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Planning the Best High School Schedule for Top-Tier Colleges

Over the last couple of weeks, we've been focusing on high school classes; understanding your competition in this post, and this post on what you can do with your study hall period. This week's post will clearly list an ideal high school class schedule over all four years that not only best prepares you for highly selective colleges, but also places you in a competitive position amongst other applicants applying to those same top-tier schools.

There's a strategy involved in getting you through these classes. Because of prerequisites, you're planning begins in 8th grade, actually. You can get through 3 years of a foreign language before starting junior year because you've taken a foreign language in 8th grade. That carries over onto the high school transcript. The same goes for higher-level math classes taken during 8th grade. So be prudent in your planning. Don't wait, as it may be too late. If you find yourself in this predicament, consider taking a summer class to allow you to take that AP Calculus class Senior year, for instance. There's always a way to get back on track if you're willing to put in the effort.

Just because a particular class is listed doesn't mean you should take the class. The real question is, "Can you handle the class and do well in it?" Yes, you want to challenge yourself because that's what colleges want to see in your curriculum history, but you're not helping yourself if you're getting C's in those classes. Many students get into wonderful colleges that aren't top-tier schools and become very successful in their lives. Why? Because they did what College Driven touts on a daily basis: they went to their best-fit school, and it didn't matter what it was ranked. You don't have to have this schedule listed below to find success in your life. You don't have to be a straight-A student to get into college. But, if a highly selective college is your goal, the following list of suggested classes is recommended if you want to be competitive.

The Strongest Curriculum to Most Competitive Colleges

English (4 years w/at least 1 AP)

Mathematics (4/5 years w/at least AP Calculus AB & AP Statistics)

Foreign Langauge ( 3 years, up to level 3)

Social Science (3 years w/at least 1 AP)

Science (3 years w/at least 1 AP; if premed/engineering, 4 years w/at least 1 AP)

It also helps if you have recognized achievements with longevity in art, music, or theater.

Typically, standardized test scores range in the 1450-1500 for SAT and at least a 33 ACT composite score.

Again, the suggested classes above simply put you in the running against your competition at highly selective colleges. Think of it only as your ticket to play competitively, not your guarantee to win. That will take more!

Next week, we'll end the blog post series on classes by suggesting which AP classes are best to take in the eyes of highly selective colleges. We'll also address the big question on students' minds when it comes to class schedules: Do I take the AP class or the College Credit Plus class?

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