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Course Selection Tips

Course selection is an important factor in college admissions. Course selection can not only influence your GPA and rank, but also be an opportunity for you to communicate your academic passions and intellectual curiosity. Each course is a key to understanding a student's academic potential.

Course Weight and GPA

To help understand course selection, let’s break down a few terms: Grade Point Average (GPA), rank, and weight. All of these factors are important when it comes to applying to colleges as they demonstrate a student’s ability to perform well at the college level. Universities will look very closely at your high school transcript to determine how you have performed throughout high school and whether or not you challenged yourself. 

  • A student’s GPA is the cumulative average of all semester grades earned in state-accredited courses throughout high school, beginning with freshmen year.

Course selection can not only influence your GPA/rank, but also be an opportunity for you to communicate your academic passions and intellectual curiosity. 

  • A course’s weight is determined by its academic rigor—the more difficult or complex the course is, the higher its weight. This means that a grade could be worth more depending on how the course is weighted. AP, IB, and Advanced courses are considered more complex and therefore have a higher weight than on-level courses. 

  • For example, taking a look at an “A” in a course at LASA, the numeric value would be between 90-100, which could translate to a 4.0-5.0 within a weighted course, or a 3.0-4.0 for an unweighted course. 

  • A student’s rank is the student’s academic standing compared to other students within the same class. A student’s ranking is determined by the student’s GPA, which is determined by the student’s grades and the weight of the student’s courses. 

***Please note some schools do not rank outside the top 10%. For example, Westwood High School does not provide rankings outside the top 10%, but students may request a percentile certificate. Colleges are not obligated to accept this percentile certificate. 


Course Selection - Finding Your School’s Course Catalog

To explore what courses may be available at your school, take a look at your school’s course catalog. Most are organized by courses offered through the core four (History, Science, English, and Mathematics) first, followed by electives (such as languages other than English, health/physical education, fine arts, and technology). Within each section, you will notice that courses are arranged by level (AP, IB, Honors, etc.). 

  • Example: If you attend a school within Leander’s Course District, here is the course catalog for the 2024-2025 academic year. The Leander Independent School District comprises Leander, New Hope, Cedar Park, Vista Ridge, Rouse, Vandegrift, Glenn, and Early College high schools. 

Be Aware that Colleges May Prioritize Certain Classes

Some colleges have course requirements or preferences for different majors. For example, you need to show Calculus readiness for UT Cockrell’s School of  Engineering. Some colleges and programs prefer to see extended language study. Endorsements and CTE courses can help communicate your unique academic specialization. For some majors, incorporating research and/or internship/mentorship courses may amplify your profile. Even choosing between the AP or IB path can influence how your transcript is viewed by certain colleges, particularly colleges that value liberal arts, Ivies, and even international colleges.

Know Your School's Grading Policies 

Depending on your school, you may have multiple options in terms of weighted courses. Heavily weighted courses could include IB, AP, or Honors level. Courses offered through colleges that high school students may take (such as Dual Credit or UT OnRamps Dual Enrollment) may provide the student with two grades—the professor may give the student a B+, while the highschool may give the student an A+. 

  • Example: Round Rock Independent School District comprises Cedar Ridge, Early College, McNeil, Round Rock, Stony Point High IB, Success, and Westwood High IB high schools. These schools can be very competitive and many of the students in our Steps and Gateway programs hail from this district. In May 2023, Round Rock changed how they weigh courses, click here to review their course change policy.

Meet with Your School Counselor

Be sure to schedule an appointment with your high school if you have not already done so to review the course catalog and select your courses for the next year. Your school counselor can ensure that you are taking the required courses for endorsements and may suggest elective options. We also encourage you to meet with your school counselor to build a strong relationship in preparation for college applications later on—most schools require a recommendation from a high school counselor. So building a strong relationship with your counselor is a great idea! 

Need help with course selection? It can be hard to find a balance between challenging yourself with weighted courses and maintaining good grades. Our Berkeley2Academy Counselors are trained in helping students with course selection at any high school. Contact us to schedule a 1:1 consultation where we will get to know your student’s academic and career goals and suggest the best course schedule to meet their needs.


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