State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

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Choosing Your Classes Wisely

The classes you take in middle school can be important in determining what kind of classes you will take in high school. The classes you take in high school will make a difference in what kind of college you can go to or if you go to college at all. So as you see, it all begins right now!

Middle school

You can start preparing for college in the 8th grade. It is important that you take classes in math (especially Algebra I), English, science, history, a foreign language if possible, and do well in your electives.Take classes that will challenge and prepare you for high school. If you start challenging yourself now, you will be more prepared for college preparatory classes in high school.


High school 

Colleges care about the courses you take in high school. The more you challenge yourself when choosing high-school courses, the more options you will have. 

Honors classes 

  • More challenging academically. 
  • Typically fast-paced; cover topics in greater depth. 
  • Generally weighted higher for grade point average (GPA) but do not earn you college credit. 

Advanced Placement (AP) classes 

  • More challenging academically: Courses prepare you to take rigorous exams that can lead to college credit.
  • More than 30 AP classes are offered in various subject areas. 
  • Your high school may not offer AP classes in all AP subjects, but most AP classes also are available on online (a fee may be required).
  • After coursework is completed, students take nationally administered AP exams in their chosen subject areas. 
  • At a college's discretion, AP scores may be used to gain college credit, advanced placement or both for the course. 

Dual-enrollment programs

  • Students take college-level classes for college credit while continuing to participate in regular high-school activities. 
  • Classes often are offered at high schools or nearby community colleges. 
  • Not every high school participates; check with your high school counselor. 

International Baccalaureate (IB) program 

  • Two-year curriculum offered by the International Baccalaureate Organization that combines requirements of a mixture of different national education systems.
  • Offered in English, French and Spanish.
  • Allows students moving around the country or from one country to another to transfer among IB schools. 
  • A list of participating schools around the world is available at www.ibo.org.

Technical Preparation (Tech Prep) programs

  • Multiyear program (two or more years in high school and two in an occupational/technical program at a community or technical college) designed to prepare students for technical occupations.
  • Expands education and employment occupations by preparing you for careers in health care, business, industry, labor and government. 
  • Strong emphasis on math, science and English. 
  • A complete Tech Prep program includes a comprehensive career-development plan, courses designed for specific careers that integrate academics and occupational preparation, and a smooth transition from high school to college or employment. 

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