Challenge Yourself: Show Colleges You're Ready

The biggest factor in getting into college is performance in challenging courses. Meeting challenges outside of class counts, too.

Colleges expect you to set the bar high all four years of high school. Stepping up to difficult material shows you are willing and able to handle college-level instruction.

Seek Academic Challenge in Core Subjects

When colleges evaluate your application, one of the first things they consider is the "strength of curriculum" in your transcript. They want to see that you did well taking the most challenging academic courses available to you.

Colleges look specifically at your grades in these core subjects: history, math, English, lab science, and foreign language. They expect you to take each subject for three to four years.

Take Courses Colleges Consider Challenging

You will find the most challenging core courses through the following programs.

If Your Academic Options Are Limited

Colleges know the level of the classes your high school offers. If you have limited access to challenging courses, they will look for additional efforts you made to challenge yourself, such as taking community college classes, taking advanced courses online, and participating in academic clubs offered by your high school.

Seek Challenge Outside the Classroom

Colleges want to know how you have challenged yourself personally throughout high school. They will look for evidence of this in your application essays and short answers. For example, an athlete might work for several years with physically disabled students and write about what he learned from their courage and determination. These sorts of experiences, and what you learned from them, show the college that you have the maturity to seek personal growth.

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