How Your High School Class Schedule Can Affect Your Acceptance Odds

When choosing coursework in high school, most students jump in and pick subjects they find interesting. Very few will actually choose subjects with a view to college acceptance. The fact is, the coursework you choose in high school can greatly affect your odds of acceptance when it comes time to apply for college.

Here are some positive aspects to focus on while you’re in high school. First, you can increase your overall knowledge. Second, it increases your chances of being accepted by your dream school (and maybe even earning a few scholarships too).

An empty high school hallway with blue lockers lining the walls.

Academic Rigor

Don’t settle for easy or even average when choosing classes. Colleges prefer students to have academic rigor in their schedules. Academic rigor includes more challenging classes like AP or dual-credit courses.

Many students shy away from rigorous classes because they’re afraid it will hurt their GPA. However, most colleges will balance GPA with rigor. (A B in an AP class is still impressive, maybe even more so than an A in a basic core class). Therefore, academic rigor can increase your acceptance chances more than those who simply choose the basics.

Coursework Related to your Major

You may not be able to sign up for upper-level coursework in your freshman year. But, by the time you are a sophomore, you need to consider what you want to focus on. If you have an idea about what you’d like to major in during college, it’s a good idea to try and fit related classes into your high school classes. This can show the college you’re serious about studying the major you’ve declared on your application.

Just because you don’t excel at certain types of coursework doesn’t mean you should forgo it entirely. Many colleges and universities still require a foreign language credit, upper-level science credits, and some advanced mathematics to be considered for acceptance. Tutors are always available, either within the school itself or outside or school. Speak with your guidance counselor or contact a local academic coach to see what options may be available if you really need help.

Grade-Point Average

If you want scholarships, GPA is important. You may not always be able to maintain a 4.0, but the higher your GPA, the better. A solid B average of 3.0 may be considered for some scholarships. However, most serious scholarships and colleges that sponsor them want a minimum of a 3.0 or higher. The better your grades are, the more likely it is that you’ll earn scholarships.

Not only should you try to maintain a high GPA but consider the previous section on academic rigor as well. High GPA work and academic rigor show that you are willing to work for major scholarship and fellowship opportunities, making your college application that much more attractive and more likely to be successful.

Advanced Placement and Dual Credit

Not all students may be considered for advanced placement or dual credit coursework, but if you really want to prove someone wrong, this is the perfect arena to do it in. Students must take placement exams to be considered for these prestigious and rigorous classes. If you are beginning high school, talk to your parents and your guidance counselor. Discuss the best ways to study, prepare, and what to take to be considered for this type of coursework. Additionally, make sure you study for the entrance exams.

The higher your score and the better your overall GPA, the more likely it is that you’ll be enrolled for these types of courses. Once enrolled, the work is only just beginning. Make sure you stay in these courses and do well in them. 

Academic Student Organizations

This type of coursework is often overlooked by less serious students. But, academic student organizations such as SKILLS USA, HOSA, FLBA, FFA, and Academic Quiz Bowl are excellent student organizations. They challenge you academically and are also rewarding when it comes to academic competitions and scholarship opportunities. These types of student organizations will require you to maintain a certain GPA. However, they also provide you with enriching social and academic opportunities in the form of teamwork, academic competitions, and sometimes even get the chance at national recognition.

Academic Competitions

There really are academic competitions available for students, both in groups and individually. Academic competitions are a great way to make new friends and test your knowledge and skills with other like-minded individuals. If your school has a quiz bowl team, a robotics team, or even offers organizations such as Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) or SKILLS USA, see what the specifications are to join. Go to a few meetings or competitions to determine if this may be something you might enjoy. With a rise in STEM fields and coursework, academic competitions are a great way to show off what you can do for a prospective college or university.

While the last two aspects may be outside of the classroom, these are two things you must give some thought to while you are in high school.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.