Top 3 Things to Consider During High School Course Selection and Why it Matters

Updated on Oct 18, 2023

Top 3 Things to Consider During High School Course Selection and Why it Matters

Is it time to pick your high school courses for next year? Regardless of your year in high school, the courses you choose to take next year matter.

While you should plan your schedule with your school counselor’s assistance, don’t assume someone else will figure it out for you. Student-athletes should own the course selection process, just like they should own the college application and college recruiting processes. 

1. Are you taking the right courses to be admitted to your dream college?

Each college has its own specific high school course requirements for admissions. Think about what type of colleges you’re interested in and look at their admissions requirements now. For example:

  • Many colleges, the California University system in particular, require one full year of high school Fine Arts or two high school semesters in the same discipline for admission.
  • Some colleges require two years of foreign language (in the same language).
  • Some highly selective institutions require a minimum of two Advanced Placement (AP) courses junior year and two AP courses senior year to be admitted as a recruited athlete.

REMINDER: Just because you have the courses to graduate from high school that does not mean you’re set for all college admissions.

2. Are you taking the right courses to be academically eligible to practice, compete and take an athletic scholarship at the NCAA Division I (DI) and Division II (DII) levels?

Core courses that count towards high school graduation, won’t necessarily count towards NCAA academic eligibility. NCAA approved courses are different at every high school and just because it has a core course in the title (i.e. English 10 or Math 11) does not mean it will count towards your required semesters of NCAA English or Math. Below are more tips to know when evaluating your course schedule for NCAA eligibility:

  • 10 of your NCAA approved core courses must be completed before you start your fourth year of high school. 
  • Having a low NCAA GPA or being short NCAA credits are two key reasons to be strategic about course scheduling.
  • Be careful not to overload your school year, as you want to be sure you can handle the workload while also getting back on track with your credits.
  • Check your Honest Game CARE® Report today to see if you’re on track to be eligible to compete and get a college athletic scholarship.

Honest Game Insight – If you are behind in NCAA or college admissions requirements, there might still be time  to get back on track. Take summer school or courses outside of your high school with an approved virtual school. Be strategic about the courses you take next year. 

3. Are you confused about what level courses to take? 

Wondering if it is better to receive a “B” in an honors class or an “A” in a standard level course? It depends. Highly selective admissions are looking for a combination of rigorous courses and strong grades, while other admissions use the unweighted school GPA as a primary factor.

College fit for academics is very important in considering where you will thrive as a college student – your determination and curiosity in high school course selection should help you decide what type of colleges you should apply to

Was it recommended you take AP courses or standard level courses? You know what you are capable of and how determined you are to excel in your coursework. If you are an “A” student and taking Honors courses, you should consider taking AP or advanced level course(s). If someone tells you that you aren’t capable, but your gut says you are, ask your current teachers what they think. Career and Technical Education courses are excellent course offerings, but always consider how a technical education course pathway will affect your NCAA academic eligibility and college admission opportunities. 

Other factors to consider:

Are you considering early high school graduation?

The decision to graduate early should be made carefully. You must confirm you will have completed the required NCAA courses and requirements before graduating early, as discussed earlier in “What to Consider Before Deciding to Graduate Early”. There are even a few colleges that don’t admit students who graduate early from high school. 

Are you thinking about doing a post-graduate (PG) year before enrolling in college?

At the Division I level, the NCAA Eligibility Center will take into account two high school semester grades earned after on-time high school graduation – in regards to post-graduate planning. However if you don’t graduate in your first four years of high school, post-grad courses will not be counted into your initial eligibility review for NCAA DI. 

NCAA Division II allows for you to take as many NCAA approved courses after high school graduation before enrolling in college.

An additional year as a PG student or reclassifying before graduation can help student-athletes develop physically and mentally both on and off the field. Before deciding to reclassify, students and parents should have a clear plan and be aware of what is necessary to ensure full-qualifier status upon graduation. Read more in “How To Do Reclassification Right” to learn what key things student-athletes need to pay attention to in order to stay academically eligible for college sports.

Honest Game Insight – taking college courses to fulfill NCAA initial eligibility requirements is not recommended. If you do go that route, be sure you are not enrolled in too many college courses, or it could trigger a year of college eligibility. Check your Honest Game CARE® Report for help!

What courses are of interest to you?

When you are interested in subject matter, you are more likely to do well. Showing college coaches and admissions officers that you are a dedicated and curious student goes a long way. 

Are you interested in a specific course of study in college – if you plan to declare that major in your application or apply to a specialized school, you should take related high school courses

  • Admissions officers for STEM majors look for advanced math and core science courses like biology, chemistry and physics. 
  • Does your end goal require a specific undergraduate major, and will graduate school be required? For example, you don’t need to major in political science to apply to law school. In fact, many law schools are looking for a diverse group of applicants with different backgrounds and interests. Similar to how many medical schools prefer students with liberal arts degrees to show they are more well rounded than having a strict science degree. However, keep in mind that other fields of study may have very strict pre-requisites to advance.

Joyce Anderson, Honest Game CoFounder and COOBy Joyce Anderson, Honest Game Co-founder and COO
Having served on the NCAA Eligibility Center High School Advisory Board and as the College Bound Student-Athlete Advisor at Evanston Township High School (Evanston, IL), Joyce has advised more than 2,000 high school student-athletes and families on academic eligibility and recruiting.