To help prepare yourself for college-level math, or just to take the entrance exams required in order to get into most colleges, it’s important to take as many higher-level math classes as you can. Freshman courses at most universities can include applied statistics and economics (depending on your major) – both of which involve using advanced mathematics.
But which math classes should you take? The answer depends loosely on what type of degree you’re going to pursue. If you’re wanting to go into the STEM field (Science, technology, engineering, math), then the type of class you take and the quality (AP, honors, etc) of those classes matter. If you plan on moving into the humanities and social sciences, specializing in something like history, math classes will be less important to your overall curriculum. Still, it’s best to talk to a college admissions counselor to get the appropriate path planned out as well as receive support.
Most high schools require you to take at least three years of math classes before you graduate, but it’s even better if you can complete four. But since the expectations for every college and high school are so different, here’s a rough guideline of some of the math classes you should most likely finish before heading off to a university, regardless of your degree field.
Basic Math Curriculum
Since its original adoption in 2009, forty-five states use the common core curriculum for math, which covers six different categories for math classes: Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, Statistics, and Probability. Remember, these are general content areas, not specific course names, so the titles may vary from school to school. Generally speaking, the course load covers Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus. Talk to your counselor to see if anything from the core might be missing in your academics. You math teacher can also help identify specific areas where you might need more tutoring.
Higher Level Math
If you’re moving into a STEM field, it’s not only encouraged to take as many math classes as you can but may be required by some universities. On top of the basic math curriculum described above, AP classes are also a great idea. AP, or Advanced Placement classes are honors-based courses that can sometimes give you college credit if you pass the placement test at the end of the course. For math, there are two AP classes – calculus and statistics – and you’ll want to do well in both if planning on pursuing a STEM-related field. For international students obtaining an International Baccalaureate degree, look for High Level (HL) classes such as Mathematics and Higher Mathematics.
Every college is different in the types of classes they require, as well as how they weight them differently and the academic goals of each student needs to be taken into account when deciding what specific math courses to take. Going above and beyond the standard curriculum is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition, especially if the school you’re applying to is highly competitive.