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Guiding Your Child's Education: Understanding the A-G Requirements

PHS physics students test their catapults

Example of G–Laboratory Science: Portola Jr/Sr High students in science teacher Brandi Murray’s Integrated Physics class use hand made catapults to see if they can topple the duck on top of the cardboard castle. First, they use an equation to figure out the possible path of the projectile, then they build a model to test out their calculations.

As we navigate the path of education for our children, it's essential to understand the different frameworks in place to ensure their success. One such framework is the A-G requirements, a set of criteria that helps prepare students for university-level coursework and form the base for lifelong learning and adaptability in a rapidly evolving world.

The A-G requirements are a series of courses that students in California must complete to be considered for admission to the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems. Here’s a brief look at what these requirements entail:

  • A - History/Social Science: 2 years required
  • B - English: 4 years required
  • C - Mathematics: 3 years required, 4 years recommended
  • D - Laboratory Science: 2 years required, 3 years recommended
  • E - Language Other than English: 2 years required, 3 years recommended
  • F - Visual and Performing Arts: 1 year required
  • G - College Preparatory Elective: 1 year required

For Sara Sheridan, Principal of Portola Jr/Sr High School, completing the A-G requirements is more than just meeting a checklist of courses. She says, “Engaging in A-G courses during high school isn’t merely a pathway to college; it’s about cultivating vital skills like critical thinking and problem-solving,” all of which are highly useful for students who plan to pursue community college, trade school, or enter the workforce, as well as those who are college-bound. Sheridan continues, “These courses also enrich our worldview and personal development, ensuring that we're broadly informed, regardless of the direction we go post-graduation.

At Quincy Jr/Sr High School, school counselor Jill Dupras explains that while students may initially feel the A-G requirements are only for those who plan to go to college, she hopes to show that finishing them creates opportunities. “I encourage all my students to complete their A-G requirements, if possible, because it will benefit them no matter what road they take.” 

The A-G framework results in a well-rounded education, covering a variety of subject areas, from mathematics and science to the humanities and arts, and Dupras explains that fulfilling the requirements “keeps all options open for post-secondary plans.” For example, while some students have decided to go to college directly after high school, for others that decision may come a few years after graduation. By having all their A-G requirements already completed in high school, those students are eligible to apply for California state universities.

The depth and breadth of A-G courses offer more than a stepping stone to college; they provide a solid foundation that all students can build upon in various aspects of their lives. These courses help students to navigate not only academic challenges but also arm them with skills that are applicable in the workforce, in practical day-to-day tasks, and in understanding the world around them. Recognizing and valuing the knowledge and varied skills our students gain ensures they are prepared and confident for post-high school success and the challenges of the real world.

To find out more about the A-G requirements, and how you can help support your student to complete the courses, reach out to your school’s counselor. A School Counselor is a great resource for high school students and families exploring how to make a successful transition to adulthood after graduation.

Published October 30, 2023