COLLEGE SUCCESS: HIGH SCHOOL COURSEWORK
The generally recommended college preparatory program of studies includes four years of English, and at least three years of sequential mathematics, three years of social studies, three years of lab sciences, and two years of the same foreign language. Some colleges even designate that candidates should have three of the following four lab sciences: environmental science,biology, chemistry, or physics. Gaining admission to a highly selective college is like applying for a job; you want to be the best candidate you can be to win the space. For highly selective colleges, this means taking more than the minimum two or three years to demonstrate that you are taking advantage of the learning opportunities your high school has to offer. You may want to leave high school with four years each of English, math, social studies, science, and language; in some cases you may graduate with five years of math or language. Researchers at ACT have found a direct correlation between the program of studies and an increase in ACT scores; taking these core courses provides an advantage when it comes to standardized testing. Whenever possible and appropriate, graduating from high school with four years of each of the five, traditional academic courses demonstrates your willingness to attain a background for college success.
Throughout high school, students should make choices about the rigor of their classes based on what courses appropriately challenge the individual; learning should be a bit like Goldilocks in that it should not be too easy or too hard, but appropriately challenging - just right. It is better to do well in a regular, college-prep program than to load up on AP courses and end up with grades you aren't proud of showing to a college admission office!
Remember that each student has additional aspects of life to consider when building schedules, such as time-consuming extracurricular activities, family obligations, their learning styles, and their individual postsecondary goals. There are exceptions to every rule, and your school counselor and parents can assist students in making sound, appropriate choices. This is about what is appropriate for the student, not about trying to please an unknown, admission officer.