competitive Edge: Colleges often look for students who not only meet the minimum requirements, but also demonstrate a proactive approach to their education. Taking the right courses can show commitment, giving students a competitive edge in the admissions process.


Steps for Effective College Research

  1. Identify Interests Early: Encourage students to start thinking about their interests and potential career paths early in their high school careers. This can help guide their course selection and extracurricular activities.

  2. Explore College Requirements: Use college websites, admissions counselors, and resources like the College Board to research the specific requirements for programs of interest. Pay attention to any required or recommended high school courses.

  3. Consult with Counselors: High school guidance counselors are an invaluable resource. They can provide information on course offerings, help students understand how their choices align with college requirements, and assist in creating a strategic academic plan.

  4. Engage with Admissions Offices: Don’t hesitate to reach out directly to college admissions offices with questions. Admissions counselors can provide detailed information and clarify any uncertainties regarding prerequisites and program expectations.

  5. Plan for Flexibility: While it's important to meet specific requirements, encourage students to maintain a well-rounded education. Electives and extracurricular activities can enhance a college application and provide a broader educational experience.


Real-Life Examples

  • STEM Majors: For students interested in STEM fields, advanced courses in math (such as calculus) and sciences (such as chemistry and physics) are often required. AP or IB courses can also be beneficial.

  • Health Sciences: Aspiring health professionals might need courses in biology, chemistry, and sometimes physics. Some programs also recommend or require courses in anatomy or physiology.

  • Humanities and Social Sciences: While these fields might have fewer specific prerequisites, advanced courses in English, history, and social sciences can demonstrate readiness for college-level work.


High school students should approach their education with a strategic mindset, especially when it comes to course selection. By thoroughly researching college requirements and planning accordingly, students can ensure they meet the necessary prerequisites and enhance their college applications. As a former college admissions professional, I cannot stress enough the importance of this preparation. It not only paves the way for academic success, but also empowers students to pursue their passions and achieve their long-term goals.


Encourage students to take control of their educational journey, starting with informed and thoughtful course selection. This proactive approach can make all the difference in their college admissions experience and beyond.


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