High School Preparation for Specific College Majors

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Do you know what you want to study in college? Whether it's engineering, pre-med, pre-law or art... Find out what to do in high school to prepare.


If you already have a planned college major, you can get a head start on your studies by tailoring your high school schedule to prepare for the courses you’ll be taking in college. This article will examine four of the most common specialized fields of study and what you can do to increase your chances of getting into the program of your choice.


If you’re college goals include an engineering degree, you’ll probably need to give some thought to your high school studies to land on your feet in a college engineering program. College engineering programs typically have a defined schedule for the entire four or five years it takes to earn a degree. More than likely, you’ll have to declare your intended major and enroll in the engineering school early (usually in the first or second year of college).

It’s highly recommended to take calculus before college starts. Your school may not offer calculus or you may not have the requirements to take specialized classes in high school. If so, look into summer or night classes with your high school or local community college. Take at least one applied science class (like shop) to get hands-on experience as well.


If you see a set of scrubs in your future, you’re probably thinking of some type of pre-med program for college. Science courses, specifically biology and chemistry, have the most applicability to pre-med curricula. Advanced Placement (AP) science courses (such as AP Biology, AP Chemistry or AP Physics) can give you a head-start on many of your classmates, as you may be eligible to take sophomore college courses as a freshman, pending the results of your AP Exams.

Many universities, such as Stanford University and Georgetown University, offer summer programs for prospective medical students. These programs allow you to get a glimpse at a typical med student’s laboratory responsibilities. If you enroll in the summer program at the university you’ll be attending, you’ll gain a better understanding of what will be expected of you in the next four years.


Do you see yourself in a courtroom after college and law school? As a high school student, preparing for law school is a little more ambiguous than other fields, like engineering. Most schools do not have a set curriculum for pre-law students. Many pre-law students end up majoring in liberal arts disciplines such as history, English, political science or economics. In any of these areas, writing well is essential, so enrolling in AP English is highly recommended. You may also want to think about APs in American History and Government. In all likelihood, you’ll take a Constitutional Law course along the way and these high school classes can prepare you for this tough course.

Potential lawyers might also want to consider joining at least one extracurricular club like the debate team, speech club or mock trial. These activities will improve your public speaking and analytical skills - important traits for any future lawyer.

Art School

Whether you are looking to study theater, dance, painting, or other creative field, the application process for art school is significantly different than most other areas of study. At New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, performing arts applicants (dance, theater) must audition in front of a school panel, while fine arts applicants (painting, photography, film) must submit a portfolio of their work, in addition to a written statement.

Make sure you participate in courses, clubs, and activities related to your field of study – a well-developed portfolio and resume will greatly increase your chances of getting into the school of your choice.

High School Preparation for Specific College Majors: Tips and Tactics

  • AP courses: All AP courses provide students with the opportunity to earn college credit in high school, which will free up your freshman year of college schedule and allow you to take more courses related to your major, rather than general education requirements.
  • Stay well-rounded: No matter what you plan on studying, try to keep a balanced course load. All universities have general education requirements. Even if you are planning on studying math and science, you will need to take writing courses in college, so don’t neglect them in high school. Remember, many students change their major at least once in college.
  • Talk to your guidance counselor: Your guidance counselor can help you determine which available classes will prepare you for your prospective college major.
  • Extracurricular activities: Having at least one club or activity related to your college major will make your resume that much more appealing come application time, regardless of your chosen major.
  • Contact universities: If you have a list of colleges you plan on applying to, contact them about their specific admissions requirements.

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