Part I – The Academic Record
When determining whether or not to accept an applicant, colleges use some, if not all, of the information listed below. Individual colleges, however, differ in how they evaluate this information. For example, one college may place a great deal of importance on test scores. Another college may focus on other factors.
Ø Grade Point Average (GPA)
Ø Strength of subjects
Ø ACT/SAT scores
Ø Class rank
Ø Special talents/awards
Ø Personal qualities
Even though individual colleges use their own criteria when evaluating prospective students, colleges generally consider the grades earned in college prep courses to be the most important criteria for college admissions.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
A student’s grade point average is an indication of how well the student is performing in high school. A student’s GPA is included on every transcript, and it’s one of the first things that colleges look for.
GPA is simply the average of a student’s semester (or end of term) grades, starting with the freshman year. Although there are variations, most high schools use a 4.0 scale (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1). Students who have all As have a 4.0 GPA. Students with As in half of their courses and Bs in the rest have a 3.5 GPA.
LCPS has “weighted grades” for honors and AP (Advanced Placement) courses. The grade in a weighted course is worth more than it is in a non-weighted course. For example, an A in an honors course is 4.5 points instead of the usual 4.0; a B worth 3.5 points instead of a 3, etc. AP classes have an additional 1.0 weight.
LCPS uses class rank to show where a student stands academically in relation to the other members of his/her graduating class. The student who has the highest GPA is number one, the student with the second-highest GPA is number two, etc. In order to have an impressive class rank, it’s necessary to have a high GPA.
Class rank is usually written as two numbers (e.g., 35/295). The first number represents the student’s place in the class. The second number represents the total number of students in the graduating class.
Many scholarships stipulate that students must be in the top 10% or 20% of their graduating class. Class rank, therefore, can be very important for those students who are applying for scholarships.
High School Transcript
A transcript is a document detailing a student’s academic achievement in high school. High school transcripts generally include the following information:
Ø Courses, grades, and credits for each semester completed, beginning with the grade in which high school courses were taken.
Ø Current cumulative GPA and class rank
Ø Anticipated graduation date
A transcript provides admissions and scholarship committees with important objective data. All colleges and most scholarship programs request that an official transcript be submitted with each application. Unless they’re electronically transferred directly from one institution to another, official transcripts must have a signature, stamp, or seal verifying their authenticity.
Many high schools have a school profile that they send with every transcript. A school profile is a one or two-page document that includes pertinent information about the school and the community. School profiles usually include information on the size of the school, the percentage of students who go on to college, the average ACT/SAT scores of the previous graduating class(es), and information on how the school calculates grade point averages.
While the transcript provides colleges and scholarships committees with the information about the student, the school profile provides information about the school the student is attending.
College Recommended Courses
Four-year colleges generally recommend that students take the following college preparatory courses in high school:
4 years of English
3-4 years of math (including Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II)
3-4 years of science
2-3 years of the same foreign language
3 years of social studies
1 year of fine or performing arts
College bound students should complete all of the above recommended courses, if possible. Students who haven’t taken all of these courses may be required to take remedial and/or additional courses once they’re in college. Students who haven’t taken several of the above courses may want to consider starting at a community college or at a college’s branch campus. These students can then transfer to a four-year college (or to the main campus) after a year or two.
It’s important to note that competitive schools and programs consider the above to be the minimum requirements. They recommend that students challenge themselves by taking advanced, honors, AP and IB courses whenever possible. As a general rule, high school students should take as many college preparatory math, science, English, social studies, and foreign language courses as possible.
Part II – College Information
College Admissions Terms
Common Application – This standardized college admissions application is accepted at over 400 colleges. Using the Common Application can save students who are applying to two or more of these colleges hours of work. www.commonapp.org
Deferred Acceptance – Sometimes students who apply early decision or early action are not accepted or rejected; they are deferred. This means that the college is postponing the admission decision. Deferred students can often improve their chances for admission by providing additional information (evidence of improved grades or higher test scores, an impressive letter of recommendation, etc.).
Early Action/Early Decision – Students who apply early action or early decision submit their application for admission early in their senior year. These students then receive early notification on the college’s decision. Early decision is binding. Students applying for early decision make a commitment to enroll if they are accepted. Early action is not binding.
Rolling Admission – Colleges with rolling admission make decisions on applications as they receive them. Applicants are usually notified of their acceptance within three or four weeks.
Selectivity – Colleges have varying levels of selectivity. Colleges with open admissions generally accept any student with a high school diploma. Selective and highly selective colleges are looking for students with impressive credentials (high GPAs and test scores).
Waitlisted – Waitlisted students are accepted if enough of the accepted students don’t enroll. Like deferred students, waitlisted students can improve their chances of acceptance by providing additional information.
Have your child talk to his/her counselor about 1) which test to take,
2) when to take them, and 3) score reporting options.
PSAT/NMSQT (Prelimiray SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) – a practice test for the SAT Reasoning Test. The PSAT/NMSQT is divided into five sections: two Critical Reading, two Math, and one Writing. This test is primarily for juniors, but in LCPS Grades 9-10 take it also. High schools give this test in October.
Students should take the PSAT for the following reasons: 1) it’s good practice for the SAT; 2) students can compare their academic skills to the skills of other college bound students; 3) students can find out which areas they need to work on; and 4) students whose scores are exceptionally high are recognized by the National Merit Foundation. This recognition can lead to scholarships.
ACT – a college entrance exam that students can generally take during their junior and/or senior year. The ACT is offered in September, October, December, February, April, and June. Students receive scores in English, Reading, Math, and Science, along with a Composite (average) score. There is also a Writing test. The Writing test is optional, but some colleges require it. Students can register for the ACT at www.actstudent.org.
SAT Reasoning Test – a college entrance exam that students usually take during their junior and/or senior year. The SAT is offered in October, November, December, January, March, May, and June. The SAT has three sections: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. Students can register for the SAT at www.collegeboard.com.
SAT Subject Tests – one-hour tests that measure a student’s knowledge in specific subject areas (biology, French, calculus, etc.). Some elective colleges recommend or require that students take two or three SAT Subject Tests for admission and/or placement.
Part III – Choosing a College
Determine Your Criteria
When looking for colleges that will be a good match for your child, consider the following:
Public or Private – Public colleges are generally larger and less expensive than private colleges.
Size – College sizes vary greatly. Smaller colleges are more personal; larger colleges offer more majors, programs, and activities.
Academic Programs – If your child wants a specific major, you need to look for colleges that offer that major. Students who don’t know what they want to study should consider colleges with a wide range of majors.
Cost – When calculating college costs, be sure to include tuition, fees, room and board, books, travel costs, and an allowance for personal expenses. Remember, financial aid often makes it possible for students to attend colleges that would otherwise be too expensive.
To do an online search for the colleges that meet your criteria, go to www.collegeboard.com and go through their “College Matchmaker.”
Make College Visits
Making a college visit is the best way to find out if a college is going to be right for your child. To set up a college visit, call the admissions office and let them know when you would like to visit. The admissions office can then set up appointments and arrange for a campus tour.
Many colleges have visitation days and open houses. These programs generally include tours and information sessions on a variety of topics (financial aid, admissions, honors programs, etc.).
Reference: Woodburn Press