Many colleges are concerned that high schools are inadequately preparing their students for the rigors of undergraduate education. According to CNN, 60 percent of students are underprepared in at least two subject areas. Although many major programs will admit students without any prerequisite courses, future college students can get a head start by choosing the right classes in high school. For students interested in political science or international relations, advanced courses in government, geography and speech or debate can be particularly useful.
AP U.S. Government
One of the best high school classes for aspiring political science majors is Advanced Placement American Government and Politics. Many high schools offer both an AP version and a normal version of the course, but the AP version is preferable because students may be able to earn college credit by taking an exam at the end of the year. The College Board, the organization that administers AP exams, reports that the class covers the U.S. Constitution, political parties, the branches of government and public policy. Those subject areas play important roles in college political science programs.
AP Comparative Politics
Another useful class for international relations and political science majors is AP Comparative Government and Politics. Like AP American Government, this course allows students to earn college credits. According to the College Board, the course covers basic political philosophy, the differences among political institutions in various countries and the sources of political change around the world. These subjects provide a strong foundation for future college classes. For example, the University of San Diego’s program in international relations includes classes in comparative foreign policy and comparative politics in developing nations.
A surprisingly important course for future political science and international relations students is geography. As geographer and author Harm de Blij explains, the study of how human beings interact with their physical surroundings helps us to understand politics and foreign affairs. In his book "Why Geography Matters," for example, de Blij argues that U.S. foreign policy towards Africa differs from policy towards the Middle East because of geographic features like waterways and fossil fuel resources. A strong understanding of global geography serves college students well, especially in political science and international relations courses.
Speech and Debate
High school speech and debate classes can also help students achieve their political science or international relations goals. Many universities require oral communication competencies for social science majors, and speech and debate can help prepare students to meet the challenge. At Florida State, for instance, students in political science can skip an oral communication course if they took speech or debate in high school. Debate is particularly helpful because the research requirements of debating encourage students to dive headfirst into political science literature.
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