The college admissions process begins well before senior year. Careful planning of courses, your academic performance, and realistic goals are paramount. The actual act of applying to college typically takes place in the fall of senior year. Schools vary in their requirements as well as their application deadlines. It is important to visit the websites of each school you are considering and compile a list of deadlines and requirements. Some families find it helpful to keep this information in a spreadsheet.
You may need to compile the following documents as part of your application process:
- Official High School Transcript
- List of activities/and or Resume
- Official SAT/ACT Scores (These are printed on your official high school transcript, but you will need to determine if schools you are applying to will accept these as official or if you need to request your scores directly from the College Board or ACT).
- Letters of Recommendation - more info/guide here
Factors in the Admissions Process
Many colleges today take a holistic approach to reviewing applications. This means they will consider a variety of factors. The most important component however is the student's academic record. The courses you choose and the grades you earn are one of the top factors colleges will be using to make an admission decision. Academics can also play a large role in scholarship consideration.
Course requirements will vary by institution so it is important to work closely with the schools you are considering to determine their requirements.
Idaho College Admission Core Classes for high school:
- 4 years of English
- 1 year of Humanities & Language
- 3 years of Math
- 3 years of Natural Science
- 2.5 years of Social Science
- 1.5 years of other college preparation (speech, debate)
These requirements will vary by state and institution. For example, the UC system in California requires:
- 4 years of English
- 2 years of History/Social Science
- 3 years of Math
- 2 years of Laboratory science
- 2 years of language other than English
- 1 year of visual and performing arts
- 1 year of college-preparatory elective
More selective colleges may have additional course requirements including an additional year of a foreign language (3rd level completion) and specific math and science courses for certain academic programs such as Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science.
Admission committees often evaluate the rigor of the courses you complete as well. It is important to take courses that challenge you in a variety of ways and help you to think critically and go more in depth into course content. It is important to be thoughtful when choosing electives and find areas where you can explore, grow, and learn. Academic rigor becomes particularly important if you are planning to apply to a more selective college as they will be looking for success in Honors, Advanced Placement, and Dual Enrollment.
Most colleges and universities require a standardized test as part of the application process. These scores will be utilized not only for admission purposes, but may also be used for class placement and merit scholarships. You may choose to take either the ACT or SAT - most colleges will accept both and do not preference one over the other. Both exams test your knowledge of math, English grammar and reading comprehension and take about 3-4 hours to complete. Practice booklets for both exams can be found in the counseling center and visit the test prep link for additional resources.
LCHS offers the SAT during the school day in April to all juniors. Preparing for the exam is extremely important and many students find success taking the exam a second time.
Many college applications also require a personal statement, essay or short answer. You can typically determine if an essay is required by visiting the admissions tab on a college's website and finding a list of required documents needed to apply. Some colleges will give you the freedom to write on a topic of your choice, while others will supply a specific question or prompt. The Common Application historically has six prompts from which to choose and some colleges will require a supplemental essay. The college essay/personal statement is an important part of your application. It is your chance to tell the admission committee who you are and is a way to express yourself beyond the information contained in the rest of your application.
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
More selective colleges often require letters of recommendation. Again, you may find out which colleges require letters of recommendation by visiting the college's admission website pages. Colleges typically require a letter from your counselor in addition to 1-3 from teachers. We recommend that you request letters of recommendation from core subject area teachers. While a neighbor or family friend may write a great letter of recommendation, they will not be able to elaborate on the type of student you are in the classroom, your study habits, learning style, and potential for success at the college level.
- Provide recommenders with at least three weeks to write your letter. Remember to give them plenty of time before your deadlines.
- Provide recommenders with a "brag sheet" and/or resume
- Once you list them on your application as a recommender, be sure to follow up to ensure they receive notification
- It is polite to write thank you letters to all of your recommenders
Colleges and Universities like to see students involved in something outside of the school day. It communicates good time management skills as the student knows how to balance academics with extracurricular activities. Colleges also anticipate that if a student is involved in high school, there is a good chance they will be engaged in the college campus community as well. There is not a magic number of clubs and organizations to join, nor preference given to involvement. Colleges do however like to see continued involvement and leadership positions or increased commitment. Talk with your counselor about ways to get involved at LCHS and in the community.
Some college admission offices keep track of their interactions with you and how much interest you have expressed in their campus. In some cases, demonstrated interest may help you get accepted over a similar applicant. You may consider visiting the campus in person, calling the Office of Admissions with a question, signing up for the college's mailing list, or specifically addressing things you like about the campus in your essay. Do not be overly zealous, but use these opportunities to express your interest in the school, while learning more about the campus to help determine if it will be a good fit for you.
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF HIGH SCHOOL
Admission decisions are contingent upon successful completion of high school. Colleges reserve the right to rescind or overturn a previous offer of admission if a student's GPA drastically declines or the student does not graduate. It is important to communicate any changes in your senior year schedule to colleges you have applied to. Keep working hard during your senior year and don't give in to senioritis!