How Colleges Assess Your Class Schedule for College Admissions


Almost all colleges and universities consider course rigor, or course difficulty, as part of the process for assessing candidates who apply for undergraduate admissions. So, when you choose courses in high school, keep in mind that a high level of course rigor will both prepare you to succeed in college as well as position you as a competitive applicant when applying to college.

Overall, applicants for admission at top colleges should strive to complete a somewhat rigorous high school curriculum as it demonstrates to admissions staff that you are willing to put in the effort. Here’s a brief guide for what colleges consider exceptional, strong, good, marginal, and weak college prep curriculum.

Exceptional College Prep Course Load

· Full IB (the IB diploma), full AP, and the Cambridge AICE program and/or advanced level college courses taken while in HS


· 4 years of World Language


· 4 years of Science


· 4 years of Math through Calculus


· 4 years of Social Science


· 4 years of English courses


Strong College Prep Course Load

· Laboratory Science – 3 years


· Math – no high school years without Math, some level of Calculus or Advanced Math


· Social Science – 4 years


· World Language – at least 3 years of a single language


Good College Prep Course Load

· Generally, includes at least 3 units of advanced level courses (i.e. Calculus, Physics, History)


· Some IB, AP, and Honors classes


Marginal College Prep Course Load

· Very few advanced courses


Weak College Prep Course Load

· No advanced courses taken beyond minimum requirements


Other Notes on High School Curriculum:

AP or IB classes in subjects like Computer Science and Statistics are considered rigorous academic electives for the purposes of assessing curriculum quality.

An example of an exceptional senior year course load would be Calculus, a Lab Science, a level-4 or above World Language class, Social Studies, and advanced English Composition or Language classes.

If you have a job or family responsibilities that prevent you from taking a full and rigorous course load in high school, be sure to note this in your application as colleges acknowledge the need for students to balance life and schoolwork responsibly.

In general, keep in mind that your high school record is one of the most important parts of your college application, so it’s important to start early by taking a rigorous course load throughout your high school career.

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