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High School Classes Needed for College

By: Katelyn Fahrenbruck Weston

While each college is different, they have similar expectations when considering applications for enrollment. Taking the high school classes needed for college ensures that students are on a level playing field with other applicants. It also prepares students for the switch from high school to in-person or online college courses. The recommended high school courses for college-bound students include English language arts, math, science, social sciences, and a foreign language.

English Language Arts

High schools usually require four years of English, and colleges generally expect the same. These courses give students a broad understanding of literature and builds their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Classes may focus on American literature, British literature, world literature, and composition.

Classes needed for College


High schools suggest that college-bound students take at least three years of math. The specific classes taken may be left up to students. Some students may choose to focus on math courses that are easier for them. This might help keep their GPA up. Others choose more challenging courses. Courses may include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, precalculus, and/or calculus.


It's a good idea to take at least three years of lab science classes if you plan to go to college. These courses focus on the students’ understanding of the scientific method and how the world works. Classes offered often include biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics.

Social Sciences

Social sciences include history, economics, and geography, all of which teach students about the world around them. It also explores how history has shaped our current worldview. It's suggested that students take three years of social science courses. Available classes may include American history, world history, American government, geography, and/or economics.

Foreign Languages

College-bound students should take at least two years of a foreign language. Foreign languages allow students to expand their worldview and learn about world cultures. If your school doesn't have many foreign language options, you may be able to complete this requirement through a high school online. College courses may also be open to high school students looking to study a specific language.


Aside from the high school classes needed for college, students can take a variety of courses based on their interests. These classes are called electives. Colleges often want to see at least a year of coursework in the arts on your transcript. Psychology, business management, and computer science are all popular electives. Electives can help you explore career options and show colleges that you're a well-rounded student.