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High School

How High School Math & English Help Students Succeed

Explore why general education, like math and English, is critical for career readiness with Penn Foster's Academic Director's expert insights.
Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

Whether you’re an adult returning to high school to earn your diploma, or a teenager trying to finish high school online, English and math courses can be tough. Brian Brown, who leads the academic team at Penn Foster and has more than 17 years of education experience, helps explain why these high school courses are important, and how they can help you as you complete your degree.

Do you have to take English in college?

Brian stresses the value of English courses in college education. He points out that the updated English curriculum at Penn Foster includes lessons and assignments that apply to real-world situations students will encounter in the future, such as writing job applications and college admission essays.


"It's about equipping students with skills they'll use beyond high school," Brian explains.


This approach to teaching English is crucial because it helps students develop essential communication skills, critical thinking, and the ability to present ideas clearly and persuasively. These skills are not only vital for academic success but are also desirable in the workplace. 


Read more: Beyond Graduation: How High School Prepares You for Success


How many English classes are required to get into college?

The number of English credits needed for college admission can vary depending on the college or university you're applying to. Still, most colleges expect you to have completed a minimum of four years of high school English or language arts courses. This equates to four English credits, as most high schools award one credit per year-long course.


It's important to remember that these requirements can differ, especially if you're applying to highly competitive colleges, which may have specific expectations for the rigor of your high school coursework. Besides the number of credits, colleges often look for students who have taken advanced English classes, such as honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, as these can demonstrate a student's readiness for college-level work.


The English courses offered at Penn Foster High School

  • English 1 - Introduction to Language Arts
  • English 2 - Foundations of Reading and Writing
  • English 3 - Analyzing Texts and Building Compositions
  • English 4 - Detailed Reading and Research Writing
  • Elective - American Literature
  • Elective - English Composition
  • Elective - English Communications


To ensure you meet the requirements of your desired college, check the admissions page of the college's website, or contact their admissions office directly. They can provide the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding their English credit requirements and academic expectations.


Read more: How to Prepare for College in High School (A Checklist for Online Students)


What math do most colleges require in high school?

Most colleges require at least three years of high school math, but four years is often recommended, especially for competitive colleges and STEM programs. 


Recommended high school math courses

  • Algebra 1 and 2
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry*
  • Pre-Calculus*
  • Calculus*


* Available as an individual course


Like with the English courses, you should always check with the college you want to attend to make sure you take the math courses that will put you in alignment with your educational goals.


Why do high school students struggle with math?

Math can be intimidating, but Brian says building confidence in your math skills is as important as the lessons. "It's about making math accessible and relatable," he says. By using different learning methods–like short instructional videos–you can find a way of learning math that works for you.


Read more: How to Apply to College After High School (Guide)


Why is math important in high school if my career won’t involve math?

Brian says math teaches problem-solving and logical thinking skills, which are valuable in any career.


"Even if you don't use specific math formulas in your job, the ability to think critically is a universally valuable skill," he adds.


Learning math also teaches you financial literacy. Basic math skills help you budget, manage your savings, understand interest rates, and make informed financial decisions. These are critical life skills for personal financial health and professional roles involving budget management or financial planning.


General education courses are more than just checkboxes on your high school curriculum; they are building blocks for future success and help make you a well-rounded individual.


Interested in learning more about how Penn Foster High School helps learners? Check out our high school programs and see how we make learning accessible and relevant for every student or contact our admissions team at 1.888.427.6500 if you are ready to enroll.


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