Selecting High School Senior Courses

Selecting High School Senior Courses

We were recently asked to provide insight on selecting high school senior courses. 

Now is the time where most secondary school students are required to submit their course selections and many students struggle to determine which courses they should be taking.

Some students don’t understand that their elective choices can have a large impact on what they can do in university or college.

Not only that, but many parents want to be involved in the selection process and are unsure of how the system works, what is beneficial for their child, and how they can help.

Whether you are a senior high school student, or the parent of one, this complete guide will answer ALL of your questions to ensure success is achieved.

If you are unsure of what you want to do post-secondary, or if you just have some questions about what will help you in the long-run, this guide is a must read!

Although this article is written from the perspective of two Ontario, Canada students, most of the information will apply to any high school student, no matter where you live! 


Which Courses Are Essential to Keep Your Doors Open?

Okay, so many of you may be stressing out about what you want to pursue when you graduate from secondary school (I know I was for the longest time)!

Well, there are some things you should keep in mind before randomly selecting your courses just because you are required to do so. The three major groups of courses are English, Mathematics, and Sciences.



In Ontario, pretty much every university or college program requires English: ENG4U or ENG4C (with the U meaning intent to apply for university and C for college).

For all other regions, the equivalent would be your senior level English credit, or whatever your country’s primary language is. This might be an obvious course for many, but in case it isn’t, enroll in English now!



Next, is Mathematics. For Ontario schools, the options will likely include Advanced Functions: MHF4U or MCT4C, Calculus and Vectors: MCV4U, and Data Management: MDM4U. 

Note: Only upon successful completion of Grade 11 Functions (MCR3U) are you allowed to enroll in MHF4U and only after MHF4U are you allowed to enroll in MCV4U. 

So, with these three different math courses available, which one(s) should you take?

This solely depends on your program prerequisites (more on that next), but if you are wanting to keep all doors open (you are unsure of what program you want to apply for), I HIGHLY RECOMMEND at least Advanced Functions: MHF4U and one of the other two.

Some programs require the second math to be Calculus, so be careful if you choose to take Data Management. If you are someone that knows you’ll be going into a mathematics program, then you should be taking all three without a doubt.



Moving on to the Sciences. Neither of us are actually enrolled in a science program, but we can still provide insight in case you, or your child is planning in this direction.

So, for most schools, you are going to have both Grade 11 and 12 Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. All three of the Grade 11 courses are prerequisites for the Grade 12 ones, so make sure you have taken them.

If you are a complete science nerd, but are unsure of what specific strand of science you’d like to pursue, then take all three of them, or at least two out of the three. 

You can always do some more research on what specific sciences are required for your interests.

Most engineering based programs require Chemistry and Physics, while programs that deal with the environment or human body typically require Biology.


How to Ensure You Have the Right Prerequisites!

Just to recap, prerequisites are the courses or grades needed in order to get into your program of choice. AKA, requirements!

For some, the most difficult and stressful part of choosing courses is guaranteeing that you are fulfilling these as your acceptance into a secondary program depends on if you have completed them.

It can often be complicated, as you are most likely planning on applying to a number of schools so you can have options. The problem with this is that each school may have different prerequisites.

So, ensuring that you are meeting the criteria for each school you are applying to is crucial. 


Selecting High School Senior Courses


Before we begin to share the steps you should take to ensure you have the right prerequisites, I need to get one thing established right off the bat.

In order to confirm you are taking the courses needed to get into a specific program, you need to know which program(s) you want to apply to.

I know this may seem obvious but many students are unsure about what they want to do, which is of course completely okay. However, if you want to make sure you have the right prerequisites, you subsequently need to know your program or potential programs.

If you don’t know what program(s) you want to apply to, we think it’s  best you take the courses that will keep doors open (mentioned above) and book an appointment with your guidance counselor! 

Questions like “how do you ensure you have the right prerequisites?” and “how do I make sure I am taking the right courses?” are most likely prevalent during this process.

Well, once you have a program or programs you want to apply to, you need to do research! Lucky for you, there’s no need to be intimidated by the idea of having to do some research!

It is made easy and straightforward thanks to Ontario Universities Info.

All you have to do is type in your program of interest, select the university or college you want to go to. Just like that, all the requirements are listed.

Information such as the approximate grade range you would need to have to be eligible and the prerequisites are explicitly stated.

This is the most beneficial website as it is easy to navigate through and the information is presented in a clear and detailed manner.

Remember: this process of putting in your program and university/college into the website to get the requirements should be completed for all the schools you are planning on applying to. 

Now that you have access to all the information, it is your role as a student to keep track of what is needed in an organized fashion. Writing down the requirements for each program at each university will leave you with an established list of requirements.

This will come in handy as it will be your guide for what you need to follow once your research is complete.

We recommend you grab a pen or paper or create a document so all the information is accessible to you in one place. 

For example, your list of programs and subsequent prerequisites should look something like this: (The goal is to outline all the requirements relevant to you so you know what is needed)


Program: Accounting and Finance @ University A 


  • 4U English (ENG4U/EAE4U preferred)
  • MHF4U 
  • MCV4U
  • Grade range: mid 80’s, high 80’s for co-op


Program: Accounting @ University B 


  • ENG4U
  • Two 4U maths
  • Grade range: 80-86%


After you have established this foundation, the next step is to take action! Using your list of course requirements for each program as a reference/basis, you can effectively plan and organize your courses for senior year.

All you need to do is ensure your course selection matches the courses needed, aka cross reference! 


Using the previous example, it is evident that there is an overlap in the prerequisites between both programs at the two schools. Because University B is less specific, I would just need to ensure I am taking that ENG 4U as it was explicitly stated in both.

I would also need to take MHF4U and MCV4U as it was specified in University A and can be applied as the two 4U maths for University B. See how easy it is once the research and information is laid out? 

Next, taking a look at the grade ranges, it is clear that I would need to maintain a top six average of at least low to mid 80s. Obviously, the higher the better! If I wanted to do the co-op offered at University A, I would need to ensure that my grade is a high 80. 


And that’s it! Now you have the most significant resource and an effective guide to make sure you are taking the prerequisites to get into your program of choice! 



University/College Info Sessions & Tours

Need more information on specific university/college related topics? Here is what you can do!

1: Attend Local Information Sessions 

Many secondary schools will host information sessions for both college and university programs throughout the year. These usually take place near the end of the calendar year and may happen at a different school from your own.

Stay updated by researching heavily or contacting your school for the information. Usually, these sessions consist of one or two representatives of the university that set up booths to answer your questions.


2: Visit the Ontario Universities Fair (or similar based on region)

The Ontario Universities Fair is a great opportunity to look at all 21 Ontario universities and their programs in one setting.

This makes the experience of investigating different post secondary options super convenient and productive as almost all the possibilities are placed at your disposal as they are together at one place.

Named Canada’s largest educational fair, all students and parents taking the next step in their academic career should attend as it is only advantageous!

During the fair, you can find out about admission, student life, requirements, ask questions and attend presentations offered by universities during the weekend of the fair. 

The fair is usually held at the end of September so stay updated! You should definitely attend this fair to get information and a taste of each university. It’s never too early or too late to check out your options!  



Two Underrated But Insightful Resources

Your Guidance Counsellor 

Your guidance counsellor is a great resource! Meet with them to discuss your options. This is crucial. As a student, it is your responsibility to seek help and get access to potential opportunities.

Ultimately, the process of selecting courses is different for each individual as each person’s circumstance is unique! We think meeting with your guidance counsellor is the most beneficial option as you can discuss your interests and plans,

In sharing this, your guidance counsellor who is equipped with even more resources and knowledge can help answer your questions and choose a course that fits all your needs.


The Internet 

Turn on your laptop and do some research. When it comes to picking courses, you should be investigating your options! And, as everyone knows, the internet holds an infinite pool of information.

Despite this fact, many students do not take advantage of it! There may be someone who is in the program at the university you want to go to that have shared their recommendations in terms of what courses to take in high school online.

Maybe the university or college website will have some recommendations as well! Doing some research and taking the time to find out more about potential courses will only benefit you and your future! 


Selecting High School Senior Courses

Summer School Courses

Now I know that this section is going to have a ton of controversial opinions, but I will try and keep it as bias-free as possible.

Many of you are probably wondering how summer school courses can impact your chances of getting accepted to university. Some of the questions I often receive include:

  • Will Universities Look Down Upon Summer Courses?
  • Is it Bad to Repeat a Course in the Summer?
  • Should I Try and Upgrade a Mark Through Summer School?
  • Which Courses Should I Take in Summer School?

In my honest opinion, I think summer school courses are the perfect opportunity to set yourself up for success.

Summer courses free up a ton of space during the school year. If any of you are applying to programs that require multiple prerequisites, you may have a tough time finding a spot for each one in your schedule.

Completing a course in the summer allows you to earn an extra credit and opens a space for another course you may be interested in (or simply one that you are required to take).

Now if you want more answers to all of your summer school questions, tips and tricks, and accurate information about the difficulty of summer school vs. in class vs. online courses, you can purchase our ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SUCCESS IN HIGH SCHOOL.


Your lifetime access to our guide will include ALL of the following:

  • Rashaad & Danielle’s Exact Grade 11 / 12 Courses
  • Power of Electives (especially their impact on post-secondary success)
  • Opinion on Spares and Their Impact
  • More on Summer School Courses
  • How to Get a Real Preview of University/College Life
  • Advanced Placement Courses
  • Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM)
  • Co-operative Education (Co-Op)
  • French Immersion
  • 1-On-1 Support 
  • LIFETIME Access

All of this and more for only $7 CAD!


AND as a special initiative, we will be making an educational charity donation of 25% from every purchase of our guide to Canadian Feed the Children (consistently ranked as one of the highest impact charities).

You can view the different types of educational gifts that will be purchased for children around the world here.

Learn more about our guide now!


Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to receive everything you need to set you up for success. It might even help you to find your career passion, just like I did! 

If you have any simple questions, or just need some advice on your courses, feel free to ask us in the comment section below!

Good luck and remember to enjoy your senior year of high school while you can!


26 Replies to “Selecting High School Senior Courses

  1. Your guide is very helpful for Selecting High School Senior Courses. I find the three major groups of courses are English, Mathematics, and Science. Prerequisites are the courses or grades needed in order to get into your program of choice. The problem with this is that each school may have different prerequisites. So, ensuring that you are meeting the criteria for each school you are applying to is crucial. Your guide is very useful for everyone. You are really doing an amazing work. Keep it up.

    1. Hi Parveen! So glad you agree with us, meeting the criteria of each school (which can differ!) is key! And thank you so much, we are happy you are enjoying our articles! 🙂 

  2. Wow! This is a really great article that is going to help me significantly when I go to pick my courses! Your guide looks very interesting and I’ll have to check it out more! Thanks!

    1. Hi Skylar! We are so glad you are found it useful, I hope it comes in handy! Good luck picking your courses 🙂

  3. What timely information! I agree that we should never underestimate the importance of proper English and the ability to work through mathematical equations. For someone living in a primarily English speaking country, the only way to sound professional during interviews and other communications is through excellent grammar. Also, we simply can’t understand at a young age how important math will always be. There is no lifelong career or common interest that doesn’t somehow involve mathematics. Thank you for your research.

    1. Hi Cathy! We are glad you agree with us, English and Math are two foundational courses that students should consider taking to keep their options open 🙂 Like you said, they are both prevalent in all aspects of life. Thanks for taking the time to comment! 

  4. One of the toughest things to take care of as a student in high school is selecting the right kinds of senior courses that will help prepare you for college or other areas of study that they may be interested in. I had two teenagers in school at once and remember very well this time.

    Now today, it is the grandchildren that are at this point, so I really was interested to see how much things have changed (or not). We went through numerous discussions with both the girls and now I have two grandkids that are entering their senior year. As a concerned grandparent, of course, I want to help them get the best shot for their future.

    The prerequisites have changed somewhat these days from a couple of decades ago for sure I see. I have bookmarked the article and we will discuss the points as a family and make choices accordingly. The jumping-off point you have provided is very useful and I thank you for this article!  

    1. Hi Dave! Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂 We are so happy our article could be of use to your grandchildren. We discuss course selection and prerequisites more in our Ultimate Guide for Students, linked above if you want to check it out! I believe it could be beneficial for them! I wish you and your grandchildren the best. 

  5. This website could have helped both of my daughters. One is already out of high school, the other is in grade 10. This article brings much needed clarity to help students and parents put together a plan for future success. By taking the confusion out of the process, students can feel confident and secure in knowing they have selected the correct courses. I will use this information for my son when he comes of age in 3 years time. Thank you for sharing! If you don’t mind I will be sharing this link on social media.

    1. Hello! Thank you for writing such a thoughtful comment, it means a lot! Please do share this link on social media, our goal is to reach as many students as possible to make the process of selecting courses easier. I wish your children all the best in school! 🙂 

  6. Hi Danielle. I wish I had access to this amazing post when I was attempting to choose my own high school senior course some years back. Although, I chose the right course, this would have made life easier for me in school. My favourite among the three top groups is science and mathematics. Though I love mathematics, I found myself in the science line and it was based on my interest and my passion on through my years in high school.

    Thanks for sharing. Regards! 

    1. Hi welcome back to our blog 🙂 Yes, a guide or support offered by people who know the process from a perspective other than a teacher would make the process easier! I’m glad you were able to find and stick to your passion despite the stressful process! As always, thank you for your kind comment! 

  7. English is definitely a must! 

    It’s very important to take a look ahead of time on the planned Grade. Before picking a university I made my way to each of my options and just requested access for a day as a passive hearing. 

    Repeating courses during summertime seems to be counterintuitive, but your opinion about freeing up time is quite valid.

    1. Hi Juan! Summer school is what we mentioned as being a great way to free up time, but it is a very opinionated topic that mostly depends on the students preference. We hope you enjoyed the article! 

  8. This is a great resource. It is very informational and the site provides the clarity needed to make the proper selection of senior courses. Many students enter their senior year in high school not knowing what career they want to pursue, so this resource will certainly help in that regard. I  never knew this type of service existed on the web but it certainly is one that is needed and will be utilized by many. 

    1. Hi Larry! I’m glad you like the article! I was one of those students who was unsure about want I wanted to pursue and I know having this would have been so helpful! It’s my hope that those who are undecided senior students see this article and get some clarity! Thanks for taking the time to comment! 

  9. I really wish they had something like this when I was in high school. All I had was a guidance counselor. My mom didn’t know the first thing about choosing the right classes that would better fit me going into the future. My high school diploma is college prep. And I attended college and graduated, but not with a lot of trial and error. 

    I took some classes that I didn’t need in senior year of high school and college. I took French and I didn’t use it until much later. By the time I used it, traveling in France, I was rusty and I forgot most of the language. Now that I have children of my own, I like to look ahead and plan for the future. 

    1. Hello! I know how you feel from experience and what my peers have similarly discovered! Some of the courses we take are unfortunately futile, and we should instead take courses that are of interest and hold value for our future. I also took French and am planning to do the same as you! I will have to be sure to keep up with my French skills! Thank you for sharing! 🙂 

  10. Hi and thanks for this informative and timely article
    My daughter is going into VCE this year and we’ve struggled to choose subjects that will give her the best opportunities for her future. She is very good at mathematics and physics but struggles with writing.
    We will definitely be reading this article together shortly

    1. Hello! I’m glad that this article could be of use to you and your daughter! The process can be stressful but I hope you both can find some clarity through these tips! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  11. This was article was written fantastically and offers a very thorough walk through of selecting your high school courses. Keep up the good work!

  12. Hello Danielle, your article highlights so many aspects of selecting electives that directly impact higher education. This was never explained to us, when we met Chloe counselor. Good luck with this Danielle and thank you for the very insightful reading which is definitely going to help us out.
    Lorraine D’cunha

    1. Hi Lorraine! Thank you for reading our article and for your kind words! Sometimes these aspects are overlooked or not explained in full detail because it is a lot of information and the guidance counsellor’s don’t want to overwhelm students. Unfortunately, this is actually causes more stress in the long run and is detrimental. We are glad we could provide some insight! If you or Chloe ever have any questions, feel free to send them my way! 🙂

  13. This is amazing, truly inspiring. I’m a 57 year old father of 4. I’m going to show this to my children as they’re going through a lot of stress in school and soon have to prepare for the transition to university.

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