What Are Core Academic Classes?

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The term "core courses" refers to the list of courses that provide a broad foundation for your education. When it comes to their admissions policies, most colleges will calculate your grade point average using only the grades from your core academic classes.

Also, once a student is in college, core courses have their own numbering and identifying characteristics as well as requirements. Understanding what core courses are can be confusing to students, and this confusion can be costly.

High School Core Courses

Generally, the core courses in high school include the following:

  • Math: Three to four years (algebra, geometry, calculus)
  • English: Four years (composition, literature, speech)
  • Social science: Three to four years (history, sociology, psychology, political science, geography, economics)
  • Science: Normally three years (earth science, biology, chemistry, physics)

In addition, colleges will require credits in visual or performing arts, foreign language, and computer skills. Unfortunately, students sometimes struggle in one or more core areas. Some students believe that they can increase their grade average by taking an elective, such as a physical education class.

While a good grade in a non-academic class might give you a confidence boost, scoring well in an elective class probably won’t help when it comes to college entry. Take fun classes to break up the schedule, but don't count on them to pave your way into college.

It's important to maintain a high GPA, even in the early years of high school, but particularly in core courses. If ever you find yourself slipping behind in the important courses, seek assistance right away.

Core Academic Courses in College

Most colleges also require a similar list of courses that provide a foundation for your college education. College core often includes English, math, social sciences, humanities, and science.

There are a few things you should know about college core courses. Core classes that you complete in one college may or may not transfer to another college. Policies change from one college to another and from one state to another. Additionally, in any given state, core requirements can be very different when switching from state colleges to private colleges.

Core Course Numbers and Requirements

College courses are generally numbered (like English 101). Core classes in college usually begin with a 1 or 2. Core classes that you complete for one degree program may not complete the core requirements for another program. If you change your major from history to chemistry, for example, you may find that your core requirements change. 

Core sciences may or may not contain a lab. STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and math) will require more lab sciences that non-STEM majors. Core courses serve as prerequisites for upper-level college courses. This means that you must be successful in certain core courses (like English 101) before you can enroll in higher courses of the same discipline (like English 490).

Successful completion of a core course usually means earning a C or better. No matter how successful you are in a high school subject, the college course of the same name will be tougher.

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Fleming, Grace. "What Are Core Academic Classes?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-are-core-academic-classes-1857192. Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 25). What Are Core Academic Classes? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-core-academic-classes-1857192 Fleming, Grace. "What Are Core Academic Classes?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-core-academic-classes-1857192 (accessed March 20, 2023).