High School Courses Colleges Really Want to See

Chalk Talk #46

Knowing what colleges are looking for can be a challenge⁠—especially since not all colleges desire the same things in an application. Different colleges have different standards and requirements for admission, but most want to see that students have taken certain high school courses.

In our recently released College Playbook, we have gathered the high school courses students need on their transcript to be eligible for almost any four-year college.  The courses below show a solid foundation of learning and are the minimum requirement for any college your students desire to attend.

Feel free to print this list and share it with your students!

English
Minimum/ Recommended: 4 years, 8 credits

Take English all four years. The more seriously you approach reading and writing, the better you will perform on the ACT/ SAT and in your college courses.  

Math
Minimum: 3 years, 6 credits
Recommended: 4 years, 8 credits 

Take a Math course all four years. It’s best if you increase rigor in your math experience each year. Depending on what your school offers and your proficiency level, you can choose from the following courses:

  • Geometry
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra 2
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus

Science
Minimum: 3 years, 6 credits
Recommended: 4 years, 8 credits

Take at least three years of Science. More selective colleges expect four years of Science with lab work. At minimum, take the following: 
  • Biology
  • Earth Science
  • Chemistry or Physics

Social Studies
Minimum: 3 years, 6 credits
Recommended: 4 years, 8 credits

Take at least three years of Social Studies. More selective colleges like to see four. Your school may offer other social sciences, but here are some suggested courses:

  • S. History
  • S. Government
  • World History
  • Geography
  • Psychology

Foreign Language
Minimum: 2 years, 4 credits
Recommended: 3-4 years, 6-8 credits

Find a foreign language that interests you and take more advanced courses as you progress through high school.

Arts
Minimum: 1 semester, 1 credit
Recommended: depends

Most colleges require at least one semester of visual or performing arts. Some colleges may ask for more, especially those with an arts focus. Follow your passions! If you love art, take an art course every year.

These courses are what most colleges typically require, but keep these two things in mind:

  1. Some high schools may not require students to take as many courses or credit hours in order to graduate.

  2. Some colleges may require courses different than what a certain high school requires.

Click here to download a sample of our newly released College Playbook!

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