Must I Take More Math After Completing My High School’s Offerings?

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I have a question about taking additional math classes. I am on the advanced side in terms of my school's math track. I'm finishing tenth grade right now, but by this fall I will have finished all of the math classes my school offers. This is because I took so many high school-level math classes in middle school. My question is: Should I take the school's offer to be bused to a local college for math after this fall? I prefer not to, because I don't plan to major in math in college (I want to major in Russian Lit). But my counselor says I should take a math every year if I want to get into a good college. I have a 4.0 unweighted and already got a 36 ACT in ninth grade so I feel like I'm on track to go to a good college if I get this right.

"The Dean" will spare you an interrogation about what you think constitutes a "good" college and will say, instead, that it's true that the more competitive, sought-after institutions prefer four years of high school math, although there is always wiggle room for extenuating circumstances, and your situation could count as one since you've completed your school's math offerings so far ahead of schedule.

Yet, even if sticking with math for four years is up for debate, I agree with your counselor that you should not stop math this fall. The bus ride to the local college is certainly an option, and college admission folks will appreciate the fact that you went out of your way to challenge yourself. However, you don't mention how that trip might affect your daily routine. Would you have to miss— or be late for — other classes at your high school because of the commute, or would you have to forego your favorite after-school activities? If the logistics of taking those college classes seem complex or undesirable, you can also consider continuing with math online. There are many rigorous choices these days (and perhaps even more in the year ahead, depending on whether colleges open their doors in September or focus on remote instruction). If you can't find appropriate online math classes with the help of your school counselor or math teachers, write back for suggestions.

When it comes time to apply to college, it should work in your favor that your passion is Russian literature but that you also excel in math and have gone beyond the typical high school offerings. So definitely don't give up on math as a junior. You may even decide that, given your abilities and the opportunity to extend your math horizons next year, you will want to continue as a senior, too. But if you feel truly maxed out on math by grade 12, you can revisit this question then. If Russian Lit continues to be at the forefront of your plans, you might even be able to take a college course or two in that subject in the time slots where math would otherwise be, and that will appeal to admission committees, too.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at

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