What courses do university faculty say high school students should take to prepare to major in their fields? (2022)

A power point presentation including the fields listed below can be downloaded here:


Professional associations or university academic departments sometimes make recommendations about what courses high school students should take to prepare for undergraduate majors in their fields. I’ve collected several of those below, in architecture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering and meteorology. In addition, I’ve included a section on preparing for pre-medical studies from the American Association of Medical Colleges.

Architecture: From the Syracuse University School of Architecture

The study of architecture is rigorous, highly visual, and conceptual. You will want to plan your high school learning path carefully, and take advantage of a wide range of life experiences geared towards your future studies and demonstrating your ability to succeed.


  • Honors and AP courses, to prepare for rigorous college coursework
  • Studio art classes: extremely important. This includes drawing and 3D design. Mechanical drawing and CAD (Computer Aided Design) classes are not a prerequisite for admissions, nor a necessary component for your portfolio.
  • A solid background in physical sciences, including physics
  • English and humanities classes
  • Developed writing abilities
  • Foreign language
  • Speech or debate classes
  • Math, including trigonometry; calculus recommended but not required

Astronomy: From the Kansas University Department of Physics and Astronomy

If you are a high school student pondering a career in Astronomy or Astrophysics, what can you do to prepare?

Astronomy is applied Physics, applied using the tools of advanced mathematics, the technology of modern telescopes, and state-of-the-art computer software. As a high school student, you are encouraged to take any and all math and science classes available that can reasonably fit within your schedule, with an emphasis on Physics and, if possible, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. AP classes in Math or Physics should be taken as a preparation rather than a substitute for university-level classes.

Biology: From the Iowa State Department of Biology

Recommended High School Coursework for Future Biology Majors

The Biology program at Iowa State University offers a uniquely flexible and robust curriculum. Students in Biology have the option to select from over 160 advanced courses, allowing them to customize their biology coursework to target specific interests and career directions.

In order to best prepare for coursework in the Biology major, the Biology Student Services Office recommends that high school students complete the following courses prior to beginning their adventure in Biology at ISU:


Chemistry is one of the primary supporting sciences students encounter in the Biology major. For this reason, it is important to have a strong foundation in high school chemistry. Our office encourages students to complete a minimum of one year of high school chemistry.


A firm understanding of introductory level physics can lead to greater success for students enrolled in the Biology program. One year of high school physics is recommended. Students in high schools with AP Physics offerings may choose to enroll in these courses in order to attempt college credit for physics.


Courses in Biology, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Genetics, and Advanced Sciences, are helpful for students entering the Biology program. However, these courses should not take the place of the Chemistry and Physics courses. One year of high school Biology is recommended. If students have the opportunity to enroll in additional Biology courses without sacrificing their supporting sciences, these courses may prove to be beneficial.


Math is an important factor in student success at the university level. Our office encourages students to complete Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry in high school, if possible. Students with the opportunity to enroll in AP Statistics, Pre-Calculus, and/or Calculus I courses in high school may attempt college credit for Math.


While a strong foundation in the sciences is certainly important, Biologists are also expected to communicate with colleagues from various backgrounds on a regular basis. Courses in English, Literature, and Speech Communication will be valuable in contributing to students’ overall success.

World Language

Although world language is not specifically required by the Biology program, our office encourages high school students to complete three years of foreign language prior to enrolling at Iowa State. This is particularly useful for students interested in obtaining a Biology degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which requires 3 years of world language in high school, or 4-8 credits of world language at the university level.

Computer Courses

Students may find at least one high school computer course helpful before moving on to the university setting. At Iowa State, a student’s word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database building skills will likely be called upon in various courses and laboratories.

The courses listed above are not required for entrance into the undergraduate Biology program at ISU. However, they may be helpful in fostering academic success within the Biology program.

Chemistry: From the University of Washington Department of Chemistry

The ideal high school preparation to study chemistry and/or biochemistry includes four years of college preparatory mathematics, one year of physics, one year of chemistry, and one year of biology. Students should work closely with their school counselors to ensure that the appropriate courses are taken to meet the University of Washington’s general admission requirements.

In addition to the normal curriculum, many high schools offer students in their junior and senior years the opportunity to take courses at community colleges near their high school through the Running Start Program, or to participate in the Advanced Placement (AP) Program. The courses taken in these programs count toward high school graduation as well as satisfying entry requirements at the UW.

Running Start courses transfer in the same way as other college-level courses. The AP program offers college-level courses in high school. At the end of the course, students can take an exam administered by the College Board and, if they score high enough, they can earn college credit or be exempted from certain courses in college.

Computer Science: Gary Leavens, Chairman of UCF’s Computer Science Department, quoted in the July 18, 2019 Orlando Sentinel article “Florida continues computer science push, hoping to train more teachers, enroll more high school students”

But a strong background in math and science, including calculus and physics if possible, is key for success as a computer science major, said Gary Leavens, chairman of UCF’s computer science department.

“We would prefer they would have a more traditional math and science background,” he added.

Engineering: From the American Society for Engineering Education

Earning good grades in challenging and advanced courses will give you a leg up, and taking high levels of math and science will make your introductory engineering classes in college more manageable.

Most engineering schools require four years of math, including Pre-Calculus, although Calculus or AP Calculus is strongly encouraged. Engineering schools are also looking for at least three years of science, including Physics and Chemistry.

Engineering is not just about math and science, though! Take your other subjects seriously, as well, especially English, because engineers need to be able to speak and write well. Effective communication is an important part of engineering.

Aspire to take AP, honors, or other advanced-level courses, including additional coursework at a local community college. When you need help, meet with your teachers or form a study group. Going the extra mile will pay off in the end.

Meteorology: From the Penn State Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science

People who major in Meteorology and Atmospheric Science need a strong background in science, mathematics and computer skills. In high school, students should take earth sciences, physics, chemistry and mathematics through at least pre-calculus. Generally, students who have completed a course in calculus and/or a course in computer programming will have an advantage when starting their Meteorology and Atmospheric Science studies. Students should take their high school’s college-preparation English classes and should know how to use a word processor on a computer.

Preparing for medical school: From the American Association of Medical Colleges

The best thing you can do is build a good foundation of math and science coursework and, if available, take advanced classes. You may be able to receive Advanced Placement (AP) credit that could allow you to place out of basic requirements and move into upper-level coursework once you begin college. AP science and math options at your school may include biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and statistics. Upper-level psychology classes are also recommended, as they will help you prepare for the behavioral science section of the MCAT®. These classes can help you determine your level of interest in science and if you want to pursue a medical career.

Also use this time to develop solid study habits, time management skills, test-taking skills, and written and verbal communication skills. English classes are a good place to practice these communication skills, since the curriculum often includes writing multiple styles of essays, analyzing literature, giving oral presentations, and taking comprehension tests. You will use these skills as you write your application to medical school, and physicians use these skills every day to write reports and communicate with colleagues and patients.

Lastly, establishing strong relationships with your teachers or other potential mentors is important; they can help you if you are struggling, push you to be your best, and teach you effective studying habits you can use throughout your education.

What courses do university faculty say high school students should take to prepare to major in their fields? (1)

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