College admissions are becoming ever more competitive and the admission rates of elite institutions are dropping. Senior year of high school is your last chance to show the admissions departments that you are ready and capable of attending their institution of higher learning.
"Junior year gets you into college, but senior year gets you through college"
As hinted at by the above quote, your senior year cannot make-up for failures junior year; however, it can show that you are ready for college. If you are currently taking the highest courses at your school and excelling, senior year is no time to quit- keep up the hard work.
1. AP, AP, and AP (or IB)
The best way to show that you are prepared for (and to prepare for) college is to take college level classes. The elite institutions will like to see AP classes junior year, but will expect to see them senior year. They will take into account the classes available at your school, but when you are competing against 6+ other qualified students for one spot, they will ultimately take the best overall applicant.
AP Calculus is a must.
If you are applying to the School of Engineering, strongly consider taking BC Calc. The first thing the admissions officer will look at is your Math and Physics classes to see if you are prepared. An "A" in BC Calc, or even a "B", will show the admissions officers that you are ready and prepared for a demanding engineering curriculum.
Business majors should also strongly consider BC Calc if they can handle it. If not, AB is still a very important class to have in your schedule. Math is often when most students struggle so the ability to show the admissions office that you can handle the math will put you a step ahead.
Science Majors, you are somewhere in between the Engineering and Business Students so take AP Calculus as well.
AP Physics (preferably C) is a must.
AP Economics, AP Government, AP English, etc.
AP US History, AP European History, etc.
As you are probably noticing, your senior year so coincide with your intended major.
2. Your Interests
Take classes that you will enjoy. Don't take AP Art History just to have another AP class or try and appeal to colleges. Instead take US Government if you’re into Politics or Drawing and Painting if you truly enjoy it. Colleges will want to see that you are planning to major in what you like and enjoy and that your current classes will help prepare you for that major.
3. College Credit
If it comes down to two classes and one spot, it can be helpful to look at the credit procedures and degree requirements at your top choice schools. Your ideal school may not give credit for some AP classes, especially for non-majors. On the flip side, you may be required to take a class that you would rather get out of the way. For example, some mechanical engineers are required to take Chemistry so AP Chemistry in high school can be a good option to free up space in college.
4. Don’t overwork yourself
Senior year should be enjoyable, especially second semester. Work hard and take real classes but don’t be ashamed to take a study hall or basic art class ‘for fun’. Colleges will understand especially if the study hall or additionally time will help you in your other classes.
Overall, don't slack off senior year. Take classes that you like and even a class or two that you think you may. You never know when you’re going to get a teacher that can cause you to love something new. Remember, you don't have to choose your major right now, and you definitely don’t have to choose your career.
*This article was written by a current high school senior who will be attending an Ivy League school as an engineering major next year.
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