Crafting a High School Schedule for College Success

Many high school students are reminded by their parents, teachers, and counselors about the importance of college. They’re encouraged to use their high school career as a time to prepare themselves for acceptance into their chosen college and mentally acclimate themselves to the rigor that will be expected from high school courses. How can you best utilize your high school schedule to prepare yourself for the college admission process and beyond? We’re here to help!

A gold and blue drawing of a graduation cap.

Choose the Right Courses for Your High School Schedule

Although high schools have fewer course options than colleges, there is still room for individualization in your schedule. Talk with your counselor about your interests and goals and use them as a resource to plan your high school schedule. The required courses for a college should be well advertised on their admission site, but be aware that to get into a specific college within the school or to pursue a specific major, you may need additional courses. For example, maybe to get into the school you only need three math courses from high school, but to be an engineering major you need at least four math credits. This will play into how you schedule your high school career. If you aren’t decided on a major, taking more classes can’t hurt you. We have laid out what classes are a good start to crafting your schedule.

English or Language Arts

Take at least one course every year. Regardless of what major or career you pursue, language skills will be important. Learning to communicate effectively, both verbal and written, is largely what sets successful people apart. Building soft skills will help you succeed in any job you choose.


Many high schools will allow you to graduate with just three years, but it’s a good idea to take four. Unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t need it (and not just in a typical high school math slump) it won’t hurt to have a little more quantitative knowledge under your belt.


The same philosophy for math goes with science. Science largely affects the world around us and having a better understanding of what will benefit you in life. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science are good foundation courses to build your science knowledge.

Social Studies

Three years of social studies will probably suffice for most careers unless of course, you want to pursue a specific social study major. Common courses will be US History, US Government, and World History.

Foreign Languages

Most colleges require at least two years of foreign languages, but many prefer and even require four years. In an increasingly global world, learning a second language is more important than ever. It can help you dramatically in personal situations as well as professionally. A lot of jobs are searching for bilingual candidates and can help you set yourself apart.


Electives are the courses outside the “main” subjects where you can figure out your skills and interests. Think you may be interested in journalism or computer science? Taking these courses can allow you to explore those interests.

Advanced Placement and Dual Credit

Lastly, it can be a great idea to take Advanced Placement (AP) or dual credit courses in high school. AP classes are courses that are more challenging and typically result in a test that can score you college credit. Taking these type of classes show colleges you challenge yourself and are prepared for the academic rigor of college. Dual credit courses are college credit classes that you take while in high school. These are meant to be transferable to many colleges and save you time and money once you get to college.

Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Doing well academically is a vital piece to gain admission to college, but it isn’t the whole picture. College Admissions want to see that you are a well-rounded individual who spends their time wisely outside of the classroom and is an active citizen in their community. Here are some examples of activities that make you make you a better candidate.

Play a sport

This shows that you have had to work as a team before. Successful people know how to work with others to get a task done. In college, there will be tons of group projects where you must coordinate and with your team members to produce a result. Being a member of a sports team probably means you have experience in teamwork and collaboration.

Join a club, in or outside of school

School officials want to see college students get involved on campus. An indicator that a student will do so is looking at their involvement in high school. If you are a member of the student council, participate on your debate team, or lead the gardening club, there is a good chance you will bring those talents, or look for new ones, to your chosen college campus. Students represent their school not just through academics, but by the work they do in the community. For example, starting a community garden is about so much more than putting something on a resume. It builds relationships and teaches valuable lessons that positively impact a community.


Volunteering is similar to joining a club. It proves that you can think of others besides yourself. You are willing to put the time and effort into benefiting others around you, which is always a good quality to look for in people. Volunteering shows the admission committee that you will care about others around you and be a positive leader on campus.

Complete an internship / Get a job

This is an important, although often forgotten, piece of a college application. It will also be extremely beneficial as a student. Completely an internship or holding a job allows you to explore possible careers, or learn more about the working world in general. Even if you decide that career path is not for you, it was a worthwhile experience. Firstly, you realized this fact early on without sacrificing money on a degree you will be unhappy with. Secondly, it’s very likely you learned transferable skills that will help you succeed in any position.

While there is no foolproof way to make yourself the most ideal candidate for your chosen school, this plan surely puts you on the right track. Understanding what interests you and what you’re good at will help you choose the right college fit and that alone can help lead you to success!

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