Almost all colleges and universities consider a good academic record to be the most important part of a strong admissions application. A good academic record, however, is about more than grades. The list below discusses some of the important features that separate a good academic record from a weaker one.
top college or top university, you'd better have a transcript that is mostly 'A's. Realize that colleges don't usually look at weighted grades--they will consider grades on an unweighted 4.0 scale. Also, colleges will often recalculate your GPA to consider only core academic courses so that your GPA isn't inflated by subjects such as gym, chorus, drama or cooking. Learn more in this article on weighted GPAs.
2. Full Coverage of Core SubjectsThe requirements vary from college to college, so be sure to research the requirements for each school to which you are applying. In general, however, typical requirements might look like this: 4 years of English, 3 years of math (4 years recommended), 2 years of history or social science (3 years recommended), 2 years of science (3 years recommended), 2 years of a foreign language (3 years recommended).
3. AP ClassesIf your high school offers Advanced Placement classes, selective colleges will want to see that you've taken these courses. You don't need to overdo it if your school offers dozens of AP subjects, but you need to demonstrate that you're taking challenging courses. Success in AP classes, especially earning a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, is an extremely strong predictor of your ability to do well in college. Learn more in this article on why AP courses matter.
4. International Baccalaureate ClassesLike AP courses, International Baccalaureate classes (IB) cover college-level material and are measured by a standardized exam. IB courses are more common in Europe than the United States, but they are gaining popularity in the U.S. Successful completion of IB courses shows colleges that you are taking challenging classes and that you are ready for college-level work. They may also earn you college credit.
5. Honors and Other Accelerated ClassesIf your school doesn't offer many AP or IB classes, does it offer honors classes or other accelerated classes? A college won't penalize you because your school offers no AP subjects, but they will want to see that you've taken the most challenging courses available to you.
article on foreign language requirements.
article on high school math preparation.