Enrolling at the School You Want


Advice to help you get into the college you want:

n Pay attention to deadlines and dates.

n Keep in mind that even though they may not be required for high school graduation, most colleges require at least three, and often prefer four, years of studies in math, English, science, and social studies. In addition to this, most colleges require at least two years of the same foreign language.

n Your grades are important but the difficulty of your coursework can also be a significant factor in a college’s decision to admit you. In general, most colleges prefer students with average grades in tougher courses than students who opt for an easy A.

n You should also note that most high schools grade Advanced Placement courses on a 5-point scale rather than the 4-point scale used for other classes, essentially giving students a bonus point for tackling the extra difficulty. For example, a B in an AP course is worth as much as an A in a non-AP course.

n College admission officers pay close attention to your grade point average, class rank, college credit, AP courses and scores on standard­ized tests.

n Participation in extracurricular activities is also a good idea in high school. Activities that require time and effort outside the class­room (such as speech and debate, band, communications and drama) indicate a willingness to cooperate with others and put forth the effort needed to succeed.

n Computer science courses or courses that require students to use computers in research and project preparation can also help aid your future college performance.

n Plan a career. Choosing a career and a corresponding major will help you decide which col­leges are right for you.

n Take the necessary tests. Most colleges in the United States require that students submit scores from standardized tests as part of their application packages. The most commonly accepted tests are the ACT Assessment, SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests. For infor­mation about which you should take, talk to your high school coun­selor or to the admissions office(s) at the college(s) to which you will apply.

The ACT Assessment consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, reading, mathematics and science reasoning. It is offered several times a year at locations across the country — usually at high schools and colleges.

For detailed information about the ACT, including information about preparing to take the test, what to take with you on test day and understanding your scores, visit www.act.org.

SAT Reasoning (formerly SAT I) is a three-hour test that measures a student’s ability rather than knowl­edge. It contains three sections: writing, critical reading and math. Most of the questions are multiple-choice.

SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II) measure knowledge in specific subjects within five general catego­ries: English, mathematics, history, science and languages. The spe­cific subjects range from English literature to biology to Modern Hebrew. SAT Subject Tests are pri­marily multiple-choice, and each lasts one hour.

Both the SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests are offered several times a year at locations across the country. For detailed information about these tests, including infor­mation about preparing to take the test, what to take with you on test day and understanding your scores, visit www.collegeboard.org.

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, commonly known as the PSAT, is usually taken in the student’s junior year. It’s good practice for the SAT tests, and it serves as a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s scholarship programs. The PSAT measures skills in verbal reason­ing, critical reading, mathematics problem solving and writing.

The two- to three-hour Advanced Placement (AP) Program exams are usually taken after the student completes an AP course in the relevant subject. (Speak to your high school counselor about tak­ing AP classes.) A good grade on an AP exam can qualify the student for college credit and/or “advanced placement” in that sub­ject in college. For example, if a student scores well on the AP English Literature exam, he or she might not have to take the college’s required freshman-level English course. Most AP tests are at least partly made up of essay questions; some include multiple-choice questions. The tests are offered each spring; each test is offered once, with a makeup day a few weeks later.

The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers students the opportunity to gain college credit by taking an exam. Usually, a stu­dent takes the tests at the college where he or she is already enrolled. Not all colleges offer credit based on CLEP tests, and different col­leges offer different amounts of credit for the same test, so do your research before committing to an exam. Your best source of informa­tion is your college.

n Discover your payment options. You should look into scholarships, student loans and other financial aid options before you apply to a particular college or university. Since there is so much financial aid available, however, and since colleges are generally willing to work with you to put together a favorable financial aid package, money shouldn’t be a primary con­cern when considering a college.

n Apply online. If you currently are a high school senior, then you should complete the FAFSA after Jan. 1 of your senior year



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