Are Specific Courses Required to get Into an Ivy League School?

So much of high school is about the time that you spend in the classroom. After all, one of the most important parts of your college application is your GPA (or so we’d argue). We’re discussing one of the questions that we get the most frequently from our students on class choice and chances of being accepted to your top choice school:

Are specific courses required to get into an Ivy League School?

In short—no. Ultimately, it’s not about which courses you’re specifically taking, but rather it’s about how hard they are. More than anything, colleges are looking at how you decided to play high school, academically. Did you take all easy classes and get A’s in them, ignoring the AP offerings? Did you unrealistically load your schedule up with all APs your junior year, thus resulting in a decline in your GPA? Or, did you consistently choose a balanced schedule where you were advancing in areas of interest, demonstrating that you are realistic in terms of what you can accomplish while also challenging yourself?

Bottom line—colleges know all. They know which courses are available to you at each turn and how many AP, honors, and IB courses your school offers. We know. It’s eerie, and how could they possibly know? But they do, they’re super well-connected.

What we advise our students is the following: no, you don’t need to take a specific set of classes. What you are required to do—if you want to get into a top tier school—is to take the most challenging courses available to you that you can also excel in. Nothing is ever truly required of you when it comes to the college application process, aside from completing the bare minimum. Outside of those requirements, which hundreds of thousands of students complete each application cycle, it’s up to you. So, if you want to give yourself a real shot at being accepted to your dream school, you’ll step up to the plate and excel in each one of your challenging classes.

One piece of advice that we have for our students who really want to stand out is to take online courses. Did you know that there are literally thousands of courses that you can take online, for free, and get a certificate of completion? Many of them are actual classes that were offered at Yale, Princeton, U Penn, and the like. Let’s just say that colleges look kindly on self-motivation and auto-didacticism. They also look kindly on students who take our advice. Very kindly.

Additionally, be sure to not forget about senior year. A lot of our students feel like their last chance to show their feathers is junior year, and if they can close out junior year on a high note, then they can coast through senior year. Wrong. Senior fall and spring are two of the most important terms to colleges. Senior fall is a balancing act—how do you do with multitasking and with varying priorities, between getting A’s in your classes and applying to college. Then, senior spring, how do you stay self-motivated and continue to work hard despite the fact that many of your friends are checked out, and you’re surely fighting senioritis. Colleges never stop tracking you and it’s not impossible for them to withdraw your acceptance if you start slacking.

Call or email us if you have any questions at all about navigating the class choice process or college application process in general. We’re here to help.