Senior Year Course Load

yellow and black wooden cabinet
Gelyna Price
Gelyna Price

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

By now, you probably realize that you can’t slack on good grades in your first three years of high school. Those grades won’t be enough to get you into that school you have your eye on. If your high school transcript isn’t yet quite where you’d like it to be, you can use senior year to your advantage, too. Overall, taking challenging courses (like Honors and AP classes) and a balanced course load tends to be a great idea during senior year. With all these choices, how do you know what your senior year course load should look like?

Another reason…

Especially at more competitive schools, you must finish your high school career well. In fact, offers of admission can be contingent on your maintaining the course rigor and grades that they saw on your application. In other words, if you catch senioritis and slack off during your final year or semester, a college may actually revoke its offer of admission! This doesn’t happen often, but it makes clear the importance of doing well throughout all of high school, including your senior year.

Shaping Your Trajectory

Honors and AP classes tend to impress colleges; many admissions officers would rather see you get an A- or B+ in a challenging class than an A in an easy one.

Whether you need to maintain your current achievement level or move to a higher one, do your best not to level down. Taking rigorous classes in your senior year is typically a great choice. It shows colleges that you’re dedicated to pushing yourself as hard as you can, and won’t slack off the moment you perceive an opportunity to do so. A strong senior year course load also demonstrates that you are preparing yourself for the experience of college classes.

College Requirements

Do any of the colleges you’re applying to have specific requirements that you have not yet met? For example, do any of them require a minimum of four years of English, math, or science?

Make a list of unfulfilled requirements like this for all of the colleges you’re applying to, and then make sure that your senior year fills in any gaps. It may sound more relaxing to take a fun elective than trigonometry, but it’s not worth it if it means you don’t meet your dream college’s requirements.

Keep in mind that college requirements are different from your high school’s requirements. Just because your high school only requires you to take a certain number of years in a subject doesn’t mean a college will agree.


Don’t back out of difficult subjects the moment senior year allows you to do so. Colleges typically want to see that you have a strong foundation across all of the core subjects.

Unless there’s a very compelling reason not to, you should ideally take rigorous classes across all the core subjects (English, math, science, foreign language, and history/social sciences) in your senior year.

While it’s important to maintain balance instead of just focusing on your favorite subjects, it’s also not a great idea to suddenly start jumping around. Instead, your classes in senior year should build upon your previous courses. For example, taking a fourth year of Spanish is more impressive to colleges than suddenly switching to Italian for your last year. Need help confirming your schedule? Just book a consult to learn more about working with an Empowerly counselor who can help you finish strong.

Questions? Let us know!