The Ivy Coach Daily

July 2, 2022

The Importance of the Five Core Subjects

A recent piece in US News does not make clear the importance of taking all five core subjects each year of high school.

A core objective of this college admissions blog is to demystify the elite college admissions process and debunk common misconceptions — misconceptions so often perpetuated by high school counselors, teachers, parents, students, the press, and the local police chief. Today, we’d like to debunk a misconception in a recent US News & World Report piece, a piece which even has a slightly misleading title: “Use College Goals to Choose High School Senior Year Courses.” So why is the article by Brian Witte and Tiffany Sorensen it a tad misleading?

Because if a student is seeking to earn admission to an elite university, they can’t take electives in lieu of courses in core subjects. The core subjects, of course, are English, history, math, science, and foreign language. Say, for instance, a student aspires to major in psychology in college. That’s wonderful! But that student should not replace any core subject with psychology. Don’t get us wrong — we love psychology. Heck, we majored in it. But, from an elite college admissions standpoint, psychology doesn’t count as history and it doesn’t count as science. When you think science, think biology, chemistry, and physics. Not physics. Not environmental science. And while these are great classes to take in addition to the core subjects, they should not be taken in their stead.

This, of course, is not made clear in the US News piece. Instead, the authors seem to imply that students should craft their senior year schedules around what they hope to major in while in college. And while we at Ivy Coach are all about a hook, such course selections cannot be chosen in lieu of core subjects. Put it this way: even if a student is a future computer scientist, she can’t take computer science in lieu of foreign language. No way! From a college admissions standpoint, computer science is not English. It’s not history. It’s not math. It’s not science. And it’s not foreign language. It’s a great class to take if a student is already enrolled in these five core subjects but admissions officers don’t want to see a CS class but no science class. Got it?

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