There are core classes that are required for all high school students. Many schools offer more than one level of diploma. It is a good idea to take classes on the advanced or college prep classes.
Taking AP or dual credit classes in high school and middle school has several advantages. From a practical standpoint more challenging classes help prepare a student for the challenges of college. AP classes or dual credit courses make it possible to earn college credit while still in high school. This lowers the cost of college.
It is a good idea to take the highest level math, science and English possible. A tough English course or teacher is a good preparation for college. Learning to write well is important and necessary for success in college.
The process of selecting courses for high school should start in middle school. It is possible to take classes for high credit in 7th and 8th grade. Commonly Algebra I and foreign languages are offered to middle students.
Be realistic with the classes that you select. Classes and course loads should be challenging but not impossible or too stressful. Take the classes that fit your abilities and aptitude. Find out what options are available to meet the degree requirements. For example some schools offer sign language as a foreign language. This is great for students that have difficulty learning languages.
A basic college prep plan should include: 4 years of English, 3 years of math, 2-3 year each of science, foreign language, and 1 year each of fine arts, government/economics and technology. Stanford recommends that students take 4 years of English and math and 3 years or more of history, science and foreign language.