Getting to the Quad is an easy to read guide to getting into college.
The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book “Getting To The Quad,” an easy-to-read guide for students on their road to college and campus life.
So, you can’t decide if advanced basket weaving or a third study hall will help on your college applications? Want some tips on class scheduling and what colleges
look at it for admissions? We thought so.
What Do Admissions Officers Look At?
Bottom line, admission officers want to see that you’ve challenged yourself throughout your four years of high school within the context of your high school. That last phrase is important. Admission counselors obviously can’t expect you to take classes that your high school doesn’t offer. The classes you’ve taken, your grades, and class rank, if available, will also be considered.
Doing Well In Classes v. Challenging Yourself – This is a delicate balance. Admission counselors want to see good grades and tough courses; if it can only be one or the other, it is always better to take the more challenging course and have slightly lower grades than getting all A’s in easy classes.
Relevant Coursework – If you are interested in an engineering or a pre-med curriculum, science and math courses should feature prominently on your transcript. If you are interested in painting, an admission counselor would expect to see that you’ve taken a fine arts course.
Advanced Placement Courses – In a nutshell, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college level courses taught in the high school by a high school teacher.
- Credit in College – Policies vary widely. Usually a certain AP test score is required to receive credit at the college level. Sometimes you are able to receive full credit for the course (as if you took it at the college), while other times you can move into an upper-level course without prerequisites. Carefully examine the policy at each of the schools on your college list, as it may mean saving time and/or money.
- Scoring – AP tests are scored on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the top score. A student generally needs to receive a 3 or above for the college to consider giving credit, placement, etc.
International Baccalaureate – International Baccalaureate (IB) is an international program of study, culminating in a highly respected diploma. IB courses are similar to AP courses, but the IB curriculum is not offered at nearly as many high schools as AP.
- Credit in College – This varies widely. Usually a certain IB test score on the upper-level IB exams, not the standard ones, is required to receive credit at the college level. Sometimes you are able to receive full credit for the course (as if you took it at the college), other times you can move into an upper-level course without prerequisites. Carefully examine the policy at each of the schools on your college list.
- Scoring – IB tests are scored on a 1-7 scale, with 7 being the top score. A student generally needs to receive a 5 or above for the college to consider giving credit, placement, etc.
Honors/Advanced Courses – The vast majority of high schools offer some sort of honors track in which classes are accelerated, course material is more challenging, and the teachers and students have higher expectations of course work.
- To Take/Not Take – Every high school is going to have different policies on which students take honors courses. Sometimes it is self-initiated, while other times a student must “qualify” for these courses. You should stack your schedule with as many honors/advanced/AP courses as you can. The more challenging your courseload (and the higher your grades), the more impressive you will be to the admission committees.
College Courses - These are different from AP courses in that they are taught on college campuses by college professors.
- Credit in College – Similar to AP courses, credit is going to vary widely depending upon the type of course taken, your proposed major and the college you choose to attend.
- To Take/Not Take – College courses are great if you’ve “maxed-out” your high school offerings, have an interest in a subject not offered by your high school, or want some extra enrichment over the summer. College courses are also a great way to augment an otherwise strong transcript and show seriousness of academic pursuits.
Standardized tests are a key component of the college process, so make sure you know about all the types of tests and which tests are used by the colleges where you are applying.
SATs – An exam administered by The College Board that serves as a means for colleges to have a standardized system of comparing high school students from across the country (and the world).
- What the test covers – The SAT has three sections: 1) math, 2) critical reading (verbal), and 3) writing. All three sections are comprised of multiple choice questions; the writing section also includes a short written essay. The SAT is scored on a 200-800 scale for each of the three sections. A perfect score is a 2400.
- Registration – The SAT is offered several times throughout the calendar year.
To find registration information, including payment options, score reporting,
locations, and frequently asked questions, the College Board Web site is the
best resource, www.collegeboard.com.
ACTs – The ACT is comparable to the SAT as a standardized tool for college admission committees to assess the preparedness of applicants. A top score for the ACT is 36.
- What they cover – The ACT is a multiple-choice test that covers four skill areas: 1) english, 2) mathematics, 3) reading, and 4) science. There is an optional writing section as well. Should you decide to take the ACT, you should also dothe writing section, as many colleges now require this.
- Registration – Like the SAT, the ACT is offered several times throughoutthe year. For information about registration, payment, locations, viewing or
sending scores, see the ACT Web site, www.act.org.
SAT Subject Tests – SAT Subject Tests are administered by the College Board, those same lovely people who brought you the original SAT. The Subject Tests are hourlong exams that test your understanding of a very specific subject area.
- What they cover – The SAT Subject Tests fall into five subject areas: 1) english, 2) history and social studies, 3) mathematics, 4) science, and 5) languages. The SAT Subject Tests are scored on a 200-800 scale.
- Registration – SAT Subject Tests are offered several times throughout the year. Consult the College Board Web site, www.collegeboard.com, for all the details.
Excerpted with permission from "Getting to the Quad," written by Michael Bergman.
Visit gettingtothequad.com to read about the progress of the book through Bergman’s blog, get some free tunes, take part in polls and and find out how to get your own copy of the book, which will be available to the public in November.