What High School Courses Should I Take for Entrance at a Top University?

Getting into top universities like Brown, Yale, Harvard and Princeton is not easy, and admission is never a guarantee. However, the process can be made easier by becoming familiar with admission requirements, pursuing the right courses and taking part in school activities.

Requirements for Entry into a Top University

If you want to attend a top university, look at its requirements early in your high school career, suggests the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), www.nacacnet.org. These schools may require you to take courses in addition to those needed for graduation. For instance, many high schools require only two years of a foreign language. Princeton University, however, requires four years of the same language, according to the university's websites. Institutions may also require potential students to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In general, top institutions want to see that you have challenged yourself and stretched beyond the minimums expected of you.

Along with course selection, academic standing is also key. Most students accepted into Brown University in 2015 were valedictorians, salutatorians or otherwise in the top 10% of their high school graduating class, based on data from the university's website.

Important Facts About Top Universities

Degree Levels Bachelor's degrees are the most common undergraduate programs at top universities available to high school graduates
Fields of Study Popular majors at top universities include economics, political science, history, physical science, and biology
Online Availability Some top universities offer fully online bachelor's degrees as well as graduate programs for future study
Continuing Education Graduating from a top university gives degree holders a better chance of getting into medical or law school, as well as other graduate programs

Entry into a Top University: Specific High School Courses

Taking the right high school courses can separate those who get into a top university from those who don't. Make sure that, if you have a specific school in mind, you take the specific courses that the school requires. General course requirements, according to Princeton, include the following:

  • Four years of English: Focus on critical thinking, analyzing and reading literature and writing
  • Four years of Math: Include calculus
  • Four years of Science: Take at least two years of laboratory science, like chemistry and physics
  • Two years of History: Consider taking American History, European History and another history course
  • Visual or performing arts

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