Recommended Courses - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Recommended Courses

Which is better: Taking a class you know you'll get a high grade in or choosing one that will challenge you but won't guarantee you an A?

Good grades look great on a college or job application, but a 4.0 GPA isn't everything. Colleges look at the courses you take as well as the grades you earn. They prefer students who don't always go for the easy A. Besides, a different or more challenging course may change your outlook on life or help you determine what you want for your future.

Colleges also require that you take and pass certain classes in high school. How do you know which ones you should take? You'll need to take the classes your school requires for graduation, of course. For additional planning, consider these points:

If... Then...
You already know where you want to go or what you plan to do after high school
  • Use the college or program's admissions requirements as a guideline.
  • If you plan to go to Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa or the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa, use the Iowa Board of Regents Admission Index (RAI) as a guideline. This scoring system includes SAT® or ACT® scores, high school rank, GPA and number of high school courses completed in core subject areas.
  • For electives, choose courses that reinforce your interests.
  • Even if you change your mind, you'll have a good foundation.
If you're not so sure of your plans after high school
  • Talk to your counselor about your career interests and what classes may fit those interests. If you decide that you might want to go to college, ask your counselor about the recommended courses.
  • Since every college's admission requirements differ, you can use the Regents' course requirements as a guideline for required courses. You'll qualify for automatic admission to Iowa's three state universities and create a good foundation for admission to most four-year colleges in Iowa.
  • Once you do choose a college or course of study, be sure you find out what the admissions requirements are and change your course plan as necessary.

Challenge Yourself

Besides giving you greater confidence and a better idea of what you might like to do in life, advanced courses have additional benefits:

  • Honors or Advanced Placement® (AP) classes are usually given more weight in the college admissions process because they demonstrate your desire to learn.
  • Some high school courses may allow you to earn college credits at the same time. Ask your counselor about dual-enrollment classes.

Expand Your Horizons

You'll have the chance to choose courses that aren't required, called electives, during high school. Choose classes that fit your interests and your goals for life after high school. These classes might help you discover your true calling or get some needed experience.

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