Courses to Take in High School

These requirements are a lot to fit into four years of high school. But the work you do preparing will pay off when you go to college.

Recommended Core Classes

  • English (4 years): The ability to speak and write clearly is key to doing well in any subject. Make the most of your high school English classes.
  • Math (3-4 years): Math is about using logic and abstraction to solve real problems. Most high schools require a couple years of algebra and a year of geometry. Adding some calculus to that mix would help you get ready for college.
  • Natural science (3-4 years): If college is about learning how you fit into the world, what could be more important than studying how that world works? Physics, biology, and chemistry are at the root of some of the most rewarding careers. It’s wise to take at least a year of each.
  • Social studies (2-3 years): Putting current events into historical context makes them easier to understand. Classes in civics, history, geography, and economics will do more than prepare you for college. Plus, they’ll make you a better citizen.
  • Modern/foreign languages (2 years in the same language): Studying a different language gives you insights into how another culture lives and thinks. It will help you understand and work with people from all over the world.

Optional Classes

  • Fine arts: The arts can make you a better communicator and a stronger abstract thinker. They can also give you insight on how other people and cultures express themselves. Consider the visual arts, theatre, music and dance.
  • Vocational and professional electives: Whether it’s a class in business, technology, physical education, or agriculture, electives can build skills and spark new career interests. Consider journalism, graphic design, or photography.

Other Ways to Prepare for College

  • Extracurricular activities: Playing sports, acting in a play, joining clubs, and working on the high school yearbook or newspaper can teach you how to work on a team, as well as spark an interest in career possibilities.
  • Volunteerism: Volunteering in your community is rewarding on many levels. While you’re helping others, you also are building skills and adding valuable experiences to your résumé. Everybody wins.
  • Employment: Working part time and during the summer can help you learn a number of skills and develop a good work ethic—with the added bonus of receiving a check every couple of weeks.
  • Job shadowing: Observing a professional in a field that interests you can give you an inside perspective on why the courses you’ll take in college are so important in the workplace.
  • Military service: Serving in the Armed Forces can help you pay for college, while you learn technical and leadership skills.