The quality of the high school education you receive can depend on the
choices you make. The courses you take, the effort you exert to keep your grades
up, your class rank, the results of your standardized tests, and the life
experiences you have all play a part in determining whether or not the college
you want to attend will admit you.
If possible, begin planning in middle school. Preparation before high school
can make a world of difference. For instance, some school districts allow
students to schedule Algebra I during eighth grade. Taking advantage of such
options can allow students to schedule higher level mathematics courses or
advanced placement studies during their junior and senior years in high school
or to participate in courses specifically geared to an interest. Some high
school graduates have college credits before they ever start college.
Take control! The decisions you make about your high school studies can
influence whether the college you choose will also want you.
Courses and Grades
For starters, find out what courses you need to take in high school to be
admitted to the college you want to attend and to be prepared for the field you
want to study.
Even if they are not required for high school graduation, most colleges
require at least three, and preferably four, years of studies in the following
- Social Studies
In addition, most colleges require at least two years of the same foreign
language. Computer science courses or courses that require students to use
computers in research and project preparation are often essential for college
performance. Participation in extra-curricular activities are also a good idea
in high school. Courses that require study and time outside the classroom (like
debate, band, communications, and drama) indicate a willingness to cooperate
with others and to put in the effort needed to succeed.
Your grades are important. But, the difficulty of your coursework can also be
a significant admissions factor. In general, most colleges prefer students with
average grades in tougher courses than students who opt for "an easy
College admissions counselors usually consider class rank, also. By doing so,
colleges are looking at the grades you make in relation to your peers. Although
the size of a graduating class can affect the significance of rank and debate
over its meaning continues, some universities automatically admit students who
graduate in the top ten percent of their class. Check with the school you want
to attend to see if they have such a program.
In addition to course work, grades, and class rank, standardized test scores
(such as the SAT and ACT) can be included among the criteria for admission to
some colleges and universities. Many graduate and professional programs also
have testing requirements for admission.
Life Experiences and Skills
People considering college for the first time after being in the workforce
for a while can often use their work and life experiences toward gaining college
admission. Some colleges consider such experiences to be more important than
your high school transcript from many years ago or your entrance exam scores.
Check with the college you're interested in attending about the application
process for "nontraditional" students to see if admission requirements
College Credit before You Start
Often high school students are eligible to receive college credit while they
are still enrolled in high school. Advanced Placement and Tech-Prep courses
offer students who prepare early and take more difficult courses during their
junior high and high school years the chance to gain college credit and save on
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are available in over 20 subjects. Students
scoring high enough on AP exams can receive college credit and save time and
money by taking fewer college courses. Ask your high school counselor if AP
courses are available in your school.
Tech-Prep courses in high school can prepare students planning on pursuing a
technical program in a community, technical, or junior college. Talk to a
counselor at the college you plan to attend to find out the best courses to
take. Ask about school-to-work activities and study programs available in your
area. Some schools even offer opportunities to gain experience at an area work
College admissions exams can affect not only your admissions to college but
sometimes your acceptance into certain courses. Your test scores on particular
portions of an entrance exam may determine whether you can schedule basic level
college courses, must schedule remedial courses (courses which do not provide
college credit and are designed to bring a student's skills up to basic course
standards), or might be given credit for basic level courses. Although
admissions exams cannot keep you from attending college, your scores can
sometimes determine how and where your studies begin.