You’ve probably heard your school counselor talk about taking rigorous courses when you started your freshman year, well before you even started to think about colleges. After all, you’re just trying to balance a new school and new responsibilities. But did you know your high school curriculum is something that college reps really look for in a student’s application. So why exactly do colleges want to see a student challenging themself throughout high school?
Let’s take a step back and look at it from the lens of a college admissions rep. What they see when they look at a student’s transcript who has taken a rigorous course load is a student who is driven, hardworking and can balance school, extracurriculars, family and friends while still keeping their grades up. Hello, time-management skills!! They see this as a high possibility that you’ll be successful in college. But how exactly do you do that without getting too overwhelmed?
Design a four year plan. First put in your graduation requirements (English, math, science), then have a goal of taking progressively harder classes each year. Senioritis? Think again. Since schools have ranked strength of curriculum as an important factor of college admission, making a plan will allow you to pace yourself so that you are not too overwhelmed. But remember, you want to be sure you are taking classes that are within your ability to handle. A lower grade, like a D, in an AP course looks worse than an A in a regular course. With that being said, what is better: a higher grade or harder classes? Many colleges have reported a transcript that shows a student taking a rigorous course load more important than a higher grade point average. But again, we’re talking a B in an AP course is better than an A in a regular course.
So what rigorous courses should you take and how much is too much? Start by focusing on the core (science, math, English) classes that directly align with your interests. If you love science, maybe plan to take Calculus, Physics and Biology. When making your four year plan, try to take one to three AP class per year. But what about electives? Depending on the elective opportunities at your high school, elective courses can also show you challenging yourself while also helping you further explore your interests.
So meet with your counselor and get your plan started!