How to Choose High School Electives

Find the right college for you.

students in art class

How to Make Your High School Electives Stand Out to Colleges

At most high schools, students can take elective classes. These are classes outside the required curriculum that you get to choose. You may find elective classes such as art, music, journalism, computer programming, and business.

While primarily seen as a chance to learn something new, choosing electives is also a way to make yourself stand out when applying for college.

Tips for Choosing High School Electives That Colleges Look For

What’s a school elective that could make your college application shine? Many high schools offer a variety of classes worth exploring. Keep these tips in mind to choose classes that can give you an advantage when applying to college.

Pursue Your Passions.

Follow your passions when choosing high school classes. If you're not sure what you want to study, pick some classes in subjects that spark your interest. Taking a class in an area you enjoy or want to learn more about can be fun and help reduce stress. High school electives you genuinely love could also lead to scholarship opportunities and more pursuits in college.

If your school doesn't offer the classes you want, check out the course offerings at local and community colleges. Many schools also let you take online courses as electives.

Maintain Balance.

Handling four or five core courses each semester doesn't leave much room for extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, fulfilling elective graduation requirements is vital. If you have a lot on your plate, consider taking electives that don't require much after-school commitment, such as an art class or foreign language classes.

Signal Willingness to Try Something New.

What’s an elective if not an opportunity to try something brand new? Taking an elective can introduce you to an entirely new subject or expose you to more advanced concepts than your regular classes. Electives are an ideal way to challenge yourself and stay motivated throughout high school. You may even discover a new talent or interest. More important, your electives show that you're willing to go outside your comfort zone, try something new, and expand your horizons.

Enhance Your College Application.

Choosing your electives well can help you when you apply to college. One way to use electives is to explore potential majors or prepare for the college experience. Consider using those slots in your high school schedule to learn more about majors that interest you.

You can also take general electives focusing on college prep, critical thinking, public speaking, and other relevant skills you'll use later. Seeing that on your transcripts could make your application more appealing to the college admissions panel.

Elect to Take Courses That Colleges Recommend

Did you know that just taking your school's required courses may not be enough to meet the admissions requirements at some colleges? For example, some colleges might want to see that you've studied fine art or taken four years of a foreign language in high school. Admissions officers want you to have a solid foundation of learning that you can build on in college.

To ensure you're choosing the right elective classes, take these steps:

  • Explore your interests.
  • Research course requirements for colleges and universities you're interested in attending.
  • Talk with your school counselor or college admissions professional.

Show Colleges Who You Are

The electives you choose tell colleges something about you. If you take several electives in a particular area, you can show your interest and skills in that subject. Your school electives can also show that you have wide-ranging interests or that you like to tackle challenging work.

Strengthen Your High School Transcript

One of the most important pieces of your college application is your high school transcript. Admissions officers want to see that you've earned strong grades in challenging classes. If you choose electives you're excited about and will work hard to master, that interest and effort will show in your grades.

  • Talk to your counselors and teachers to help you figure out which electives will meet the requirements of the colleges or types of programs you're considering.
  • Use College Search to see what specific colleges require.
  • Check out High School Classes Colleges Look For to get an idea of the courses college admissions officers want to see on your transcript.


What are electives in high school?

A high school elective is a course that’s not part of your core curriculum. Electives are usually part of high school graduation requirements, but you're free to take whatever classes interest you. It's a chance to learn new skills and explore career paths.

Read more

Do your high school electives matter?

Electives matter because they give colleges another example of your interests and academic ability. They also expand your horizons beyond academia and indicate to schools that you have more to offer than just your educational requirements.

Read more

Why are electives important in high school?

Choosing electives in high school demonstrates an interest in new areas of study while showing your willingness to branch out and try something new. School electives prepare you for tomorrow, setting the stage for new interests, college majors, and career paths. Although they may seem like simply "extra" classes while you're still in high school, electives can be critical to your future.

Read more

What’s the best elective to take?

There’s no "best" elective. What's appropriate for you depends on your goals. If you have a specific major you wish to pursue, use your electives to prepare. Some of the most impressive electives include college preparatory classes or courses that revolve around skills you'll carry into college and beyond.

Read more

Do electives affect your grade point average?

This can vary based on the school or district, but elective classes may impact your GPA. Your grade point average is a standardized way to view your academic achievement. It includes both core and non-core classes. That's why taking elective courses you can excel in can be a good idea. Check with your high school counselor or an administrator to understand how your school weights electives in the grade point average.

Read more

How many electives can you take?

How many electives in high school are available to you depends on your school. Electives are a graduation requirement, and the exact number of course credits you need can differ from one school to the next. Speak with your counselor for guidance.

Once your core classes have been determined, the remaining courses in your schedule can be filled with electives.

Read more

What’s the difference between elective and core subjects?

Core classes are mandatory classes you must take to meet graduation requirements in the subject areas of English, math, science, and social studies. World languages might also be considered a core class in some schools.

Electives fall outside the scope of core classes. Schools may require electives to graduate, but you may be allowed to choose the electives that you want to take, depending on your school’s offerings.

Read more