College preparatory courses are designed to prepare a high school student for the rigors of college academics. They typically offer an increased workload and more stringent academics than general education classes.

College Prep Means Harder Courses

While what constitutes a "college prep" course will vary from school to school, most college preparatory courses involve higher expectations and an increased level of difficulty. These classes may be labeled "college preparatory," "honors" or Advanced Placement. College prep courses give students the opportunity to perform college-level work while still in high school, and some even satisfy college credits. At some schools, honors and AP courses may receive extra weight in calculating your grade point average and prove to potential colleges that you're willing to work hard to achieve respectable grades within a challenging curriculum. ACT Inc., the company behind the college-readiness standardized test, recommends that college-bound students take four years of academic English, three years of rigorous mathematics, three years of science and three years of social studies at the college prep level, as well as courses in a foreign language, the arts or computer sciences.

Play to Your Strengths

Planning a college preparatory curriculum doesn't mean you have to take AP-level courses in every subject. However, if your school offers college-prep courses in a subject at which you're particularly adept, push yourself by taking higher-level honors or AP classes in that field -- especially if you plan to major in that subject. According to online education guide Petersons, college admissions officers tend to reward students who earn B's in higher-level courses versus students who earn straight A's taking easier courses, particulary because of the increased workload that accompanies tougher courses.