When applying to colleges, which is better? To have the honor of Valedictorian at your high school (perhaps taking less hard classes to make that happen), or taking the hardest classes possible and sacrificing the chance to be valedictorian? Does GPA trump rigor in your class schedule?
Rigor is the Trump
Overwhelmingly, the first criteria colleges use to compare students for admissions is the rigor of their high school coursework. More important than GPA is how far you have stretched yourself academically when in high school. Of course, having good grades AND rigor in your courses is the best goal!
Use the following guidelines when choosing classes in high school to be competitive when applying to colleges. Be sure to check class requirements in different states. (For example, California public colleges require 1 year of Visual or Performing Arts.)
- 4 years of English
- 4 years of Mathematics
- 3-4 years of Science (lab science)
- 3-4 year of a Foreign Language
- 1-4 years of a Fine Arts (includes visual or performing arts classes.
- Any number of years of electives, as they fit into your schedule
Special classes that are not college prep, such as Student Council, Mock Trial, etc. can be counted as activities on your college applications.
Taking college classes online. or at a local college or community college while in high school, is an additional way to add rigor to your high school courses. Colleges like to see you strive academically. Often 1 semester of a college school class = 1 year of a high school class. Transferable college classes often count the same weight in a gpa calculation as an AP.
Use the course plan survey to list your 4 year plan for classes in high school. The course plan organizes classes by subject matter, so you can track the number of years you are taking each subject. This comes in handy when you are applying to colleges as a senior too!