Waitlisted? Here Are Your Options

Students in a classroom at Cornell University. Courtesy photo

Take These Types of Courses to Impress College Admissions

A strong high school GPA is an important factor for college admissions. But a high GPA, alone, isn’t all that admissions officers look for. Rather experts say admissions officers will consider the context of a high GPA—including what kind of courses a student took and how rigorous those courses are.

“Colleges want to build a well-rounded class made up of specialists, and high school courses go a long way toward helping a student develop a focused area of interest,” according to college counseling firm Ivy Wise.

Brian Witte and Tiffany Sorensen, tutors at Varsity Tutors and contributors at US News, recently explained how high school students can choose classes that give them an edge in college admissions and set them up for success in their college years.


If you’re set on an intended major, experts say it can be helpful to build your high school course selection around courses that complement your college major.

“For example, enrolling in additional math classes would certainly benefit a prospective physics major, especially if they prompt the student to use core skills in a new way,” Witte and Sorensen write. “For the same student, a computer science course could serve to expand creative thinking and problem-solving capacities.”


In addition to selecting courses that complement your major, it can also be helpful to take courses that are less related to your intended major.

“Perhaps you are wavering about a science specialization. In such cases, think outside the box and take a class in an unrelated discipline, like business,” Witte and Sorensen write. “Doing so can bring you clarity, as the outcome will likely be twofold: either you unearth another passion or confirm your affinity for science. Art classes, too, can add depth to your transcript and provide you with the chance to explore new fields. If, along the way, you discover that you love both biology and drawing, for instance, you may be led to a career in the burgeoning field of medical illustration.”


Rigor is a crucial factor that admissions officers consider when looking at an applicant’s GPA. Witte and Sorensen recommend high schoolers to take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual-enrollment classes, if there high school offers them.

“Enrolling in advanced courses can be especially beneficial if you struggled early in your high school career and need to demonstrate academic improvement,” Witte and Sorensen write. “Remember that college admissions officers look favorably upon students who showed significant betterment as they progressed through high school.”

Sources: US News, Ivy Wise

Next Page: Older students have advantage in standardized testing

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.