The findings of this study demonstrated a consistent advantage experienced by students who completed rigorous high school curricula, and to a lesser extent by those completing mid-level curricula, over their peers completing core curricula or lower.
However, the level of high school curricula students reported completing also was related to their family background characteristics and indicators of socioeconomic status, including family income, parents’ education, race/ethnicity, and the economic status of their high school’s student body. All of these factors relate to whether or not students have the opportunities to participate in and complete rigorous curricula. Moreover, students’ success in staying in college was also related to where they first enrolled and how well they did in their first year. Yet, even when all these factors were taken into consideration, the advantage of completing a rigorous high school academic curriculum remained.The same was not observed for levels of SAT scores. Similar to the findings for curriculum levels, SAT scores were related to persistence when first-year college GPA was not included in the regression. However, after GPA was added, high school curriculum remained a significant factor, but SAT scores did not. These findings are consistent with recent research based on high school transcripts for a cohort of 1980 high school sophomores (Adelman 1999); this study demonstrated that high school curriculum was a stronger predictor of bachelor’s degree attainment than standardized test scores or other measures of high school academic performance.
High School Academic Curriculum and and the Persistence Path Through College
That explains why college admissions officers tell parents they're looking for "challenging" courses on high school transcripts.
High school kids who've taken serious courses are more likely to make it through all 4 years of college.