High School Courses Required for College

As you start to plan next year’s course schedule, it’s important to consider not only what is required for high school graduation, but also for admission to the colleges and universities to which you plan on applying. It’s not uncommon for these two standards to differ.

English, Math, Social Studies/History, Science and World Languages remain the core competencies. Too often, students decide to stop enrolling in some classes after reaching the minimum required for high school graduation. For World Languages, this is usually two years, and then these same students express surprise when the institutions on their lists require a minimum of three years and recommend four years. Other students, aware of the three year requirement, decide after two years of one world language that they will fulfill that third year requirement by starting a new world language. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work either because most institutions prefer three years of study in the same world language.

So How Can You Be a More Informed College Bound Student?

Whether you are a 9th, 10th, or 11th grade student, you need to do your research. Each college has its own admissions requirements, as well as benchmarks for the types of classes they want to see on their applicants’ transcripts.

Start by looking at the Common Data Set (CDS) for one of the colleges or universities you’re currently considering. The CDS offers a wealth of information about an institution as reported by the institution itself. It reports out a yearly snapshot of information that often includes curriculum requirements and recommendations (See Section C5). You can find this information by opening your browser and typing “Common Data Set ” (e.g., Common Data Set University of Rhode Island 2023). If you don’t have a specific college or university in mind yet, that’s ok, start with your state flagship.

Here is an example of the University of Michigan

Total academic units

Of these units that must be lab11
Foreign language

2 ( for LSA)4
Social Studies11
Academic electivesvariesvaries
Computer Science(blank)1
Visual/Performing Art(blank)2
Other (specify)Varies by school & collegeIB, AP, A Levels, honors, advanced, accelerated, enriched

If you consider the original scenario, students fulfilling their two year high school graduation requirement only, you’ll see these students may not appear as competitive to this particular institution as it recommends that applicants complete four years. Repeat this process for each school on your current list, or explore schools that fall in a category that interests you, whether that’s a small liberal arts and sciences school, a large private university, or somewhere in between.

Assess Your Courses Against Each College’s Requirements

After reviewing the Common Data Set information, how does your current transcript stack up? Are you on track to meet the general requirements and recommendations? Do you need to be more intentional in your course selection? Whatever the case may be, knowing what each college or university is looking for in terms of high school courses will help you best prepare for the application process.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students through Zoom, over the phone and by email.