What Can My Child Do to Prepare Academically for College?
Take Courses Recommended for College-Bound Students
To prepare for college, there is no substitute for your child getting a solid and broad academic education. This means your child should take challenging courses in academic subjects and maintain good grades in high school. Your child's transcript will be an important part of his or her college application.
A college education builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier years. It is best for your child to start planning a high school course schedule early, in the seventh or eighth grade. Research shows that students who complete algebra and geometry by the end of ninth grade are more likely to go to college than those who do not. By taking these courses early, students are then prepared to take geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and science courses in high school.
Most selective colleges (those with the highest admissions requirements) prefer to admit students who have taken courses in certain subject areas. For example, many colleges prefer that high school students have taken challenging science courses and mathematics courses beyond general math and algebra. Basic computer skills are now essential, and some colleges prefer three or four years of a foreign language. Your child's guidance counselor can help your child determine the high school courses required or preferred by different types of colleges. If your child is interested in specific colleges, he or she can contact those schools and ask about their admissions requirements.
Many high schools offer advanced placement (AP) courses and exams. AP courses are college-level courses in approximately 16 different subjects; they help students prepare for college-level work while they are still in high school. Students who take AP courses are often more prepared for the academic challenges presented in college. In addition, a student who takes an AP course, and who scores a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam, can often receive advanced placement in college or credit for a college course. [Footnote: This can result in significant cost savings. However, not all colleges and universities give credit or advanced placement for earning a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam. Write to the admissions office of the colleges that are of interest to your child to find out if they give credit for an AP exam grade of 3 or higher. Ask to obtain the college's AP policy in writing, or look for a policy in the institution's catalog.] Talk to one of your child's teachers, your child's guidance counselor, or the principal of your child's school to find out if the school offers AP courses. If they don't, ask whether they might consider offering AP courses in the future.
Chart 2 lists the high school courses that many higher education associations and guidance counselors recommend for a college-bound student. These courses are especially recommended for students who want to attend a four-year college. Even if your child is interested in attending a junior college, community college, or technical college, he or she should take most of these courses since they provide the preparation necessary for all kinds of postsecondary education. (In addition, many students who attend two-year colleges go on to earn a B.A. or B.S. degree at a four-year college or university.)
Types of classes:
Mathematics--Three to four years
History & Geography--Two to three years
|Laboratory Science--Two to four years
Types of classes:
Foreign Language--Two to four years
Visual & Performing Arts--One year
Challenging Electives--One to three years
Mathematical and scientific concepts and skills learned in math classes are used in many disciplines outside of these courses. Recent studies have shown that students who take higher level math courses are much more likely to go on to, and complete, college than students who do not.
Traditional English courses such as American and English literature will help students improve their writing skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. History and geography will help your child better understand our society as well as societies around the world.
Research also indicates that students who take courses in the arts disciplines and who participate in the arts (performing arts and visual arts) often do better in school and on standardized tests. The arts help students to learn; they often give students a richer understanding of history, science, literature, and math.
Thirty states require students to take some art course(s) (visual or performing) before graduating from high school; six state university systems require students to take at least one unit of art (visual or performing) at the high school level before gaining admission to the university. Many college admissions staff view participation in the arts as a valuable experience that broadens students' understanding and appreciation of the world around them.
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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