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High-School Credit Requirements

PHASE 1: ACADEMICS

What classes do I need to take?

That's a really important question, and is based on two factors:

  1. What credits are required to graduate high-school
  2. What credits are wanted by the colleges you are applying to

The answer to the first question is dependant upon the state and academic program you are with (if you are homeschooled check out the bottom of this article for a little more advice). We have a list below of the ranges of credit requirements for most states. 

The second question is a lot easier. Most colleges have relatively straightforward credit requirements, and pretty much any state's basic graduation requirements would meet the admissions requirements for ~90% of schools. There are some top-tier colleges that are looking for more challenging academic workloads, and there are some specific departments/majors that might want more than the standard number of credits (engineering may prefer students with 4+ science credits, for instance). To find what colleges are looking for, search for "[College Name] admissions requirements" and that should pull up the relevant page.

Below is a list of the credits typically required by states (again, colleges typically fall on the smaller side of these requirements):

  • Math: 3 - 4 credits (some states require math every year)
  • English: 4 credits
  • Science: 3 - 4 credits with labs (some require Biology and/or Physical Science)
  • Social Studies: 3 - 4 credits (typically US History, 1/2 credit each in Government and Econ, and 1 - 2 additional credits such as World History or Geography, some require state history)
  • Foreign Language: 2 credits (note some programs or selective schools may prefer as many as 4 credits)
  • Fine Arts: 1 - 3 credits
  • Physical Education: 0.5 - 1 credit (typically 1 year of PE counts for 1/2 credit, so you need 2 years)
  • Health: 1/2 credit (not required in all states, some specify "Health and Safety")
  • Personal Finance: 1/2 credit (not required in all states)
  • Computers/Technology: 1 credit (not required in all states)
  • Electives: 3+ (varies by states, some states require computer courses, others an elective focuses, so check with your state/organization)

You can compare the state-level requirements at all 50 states here. Make sure to also check the requirements at the colleges that are on the top of your list.

Usually, students will have heavier course-loads in 9th and 10th grade, and lighter loads in 11th and 12th grade. This works out well, allowing some more margin for students to work on test prep and the application process later in high school. 

Check out our High School Resource Guide here for links and resources to get you started in high school. We also have a 12-module Study Skills course available here.

 

Homeschool

If you are homeschooling you have to pay extra careful attention to your requirements since you don't have a dedicated guidance counselor checking for you. Always confirm with your state homeschool organization, umbrella-school, church-related school, cover school, online school, or other relevant group regarding the specific requirements for you to graduate.

Homeschool students will track their courses throughout high school, ultimately compiling a transcript to be sent to colleges. You can see our free Homeschool Transcript Template here.

We also have a Homeschool High School Resource Guide available here.

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