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College Prep Begins With High School Course Selection

March 1, 2011

 College Prep Begins with High School Course Selection 

Iowa College Access Network Offers College Planning Advice
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – March 1, 2011 – As students prepare for the future 
advice seems to flow in from all angles: get good grades, be active in the community, visit 
different colleges and apply for scholarships. Each recommendation is a good step towards 
being admitted to college; however admission is only the beginning of the college journey. 
To truly succeed in college requires a bit more effort and dedication in the area of course 
Course selection in high school is the foundation for not only college admissions but 
college success. While grades are of value, the courses a student chooses to take may have 
more weight. Students with perfect grades in basic classes are not as adequately prepared for 
college-level learning, or as favored in the admission process as students who challenge 
themselves with more rigorous classes. 
College-level learning traditionally includes two-years of general education 
coursework. This means no matter what area of study of student intends to major in; they will 
have to succeed across multiple disciplines to graduate. Laying a solid foundation for college 
begins in high school with the core course subjects. "Experts recommend that every high 
school student, no matter their intended course of study or occupation, take at least one 
course per academic year in the following five core subject areas: English, math, science, 
social studies and foreign language. “Core subject courses are extremely important no matter what future a student is 
planning,” explains Erick Danielson, senior outreach representative for the Iowa College 
Access Network. “Subjects like English, math and science provide the basic skills needed for 
any occupation, and they provide a solid foundation for college-level courses as well.”
English classes should be taken every year of high school. These courses enhance 
communication skills, both verbal and written, a requirement for almost any profession. In 
addition to communication skills, advanced literature coursework improves comprehension 
and vocabulary as well. 
 Most colleges look for students who have taken at least three years of high school
math and science, but highly recommend four. Traditionally this includes algebra I and II, 
geometry/trigonometry and calculus. Laboratory sciences are a focus of admission review so 
it is recommended that students focus on biology, chemistry, physics and earth science. 
“Math and science are fundamental to problem-solving, teaching students how to 
analyze situations. These courses are also a main focus of college entrance exams,” said 
Danielson. “More selective institutions have higher expectations, preferring to see advanced 
level coursework included in a student’s high school transcript.” 
Core courses in social studies typically focus on U.S. and world history courses, as
well as government and economics. “Social studies courses provide students with a better 
understanding of the history and culture that are shaping current events, giving them a better 
understanding of the world around them.” Said Danielson. 
Many institutional admission requirements include at least two years of foreign 
language, though often three or four years is preferred for admission and even required for 
graduation from the college or university. “When it comes to foreign language it’s best to 
contact each school and ask about their individual requirements,” said Danielson. “To be on 
the safe side take at least two years. If a student takes foreign language in high school, 
chances are they will fulfill the college level requirements. If they don’t they may have to 
take college-level foreign language courses once they reach campus. High school is a much 
better road, especially for students who really aren’t interested in foreign language and are 
just fulfilling the requirements.” 
In addition to the five core areas, Advanced Placement Programs (AP) and PostSecondary Education Opportunities (PSEO) are additional programs sometimes available to 
high school students. AP courses provide college-level coursework and expectations within the high school classroom. According to the Collegeboard, studies show that students who 
score a 3 or higher on an AP Exam typically experience greater academic success and college 
graduation rates than students who don’t take AP. PSEO programs allow high school 
students to take college classes while earning both high school and college credit. 
In planning ahead for college it is important for students to work with their high 
school counselor and map out a high school course plan. “Four-year plans are extremely 
beneficial in ensuring that students can fit in the required course work for high school 
graduation, and laying a solid foundation for future college work.” Said Danielson. 
Students and parents can work through the four-year planning process for high school 
with the help of the web tool I Have A Plan Iowa (, a free resource 
for education and career planning provided by the Iowa Student Aid Commission and 
endorsed by the Iowa Department of Education. 
For more college planning information visit or call the Iowa College 
Access Network (ICAN) at (877) 272-4692.


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