With grades and course rigor being the #1 factor in getting into college, high school course selection requires careful consideration and planning.

Plan Long Term

While students are only registering for the courses for next year, our advice is to sketch out a plan for all remaining years of high school based on current offerings at the school (which are subject to change).  This will ensure if students have an eye on a future course that prerequisites are met.

I was once working with a freshman on course selection. He really enjoyed playing sax in the school concert band, loved Spanish and aspired to be a future engineer. Once he sketched out his 4-year high school schedule with a very cool college engineering option that would be 1-period for 2-years and earn him college credit, he realized he would need to drop band after freshman year and drop Spanish after taking Spanish 3 in his sophomore year to work in graduation requirements and prerequisites to make room in 11th and 12th grade for engineering. Had he not taken the long view, he may have missed a fantastic opportunity.

Consider Healthy Rigor

While grades/GPA are the #1 factor for “getting in”, not all 4.0’s or 3.5’s or 3.2’s (you get the idea!) are created equal. Especially for selective schools that don’t admit the majority of applicants; they will closely look at the courses taken to achieve the GPA, not just the GPA.

In most cases, colleges would prefer the student to take a risk and earn a B, instead of the coveted A, if they are ready for the honors or AP course. Remember, at most colleges the admissions process is holistic, so this isn’t cut and dry. Our advice? Don’t overload yourself with honors and AP – sleep, time for extracurricular & social involvement, and simply being healthy is of utmost importance. However, in the areas where the student excels, has an interest and is ready for a bit of a challenge, go for it, instead of playing it safe.

Recently, I was with an admissions officer from Ohio’s state flagship (that has THE in their name). I inquired on the behalf of a student with whom I’m working: 3.9 GPA, 26 ACT, future psychology major. The very first question asked of me was, “How many AP courses does she have?” You get the point – not all 3.9’s are created equal.


This is another consideration that doesn’t have a clearcut answer and really one that, if you are wrestling with, would benefit from a private consultation before course selection. The answer lies in where the student lives, if they are aiming to stay in-state or out-of-state, public v. private, what’s offered at the student’s high school, intended future major.

As a general rule, admissions prefer that students exhaust the options at their high school before moving to College Credit Plus courses; however, there are always exceptions!

A common mistake families often make is believing taking college credit plus will always be favorable in the eyes of the college, AND it will save them thousands on future tuition by earning college credit in high school. This is another one tackled by considering the above list of college considerations. Don’t falsely assume there are $aving$ in your future!

College Major/Career Goals

If you are zeroed in on future career goals, pursuing electives and rigor related to the future career will help in many regards: building confidence in the major/career choice, taking enjoyable classes amidst the required ones, showing the college you are confident in your choice of major and future path. Colleges prefer to give seats in their programs (and scholarship money) to students who are less likely to change direction once admitted. Two ways to demonstrate confidence in your path is via course selection and extracurricular activities related to the major.

If you do both and later realize you were on the wrong path, it’s still a win! You’ve then eliminated something that doesn’t fit to pursue other options toward fulfillment. If you have great confusion on the future goal, LEAP has coached over 2,000 individuals on their best fit future career and the major that leads there. Request sample reports and learn more about the art of career coaching based on reliable scientific data.

Honors Diploma Requirements

In my home state of Ohio (not all our readers are Buckeyes), the Ohio Department of Education offers honors diplomas for Academic Honors, STEM, Arts, and more. If planning to pursue a diploma with additional requirements, be sure you are selecting the courses to meet the requirements (which are often changing!). This goes back to our very first point – plan long term.

I recently did a consultation with a junior (this part is key) who’s aiming to earn the STEM Honors Diploma. However, she just discovered it will be challenging to fit in all the required courses (additional math and science). This then led to conversations about online courses for high school credit, summer school, College Credit Plus to meet the requirements (ended up not being the best option based on her college goals). Had she planned earlier for the honors diploma, she wouldn’t be left scrambling now.

Need Assistance??

If you’re still scratching your head and want individual attention on course selection coupled with considering future college and career goals, book a web conference with us. From the comfort of home, we can usually accomplish this in 30 minutes or less! BOOK NOW

Don’t Catch “Senioritis”

And don’t forget, while grades from the senior year have no effect to minimal effect on getting into college, the courses selected for senior year do matter in the eyes of the college.