The college admissions process begins with high school. The classes you take now, and the grades you achieve, are the primary factors used in determining admission. Most colleges and universities require applicants to have completed 4 years of English, 4 years of math, 3-4 years of science, 2 years of social science, and 2-4 years of a foreign language. Taking college-preparatory courses—such as advanced placement (AP), international baccalaureate, and honors classes—will give you an advantage in gaining admission to more competitive schools. Also, check out the Admissions links below.
High school is also the time to pursue extracurricular areas of interest—but be aware that admissions officers are less interested in lists of activities than they are in finding evidence that an applicant is pursuing interests with passion and dedication, including taking on leadership responsibilities.
Other key components in college admissions include:
- Financial aid— Most students require some form of financial aid to help with the costs of college, but some schools do consider ability to pay in evaluating applications. All prospective college students and their parents are advised to begin their financial planning early. For more information, see Financial Aid.
- Standardized tests—College entrance exams are required for admission at many schools (though there are schools where test scores are optional). Visit the websites for the SAT and ACT to learn when and how to register for these exams and to find strategies on how best to prepare. Non-native speakers of English may also need to take the TOEFL exam
- The essay—The application essay provides an important opportunity to show the admissions committee who you really are. Draft your essay early and rewrite and polish it before you submit it.
- The interview—While interviewing has become less common, particularly at highly selective schools, it’s worthwhile to set up an interview when possible. This is another chance to stand out from the crowd and to highlight extracurricular accomplishments—as well as to ask questions. Be prepared to say what you want to do in college and why this particular school is the best place to do it.
- Recommendations—The credentials of the people who write your recommendations are less important than how well they know you and what they have to say. Choose carefully.
Remember, the college admissions process is all about finding a good fit—both for you and for the school—so be sure to check out the websites of AICUM member colleges and tailor your application to the schools you like best. And, be prepared for admissions officers to check you out too! That means your Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other social media sites should be free of any inappropriate or potentially offensive materials.