Carving a Path to College

Carving a Path to College

So you’ve decided. You’re going to college. Now you need to come up with a plan to get there.

As a freshman in high school you may think it is too early to plan for college, but as senior year rolls around all too quickly you will regret swapping Trig and Physics for PE and Chorus. It is never too early to start thinking about college because every year more seniors are vying for limited spaces at universities across the nation.

Getting an edge on the competition is simple and you have the opportunity every year. Choosing the right classes is the best way to get ahead. All college applications require a transcript. This allows admission officers to see what classes you took and how well you did. This is why it is so important to choose challenging classes from your first day of high school.

Think about it this way: You have two students who both have a 3.8 GPA (impressive, right?). Then imagine that student A has taken 4 years of art, 2 of math, 3 of English, 1 of Science, and 4 of Choir; while Student B has taken 4 years of math (including Calculus and Statistics), 4 years of English (two of which were APs), 4 years of science (including Physics), and 2 years of Art. Which student’s GPA still sounds impressive? Obviously, student B has excelled with a tougher course load.

This is where your planning begins. As a Freshman or Sophomore you have the time to plan and register for classes accordingly. Here are basic guidelines to help you pick the classes to get you on your way.

  • Math (4 Years)
    Courses: algebra I; geometry; algebra II; trigonometry; pre-calculus; calculus
  • English (4 years)
    Courses: Composition; American literature; English literature; world literature
  • Science (3-4 years)
    Courses: Biology; earth science; chemistry; physics; anatomy
  • History/ Geography (3 Years)
    Courses: Geography; U.S. history; U.S. government; world history; world cultures; civics
  • Challenging Electives (2-4 Years)
    Courses: Economics; psychology; computer science; statistics; communications
  • Arts (1-2 Years)
    Courses: Art; dance; drama; music
  • Foreign Language (3-4 Years)
    Courses: Any language will do—just aim to take the highest level possible.

Class Levels

Now that you know what classes to take register for, let’s talk about class levels. A college track is not about just enrolling in the right classes, but also choosing a level that is right for you. If your school offers honors or AP level courses consider enrolling in those over the standard level classes. If you don’t think you can hack it, talk to your teachers and guidance counselors—they will appreciate your ambition and remember it when it comes time to write a letter of recommendation.

Now, if you are already a Junior or Senior in high school it’s not too late to carve your college path. Start by getting focused and making sure you are doing well in the classes you are taking. Investigate your course options for next semester and choose ones that meet your requirements while offering a more challenging curriculum. Meet with your college counselor to discuss other ways to strengthen your college applicant profile through extracurricular involvement, volunteer experience, personal enrichment activities, and excellent test scores.

Activity: How Do Your Stats Measure Up?