Some high school seniors pick a program they aren’t “qualified” for.

Plenty of students don’t pick a potential major until they’re ready to apply to college in senior year. In most cases it’s not an issue, unless a teen wants to major in a program that has prerequisites they haven’t met. For fine arts students that means training for an audition or preparing a portfolio for admission to a college program. For potential STEM majors, AP or IB level classes are sometimes necessary for admission. If your student doesn’t have what they need yet, all may not be lost. If you and your teen are up for putting in the extra time and possibly money, they can study the major they want even if they’re coming to the field late.

silhouette of ballet dancer
Photo by Gustavo Tabosa on

Make changes to a class schedule If your teen is entering junior or senior year, there’s still time to adjust their class schedule to help meet college requirements for their intended major. Obviously, taking prerequisite classes or creating work for a portfolio in junior year is better than waiting until senior year. But even taking a required course in senior year allows a student to fulfill course requirements and submit midyear grades with their Regular deadline application.

Use the summer before senior year to fill in missing pieces Community college is a good place to take a summer course. Yes, high school students can sign up for these classes, including in the arts. Your teen can prepare themselves for auditions, enhance their portfolio, take a required course that they can’t fit into their senior year schedule or take a class in their potential major to see if they’re really interested in it.

Summer is also a good time to work with a tutor or coach [see below]. A tutor can help your student prep for upcoming classes. A coach can prepare them for auditions or assist with portfolio development.

Research colleges that don’t require an audition or portfolio Students interested in arts-related fields—dance performance, audio engineering, photography, theatre arts management, for example—but with little experience in these areas, should look for colleges that don’t require an audition or portfolio review. For teens who don’t feel confident enough in their ability, these colleges are the way to go. There are fewer of these schools, but by doing some digging, you can find them.

Find a good program with less requirements Plenty of colleges offer solid programs in your teen’s potential major, even if they’re not on that list of top 100 colleges for this field. Like the colleges with arts-related programs that don’t require auditions, not all colleges with STEM majors require AP or IB classes, as long as the student has the prerequisite high school level classes in specific subjects.

Hire a tutor or coach Though it’s an expensive option, go this route if your family can afford to hire a tutor to prepare your student for advanced classes or a coach to provide additional arts instruction.

Make sure to hire a coach who’s been recommended to you and understands the audition or portfolio requirements of your teen’s prospective colleges. Your student’s arts teachers can likely provide some names.

If your teen has to add a required class at the AP or IB level, or in a subject where they normally earn a B but need an A, an experienced tutor can make a difference.

Consider a gap year Your teen can spend the first half of their gap year working on their skills, developing or strengthening their portfolio, or practicing for their audition. This can be through private instruction, in-person group classes or online courses.

Non-arts majors can use the summer and/or fall of their gap year to take one or more prerequisite courses to meet admissions standards for their intended major.

With Regular college application deadlines ranging from January 1 to April 1, and audition and portfolio review dates extending into spring, your student can aim to attend college that fall.

Start out at a community college Community college is an affordable way for a student to develop their talents and skills in the arts or catch up on prerequisite courses for their intended major, while earning credits toward their college degree.

It’s important for a student to talk with an admissions officer or adviser in advance to understand how to smoothly transfer into a four-year college without losing credits along the way. This way they can spend the following two years taking classes in their major at the four-year college and earn their bachelor’s degree.

Apply again during freshman year Some colleges will offer an acceptance to their institution even if a student is not admitted to their program of choice. This means a student can attend the college and reapply for that original program later in their freshman year. The advantage is that your teen can attend the college they like, do the necessary prep work to become a more qualified candidate for their intended major and hopefully earn admission to that program for the following year, all while earning necessary general education credits.

If your student is serious about majoring in an area that they don’t have the background for, with some hard work and preparation, they can improve their chances of acceptance in their program of choice.