Students often struggle when making decisions about which classes to take during their all-important four years of high school. How do you choose?
College admission officers review five parts of an application: standardized test scores, if required; college essays; recommendations; listing of academic honors and extracurricular activities; the high school transcript, covering grades 9-11. Without question, the most important part of that review is the students’ complete academic transcript. When analyzing the document, the reader may have to first determine that a student has met that college’s minimum course requirements -typically 3 years of Math, 4 years of English, 2-3 years of Social Sciences, 2-3 years of Sciences and 2-3 years of a foreign language/ ASL. Assuming that the applicant has completed those, the primary focus will be on the strength of the coursework selected. Admission decisions rarely hinge on just one aspect of an application, such as test scores, but the overall trends in performance, challenges of coursework, and grade trajectories are all-important.
When a high school sends an applicant’s transcript to a college, it is usually accompanied by the School Report. This document provides the college with detailed information about the applicant’s placement within their overall class and the choices of coursework the applicant had available each year. Universities want to see that students have chosen to really engage in their high school experience, push themselves to take on increasingly rigorous coursework and have been successful in their endeavors. Why? Because that is exactly the type of student who will also excel on a university campus!
The School Report shows whether or not you had the option of taking an AP course or a College Prep course, as opposed to a regular course in any given subject. Admission officers want you to take full advantage of courses that are available to you. But remember, they will never expect to see a class on your transcript that your school does not offer or require – just try very hard to shine within the range of opportunities available.
Make sure your transcript reveals your passions and interests. If you are applying as a foreign language major, have you taken the most advanced options available? If you are applying as a STEM candidate, have you taken the highest level of the Math and Science courses open to you?
Remember that your high school years are your way of preparing yourself for the increased challenge of a college classroom. Take classes that give you a solid foundation so you can be ready for college-level math, writing, and science classes. As you take on those tough classes, are you also engaging in activities? Think about showing consistency in extracurricular choices too. This is the balance that colleges love to see – consistency, rigor, determination, dedication, and resilience.