Q: “Are International Students Required to Take U.S. History Classes in High School to Apply to American Colleges?”

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A:Almost all American colleges require students to take certain courses in high school in order to apply. If colleges do have such a requirement, they typically require “Social Studies,” which is a more general category than “History.” However, some schools require students to take at least 1 year of U.S. History, including the schools that almost all Asian students (love to) apply–University of California (UC) colleges!

Which high school classes count as “Social Studies” credit?

History courses, such as U.S. History, World History, and European History, all count towards your “Social Studies” credit requirement.

However, different schools define “Social Studies” differently.” Social Studies may include Geography, Government, Civics, Psychology, Micro/Macroeconomics, Human Geography, Philosophy, and Anthropology, and not all high schools offer all of these courses. In order to find out which of these classes count towards “Social Studies” high school credit, you will have to find the policy from individual college websites.

Which College requires which History or Social Studies courses in high school?

Since all schools are different, students will have to find the specific requirements of each college. We organized a list of some colleges to help you understand:

SchoolSocial Studies / History Requirement
Georgia Tech3 years of Social Studies required
Harvard University3 years of History (including U.S., European, and a higher-level (such as AP) History) recommended
MIT2 years of Social Studies required
NYU3-4 years of Social Studies required
Penn State University3 years of History, Social Studies, or Arts required
Purdue University3 years of Social Studies required
Pomona College2 years of Social Studies required; 3 years recommended
Stanford UniversityAt least 3 years of Social Studies recommended
All UC Schools2 years of History (World, U.S., or Government)
University of Illinois2 years of Social Studies required; 4 years recommended
University of MichiganEngineering and Nursing: 2 years of Social Studies required; 3 years required for other schools
Williams College3 years of Social Studies required

(Is your school not listed here? Just Google “High School Academic Requirement for _____ admissions” and fill the school name in the blank!)

What can we see from this list?

1. Most schools require 3 years of social studies-related courses in high school.

From the table, we can see that the requirement for most colleges is to have taken at least 3 years of Social Studies courses. However, schools such as University of Michigan’s Engineering and Nursing schools are less related to history, and schools like these may require two or fewer years of Social Studies.

2. UC schools have a strict requirement of two years of history classes, and American students are required to have 1 year of U.S. History class.

UC schools are the least flexible of all schools. Students are required to take 2 years of History classes, and Social Studies classes such as Economics and Psychology do not count towards this requirement. In addition, U.S. students are required to take 1 year of U.S. History classes as part of the 2-year History requirement. For international students, UC’s know that they may not have U.S. History courses in their high school, so UC’s count history classes on the students’ country towards the 1-year “U.S. History” requirement. In addition, if the international student’s high school does not offer history classes on his or her country (for example, if a student in Taiwan cannot take Taiwanese History, Chinese History, or Asian History), then any History or Social Studies class can satisfy this requirement:

3. Harvard does not have any high school class “requirement”

Harvard explains its course requirement in a very interesting way. It says that it doesn’t require students to take any classes, but “typical Harvard students” take 3 years of history courses, and American History is one of the courses:

FAQ from Harvard’s website mentions that it’s good to take 3 years of History (including American or European History), but it is not a strict requirement.

Cool. So what is the next step?

1. For high school students studying in the US, your typical high school courses will cover the high school course requirement for all colleges.

American high schools will definitely offer at least 3 years of social studies: 1 year of World History, 1 year of U.S. History, and 1 year of Geography, European History, or Macroeconomics/Microeconomics. These courses will already satisfy the social studies requirement for applying to colleges, so American students do not need to worry or think about the course requirements at all.

2. For international students, almost all colleges will allow students to take history classes for their own country in place of the U.S. History requirement.

As mentioned before, most colleges require “at least 3 years of Social Studies,” but some schools (like UC schools) especially mention that these Social Studies courses must include 1 year of U.S. History. However, colleges understand that schools outside of the U.S. very likely will not offer U.S. History classes, so Asian students (especially those studying in local schools) can just take Asia-related history classes.

Be aware of this policy if you are bad at history and are considering avoiding American history classes. You may end up having fewer college options to apply to!

3. If a student’s high school does not have history classes at all, he or she can still take SAT2, AP, or IB courses to satisfy the (U.S.) History requirement.

If you study in America and your high school does not offer any history classes, do not worry; colleges will understand and offer you other options. For American students, UC says there are a few ways to satisfy the 2-year History requirement, such as:

  1. Receiving at least 540 in SAT2 World History or at least 550 in U.S. History
  2. Receiving at least a 3 in AP European History, World History, or Human Geography test
  3. Receiving at least a 5 in IB HL History or HL Geography
  4. Take a UC-certified online or in-person course on World History, Culture, Geography, U.S. History, American Government, or Civics

Although UC website puts this description under “domestic students,” if an international student does not have enough history resources from his or her high school, contact UC schools, and they will grant you an exception!

In our previous posts, we shared a list of all colleges that require SAT2 tests. If your school is on the list and if you are considering using SAT2 History to replace your History class requirement, you can use SAT2 US History raw score conversion table and SAT2 World History raw score conversion table after you take SAT2 mock tests to help you find out your scores and see if your SAT2 can qualify for Social Studies credit!

Also in: 简中 (Simplified Chinese) 繁中 (Traditional Chinese)

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