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What subjects do YOU need for college admissions and scholarship success?

Nicole
McLaren
Campbell

Sunday, August 20, 2017

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Every year, the bar for college admissions is set higher and higher, and the cost of tuition increa​ses​. This combination means that scholarships are becoming ever more competitive. If you are serious about getting into college and earning a scholarship, then you should already be looking for every opportunity to improve your chances — even if you're only in third form or fourth form.

One of the best ways to set yourself up for future college admission and scholarship success is to choose the best possible combination of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects. When we say best we mean best according to the College Prep Core Curriculum, or the core five for short​. Of course, your grades in these subjects also count — big time.​

So, how do you make your transcript stand out? With ​excellent grades, the right subjects​, and proof that you are willing to embrace intellectual challenges and rigour. Colleges will be looking at your final four years of high school; they will be looking at grades from fourth form to upper sixth form. This means that there are TWO important subject selection times — CSEC and CAPE / IB, and for overseas students, choosing classes for junior and senior years​

When looking simply at college admissions (i.e. being accepted without a scholarship), it is recommended that you take the ​core five college preparation courses:

• Four years of English

• xempmargin;Two-four years of a social science (history)

• xempmargin;Three- four years of science (chemistry, biology, and/or physics). For highly competitive universities, the more science you do the better.​

• Three- four years of maths

• 2empmargin;Two-four years of a foreign language.

But, what a college “requires” for admission is the bare minimum needed to gain entry to that institution. When a college “recommends” that you take certain courses and exams, then you should view it as mandatory in order to acquire the edge needed for a scholarship. The ideal situation would have a student doing four years of each subject area.

For CSEC you have a lot more options for exploration. Once the ​Core is covered, then it is up to you to decide which courses appeal to you the most.

CSEC options:

• English A

• English B (Literature)

• History

• Maths

• xempmargin;Add Maths (you should DEFINITELY take add maths because concepts from add math are tested on the SAT!)​

• xempmargin;Chemistry, biology or physics (​choose as many as possible)

• A foreign language

• xempmargin; As many other subjects that interest you and that you can handle.

For CAPE, the core six now becomes the core five, and you might be wondering, “How can I cover the core five? Five CAPE subjects? Wow, that's pushing it!” And that's the point. This isn't for everyone, but it is a rule to gauge yourself by.

Commanding a full scholarship from a highly competitive university as an international student, is not for the faint of heart.​ If you are a fully paying international student applying to a moderately competitive university, you don't have to do as much.

CAPE options:

• xempmargin;Communication studies/ Caribbean studies (this counts as an English course)

• xempmargin;History​/economics ​(​social ​science)

• xempmargin;Science (choose the science subject that is​ most in line with your interests. For example, engineers should do chemistry and physics

• xempmargin;Maths (this ​demonstrates to colleges that you can handle a certain level of thinking)

• Foreign language.

For the IB and US high school curriculum, choose as many AP or honours courses as you can manage, and start taking SAT subject tests in those areas once you are complete. Again, try to go to the highest level in core classes and choose electives that pique your interest. ​

Going above and beyond the basic requirements for college entry is necessary for earning a scholarship. Your course load SHOULD be challenging.

There will be times when you won't be able to ace every test without studying, your homework will force you to choose between that new Netflix show and a good grade, and you'll have to be selfish about sharing your time with friends. But if your course load lacks rigour then you're not just hurting your chances of college admissions and scholarships, you're setting yourself up for an overwhelming experience in college and the working world. Challenge helps us to grow and develop. Don't stunt your growth in high school by taking 'easy A' courses and not pushing yourself.

Ensure though, that you're not biting off more than you can handle. It is better to have A's and B's with a moderately challenging course load than to have C's in the most difficult course load. It's important to have balance. If you're up every night grinding away with those textbooks but still struggling to maintain a B average, then maybe you need to drop a subject or get extra help. This journey should be challenging, but it shouldn't be traumatising.

​GOOD LUCK and make it count!​

Nicole McLaren Campbell is the founder and CEO of Aim Educational Services, an independent college admissions counsellor, and public speaker. Contact her at nicole@aimeduservices.com .

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