The High School Classes Colleges Are Looking For

April 29, 2014

Hopefully, if you’re in high school, you’re thinking about college. One of the most prominent questions that high school students ask is, “What are colleges looking for?” That is one of the questions that this site intends to answer. However, one question that can be easily answered is “What high school classes are colleges looking for?” The courses you take in high school matter. So, let’s dive into the mystery of what classes colleges are looking for. Colleges want to see a solid foundation that you can build upon after high school. This solid foundation isn’t hard to build if you follow these steps:

1. Take an English class every year to improve writing skills and vocabulary.

2. Although most colleges only require three years of math, a majority prefer four years. Combinations of the following courses are highly recommended.

  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Calculus

3. Science enhances the way you think analytically. Similar to mathematics, most colleges only require three years of science, but prefer four. A mix of biology, chemistry, and earth science is highly recommended.

4. History is usually required for three years in most high schools. The following is a typically recommended course plan.

  • U.S. history (a full year)
  • U.S. government (half a year)
  • World history (a full year)
  • Economy (half a year)

5. It is preferred by colleges that you take two years of the same foreign language, although receiving the seal of biliteracy on your high school diploma will allow you to stand out to colleges.

6. Many colleges prefer one or two years in the arts. Research proves that students who take classes in the arts field often do better on standardized tests. Take classes such as drama, art, or band.

7. Taking the highest level of a class is recommended. It proves to colleges that you can handle college-level classes. Try taking honors, AP, or IB-program classes.

Signing up for classes in high school shouldn’t be difficult. If you follow this list of tips, then you can rest with ease because you know what colleges are looking for…and that you got what they are looking for. After all, Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple.

Browse Successful Application Files

Stanford ‘20

Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCSD, UCLA, UC Davis

I am a Frosh at Stanford studying studying engineering (computer science or other types) with a (possible) minor in the humanities. Go Trees!!!
Stanford ‘19

Accepted to Cambridge, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Brown, UPenn, Columbia, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Swarthmore, Barnard, Wellesley, Duke, NYU, BU

overly ambitious, passionately curious, helplessly perfectionistic
Fordham ‘20

Accepted to American, Fordham, Skidmore, Syracuse, UC Irvine, UCSB

Hi there! I went to an American school in Hong Kong from K-12 and will be starting my freshman year at Fordham University at Lincoln Center in the fall. If you're interested in theater and come from overseas, I would be of particular help to you!
UPenn ‘21

Accepted to UPenn, Tulane, Elon , UNC

Student in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business dual enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School.

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