What High School Courses Do I Need to Take to be Ready for College?

As a high school student, you may be wondering how to tell the difference between high school courses that apply to college and courses that don’t. What classes should you be taking each year? Are some courses more important than others? These are all good questions to ask. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to find out which high school courses you should be taking.

College Preparatory Curriculum

If you haven’t already looked in your student handbook or talked to your guidance counselor about your concerns, do one or the other soon. Your high school should have a list of course requirements somewhere. Since you’re planning on furthering your education and want to know about high school courses that apply to college, the classes that you need should be located under a college preparatory curriculum list. According to the website for Federal Student Aid, most colleges look for students that have completed four years of English, three years of social studies, three years of math, three years of science and two years of the same foreign language. Your school should have all of these classes listed for their college preparatory curriculum, and there might be a few other courses on the list too, such as computer or art classes.

Advanced Placement and Honors Courses

While you can get into college by taking regular high school classes, advanced placement and honors courses will help you prepare for college-level work. If you feel like you can handle the extra homework and amount of studying that you’ll have to do, take some advanced high school courses that apply to college. As long as you think you’ll be able to understand the material, try not to stress out over your grades too much. Colleges understand that your grade point average might go down if you decide to take challenging courses, and they’re okay with that. In fact, many schools would actually prefer to accept a student who gets “B”s in advanced courses over a student who gets “A”s in standard classes. By taking harder courses, you’ll be able to transition into college much easier than other students.


If you’re like most other high school students, this is probably one of the last things that you want to hear, but math is one of the most important high school courses that apply to college. If you stop at three math classes and don’t take one during your senior year, you’ll have a hard time trying to remember what you’ve learned in high school once you have to take a college-level math course. Even if you doubled up on math earlier in your high school career, plan on taking some type of math course during your senior year. Calculus is a great choice, but if you don’t feel ready for it, pre-calculus will still work to your advantage. If you want to get a feel for what college-level math will be like, talk to your guidance counselor about becoming dual-enrolled with your local community college.

To prepare for college, you should be willing to challenge yourself. While there are certain high school courses that apply to college more than others, taking a challenging course is usually more important than the actual name of the class that you enroll in.

For more information on earning your degree, please see The 20 Most Affordable Colleges with High Four-year Graduation Rates.