Many selective colleges, such as Ivy League schools, require that you take certain courses while in high school in order to prepare for college-level coursework.

While choosing which courses you’ll take in high school, it is important to understand what courses your target colleges want you to take. These often include biology, physics, chemistry, and higher-level math courses.

We’ve compiled a list of high school course recommendations for the following Ivy League colleges:

Most of the Ivy League colleges do not have a specific list of course requirements. This is because the colleges understand that not every high school offers the same curriculum.

However, one trend we have noticed is that Ivy League colleges tend to urge students to take the most rigorous courses available at their high school. Balance between subjects should also be a priority, with yearly coursework in English, math, lab science, history, foreign language, and social science.

Keep in mind that these recommendations may change over time. To be sure that you’re meeting the requirements of your target colleges, check the university’s website or contact someone in the college’s admissions office.

Brown University

Brown University has no specific course requirements for admission. Instead, the college recommends that high school students take all foundational courses that will prepare them for university courses.

Brown University High School Course Recommendations

  • English – 4 years
  • Math – 3-4 years
  • Science – 3 years (2 years of lab science)
  • Social Studies – 2 years (American history is required)
  • Foreign Language – 3-4 years of one language

Learn more about Brown’s admission requirements.

Columbia University

Columbia University does not have a requirement for a concrete number of high school courses. However, the college recommends that students take courses that will prepare them for college courses in the humanities, mathematics, social science, foreign languages, and natural science.

For students planning on entering a STEM field, Columbia recommends that students become as well-versed in the areas of science and math as their high school schedule allows. Keep in mind that specific academic programs within the school may have additional high school coursework requirements.

Columbia University reports that the majority of successful applicants have taken five academic courses per term for all four years of high school.

High School Course Recommendations for Columbia University

  • English – 4 years
  • Math – 3-4 years (through pre-calculus recommended)
  • Lab Science – 3-4 years
  • History & Social Studies – 3-4 years
  • Foreign Language – 3-4 years of one language (ancient or modern)

High School Course Recommendations for Columbia University Engineering Program

  • English – 4 years
  • Math – 4 years (through pre-calculus recommended)
  • Physics – 1 year
  • Chemistry – 1 year
  • History & Social Studies – 3-4 years
  • Foreign Language – 2-3 years

Learn more about Columbia’s admission requirements.

Cornell University

Cornell University High School Course Requirements

All of Cornell University’s undergraduate colleges require a minimum of 16 units total of high school coursework. Below we’ve broken down the course requirements by college.

College of Agriculture & Life Sciences

  • English – 4 units
  • Math – 4 units (including pre-calculus)
  • Science – 3 units (biology, chemistry, and physics recommended)
  • Special requirements recommended for select majors

College of Arts and Sciences

  • English – 4 units
  • Math – 3 units
  • Science – 3 units
  • Foreign Language – 3 units
  • Special requirements recommended for select majors

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

  • English – 4 units
  • Math – 3 units (calculus strongly recommended)
  • Science – 3 units (biology, chemistry, and physics recommended)
  • Special requirements recommended for select majors

College of Engineering

  • Chemistry – 1 unit
  • Physics – 1 unit
  • Math – 4 units (2 of algebra, 1 of geometry, and 1 of calculus)
  • Special requirements recommended for select majors

College of Human Ecology

  • English – 4 units
  • Math – 4 units (including pre-calculus)
  • Science – 4 units (biology, chemistry or physics, and additional core science recommended)
  • Special requirements recommended for select majors

School of Industrial and Labor Relations

  • English – 4 units
  • Math – 4 units
  • Special requirements recommended for select majors

View additional admissions requirements here.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth doesn’t have specific course requirements. However, the college expects applicants to complete the most challenging coursework available at their high school.

For students entering a STEM field, additional requirements may apply.

Dartmouth College High School Course Recommendations

  • English – 4 years (preference for writing-intensive courses)
  • Math – 4 years (calculus recommended for STEM majors)
  • Science – 3 years of lab science (four years including physics for engineering majors)
  • History & Social Science – 3 years
  • Foreign Language – 3-4 years of one language (ancient or modern)

Learn more about Dartmouth College admission requirements.

Harvard University

Harvard doesn’t require a specific list of courses, but the college does recommend that students take the most ambitious path available at their high school. Certain majors may require additional coursework.

Harvard University High School Course Recommendations

  • English – 4 years (including writing-intensive courses)
  • Math – 4 years
  • Science – 4 years (biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course in one of these subjects)
  • History & Social Science – 3 years (including American and European history)
  • Foreign Language – 4 years of one language

Learn more about Harvard admission requirements.

University of Pennsylvania

With some colleges, like the University of Pennsylvania, you may find that the college does not list course recommendations in a straightforward way on the school’s website.

University of Pennsylvania High School Course Recommendations:

The University of Pennsylvania doesn’t list out the specific number of years required for each high school subject area. However, the university does recommend that students take courses in English, social studies, math, science, and foreign language throughout high school.

Some colleges within the University of Pennsylvania look for additional qualifications when reviewing applications.

College of Arts & Sciences

Applicants should show interest in humanities, social science, and natural science; demonstrate the ability to apply classroom knowledge to the real world; and take courses that will prepare them for college.

Penn Engineering

Applicants should demonstrate the ability to use scientific concepts to discover, create, and apply knowledge to the real world; express interest in engineering; and complete high school coursework in physics and math (especially in calculus).

School of Nursing

Applicants should show desire to serve patients, express interest in health care issues, and complete science college prep coursework (especially chemistry).

The Wharton School

Applicants should show leadership skills, express interest to have a positive impact on the world, and complete high school coursework in math (especially calculus).

Learn more about Penn’s admission requirements.

Princeton University

Princeton doesn’t require a specific list of courses in order to be admitted. However, the university recommends that students complete the coursework listed below if they have access to these courses at their high school. The college gives preference to honors, dual-enrollment, and AP® courses.

Princeton University High School Course Recommendations:

  • English – 4 years (including writing-intensive courses)
  • Math – 4 years (including calculus for engineering majors)
  • Lab Science – 2 years (including physics and chemistry for engineering majors)
  • History – 2 years
  • Foreign Language – 4 years of one language
  • Visual or Performing Arts – At least one course is highly recommended

Learn more about Princeton’s admission requirements.

Yale University

Yale University does not have specific course requirements in terms of high school coursework. However, they do recommend that students take a balanced list of courses each year in English, science, math, social science, and foreign language.

Yale likes to see that applicants challenged themselves throughout high school, performed well, completed a balanced list of courses, and took advantage of advanced courses when possible.

Learn more about Yale’s admission requirements.

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