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English Requirements For College Admissions

Stephen Friedfeld, Ph.D

College admissions officers like applicants who are well-read. Colleges want students to have knowledge on how to read and write intelligently, and having a solid foundation in high school is paramount to this goal. Whether you are a student who loves to read or a student who tries to get by with SparkNotes, you must understand that high school English classes are important. But just how important are these courses to colleges and universities?

Most colleges require that applicants take four years of high school English. Most high schools auto-enroll incoming freshmen into an English course, and barring any extreme circumstances, keep students on a four-year English curriculum. What is more important is the focus on literature versus writing, and many colleges debate and differ with respect to these requirements.

As you work through your high school years, you will have more and more options for Advanced Placement courses that college admissions officers love to see on a transcript. Typically there are two English AP courses: English Literature and Composition, and English Language and Composition.

Although you will complete a significant amount of writing in each course, the Literature course spends more time reading classic novels and writing about them. The English language course focuses more on writing, preparing students for standardized testing, building English vocabulary and improving grammar techniques. If you only plan on taking one of these two courses, check with your target schools for their English recommendations, as some schools look for a literature-based English curriculum, while others prefer writing.

You may be a student who doesn’t enjoy high school English courses, but trying hard and paying attention is critical to preparing you for college academics. While you may not read Shakespeare or Hawthorne in college, you will certainly be required to read countless pages in textbooks. Many colleges also require you to complete a writing course or two over the course of your four years, and you can expect to write essays by the boatload, regardless of your course or major.

Finally, try and enjoy your English classes! You are reading these novels for a reason, as they have stood the test of time and are often referenced. Remember that life will only get more and more busy as you move through college and into the working world - take the time now to appreciate literature and writing.

(Stephen is the COO of AcceptU (www.AcceptU.com), a college admissions counseling group that connects applicants with former admissions officers. He has 10+ years of admissions experience at Cornell University and Princeton University. )

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