Shannon Brady, M.Ed
Founder of TheCollegeMIND • Director of Academic & College Counseling, Brady College Counseling

Course Selection – What Should You Be Taking in High School?

Academic rigor is the top factor in college admissions. The first piece of the application an admissions officer looks at is your high school curriculum, specifically reviewing what classes are offered, and what you took advantage of throughout your time there. They will also look at any “outside” course you took (ie summer enrichments, community colleges).  Creating a schedule that has rigor means you are going above and beyond what your high school requirements are and are taking college prep, honors, and AP courses in some or many of your academic areas.  Rigor often means it will increase the strength of your high school transcript.  You want to strive for FIVE academic classes all FOUR years of high school: English, Math, Science, History, and Foreign Language (see STRIVE FOR FIVE handout).

How can you build rigor?

  • Take honors/AP classes in subject areas you are able to challenge yourself in, even if that means getting a lower grade, colleges would prefer to see you push it.
  • Look at outside academic opportunities at your local community college, virtual high schools, or summer experiences on a college campus.
  • HOMEWORK: Be sure to review your high school’s curriculum and create a 4-year plan. Start with some goals on what classes you would like to land with as a senior. List out courses that you have a strong interest in as well.


Pro Tip: has a great table on high school units req or recommended.  When you search a college, then click on the “admissions” tab.  Here is an example of George Washington University.  It shows the academic years required (req) for admissions and the recommended (reco)- ideal to go above and beyond and follow the recommended.

The CollegeMIND is a filled-to-the-brim guide that contains everything you need to nail your college admissions. Whether you’re a senior on the verge of panic or a sophomore trying to get ahead, this program will replace your stress with confidence and get you into a college that aligns with you and sets you up for a bright, successful future.

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Top Five Factors in College Admissions

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