For most students, it’s time to choose your senior year classes. Anticipating “Senioritis,” many of the teens we work with want to take a half-day senior year and drop their foreign language. Most distressingly, they want to circumvent “Core 4 Four:” taking the 5 core classes – English, Science, Social Studies, Math, and Foreign Language – ALL four years.

First, as to half days, unless you’re engaged in a challenging dual-enrollment program, you won’t have the robust transcript you need for college admissions. And as for dropping your foreign language, that’s often strong evidence to the college admissions officer that you’re slacking off your senior year. It may also say something else to them about your lack of curiosity about the world around you.

Our most important rule for selecting classes, the CORE 4 FOUR, will help keep you competitive with students who will be applying to the Ivy League, Cal Tech, and Wash U. Of course, you’ll need good grades and, when possible, you should opt for AP, Honors and/or IB classes. In addition to keeping you competitive as an applicant, you’ll feel college-ready and be better prepared to be successful as a college student.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, here’s what you need as a minimum for most colleges by the end of your senior year:

English – Four years
This includes courses in which you study writing and courses in which you read literature. You need to be able to write well in nearly every career. Use your English classes to read, analyze, and develop strong communication skills.
Math – Four years
Students who take math in each year of high school are generally far more successful in college than students taking only three years. At ACC, we recommend that you never skip a year of math in high school because you will lose your momentum. Your math classes should include at least four of the following six classes, taken in this order:
Pre-algebra
Algebra
Geometry
Algebra II and/or Trigonometry
Precalculus
Calculus

Science – Three to Four Years
One year each of these laboratory sciences:
Biology
Chemistry
Physics

Social Studies – Two Years
Two years, at a minimum, of social sciences are required by most colleges. The majority of college freshmen studied World History and U.S History in high school. Other social science options include:
Government
Civis
Sociology
Geography
Psychology

Foreign Language – Two to Four Years
More and more colleges are requiring a minimum of two years of language study while in high school.
Arts – One year
A small number of colleges require one year of visual or performing arts prior to admission.
Again, these are the minimum requirements to attend most colleges in the U.S. If you’ve got your eyes on a selective university, you’ve got to go beyond. And that’s where the CORE 4 FOUR comes in. You’re positioning yourself as a real contender.
Can you violate the “Rule?” Generally, it’s not a good idea, although there may be some wiggle room if the alternative choices reflect academic integrity and rigor. Maybe you want to drop Spanish your senior year to double up on AP Science or Math. Or maybe you want to drop French to take an AP Computer Science class. As with all things in the college process, it depends. It depends on what your total transcript will look like at the end of your senior year. It depends on the individual colleges you are applying to. It depends on what classes were available to you.
Getting your class schedule right is imperative. We’re here to help you analyze your choices. And remember, colleges don’t recognize “Senioritis.” Many will ask for your final senior grades even after you’ve received your acceptance.

What Do Colleges Look For?

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