• Survival Guide: Preparing for College Admissions

    Create a list of colleges

    • Research colleges that have the major you are interested in

    • Do you want to be close to home?

    • In-state or Out-of-state

    • Check out the admitted student profile for colleges of interest

    What kind of college are you looking for?

    • Do you learn better in a small environment?

    • How do you feel about large classrooms where the professor lectures?

    • Do you want to go to a college that has strong athletic participation?

    • Big city? Large or small campus? 

    Application Deadline

    • Research deadlines

      • When are the early admission deadlines? 

      • When are the early decision deadlines? 

      • When are the general application deadlines?

    Things colleges are looking for in your application

    • Colleges will vary in their student selection

    • Make sure you meet and exceed the university minimum (college stats provided at the end of this document). 

    • Colleges are taking a more holistic look at college applications.  It’s not all test scores and GPAs.  

    • Highlight your extracurricular activities that have made an impact on your life

      • Have you taken leadership roles in your organization or do you just have a laundry list of activities?

        • Colleges know when these are not authentic interactions

      • What kind of positive impact have your activities made on others?

    Visit the Campus!

    • Go on a campus tour (in person or virtual!). Schedule a private tour or attend an official Open House

    • Talk to students who attend the college

    • Most likely you will live in a dorm - check those out too!

      • A campus visit can be the final piece of the college puzzle

      • A college that you thought you always loved may feel too big or impersonal

      • This visit can save you a lot of headaches and help you make the right decision.

      • This college choice is the next 4 years of your life, it’s a major decision!


    Transcript, Test Scores, and Grades

    • Colleges will look at all grades. No year is more important than any other.

    • Taking every AP or advanced class offered at your school is not required for admissions.

      • “We don’t need to see the student who intends to pursue magazine journalism in AP Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus. That person is probably better off with two advanced English courses.”, Laura Linn, director of the admissions at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. 

    • Test scores show how you perform on one test on one day.  

      • A college knows this, but we must strive to do our best.

        • Study, prepare, and retake if necessary

        • Don’t retake a test just to retake it.  Make sure you are actively trying to increase your score.  

    • Don’t wait until your senior year to take your first SAT or ACT.  Take it early so you know if you have a score that is acceptable at your college. Junior year is the perfect time to take the SAT and ACT. 

      • This way, you won’t feel rushed if you need to take it again.

    What piece of the First-year student Puzzle are You?

    • Colleges are seeking to create a well-rounded first-year student class.  

      • Not all students will have a 4.0 GPA.

      • Your coursework and extracurricular activities should lead toward similar goals.

        • Want to be a doctor? Have you taken rigorous science classes, done an internship at a medical office, or participated in a local blood drive? 

    How do you show a college you are interested in?

    • Contact admissions.

    • Make connections with professors within the department that holds your major.

    • Attend workshops or summer opportunities.

    • Social media! Like their Facebook Page and follow their Instagram and Twitter.  Favorite and Like posts.  Make sure they see your name.


    • Start thinking of potential recommendations

      • It should be someone who can speak about you from firsthand experience and has personal stories to share of how you contribute in the classroom. 

      • Your recommender should be able to describe you with detailed thought. A generic list of grades and accomplishments that can be found on your transcript is not beneficial. 

      • When the time comes to apply, give your recommender a week or more notice to have your letter completed. Ask earlier than the deadlines to make sure that all pieces of your application are turned in on time.


    The Cost of a College Education

    • Don't worry about the cost until the SPRING OF YOUR SENIOR YEAR
      • They WILL NOT give you money if you don't apply!
    • Don’t get hung up on the sticker price

      • Just like a car, every single item is valued differently.

      • Most students never pay the price advertised on college publications.

    • Scholarships

      • Millions of dollars each year go unrequested

      • If you do not apply, you will not receive it…it’s that simple.

      • Academic scholarships from the school, local scholarships, EVERY dollar counts when it comes to financial aid!

    • FAFSA – Federal Application for Student Aid

      • This is not just loans!

      • Students can receive the Pell Grant, scholarships, and Federal Work-Study by completing the FAFSA.  

      • Many schools will require your family to complete this form.



    • Have PASSION for your topic

      • Do not try to make up some tragic event in your life. It will look unauthentic

      • How do you know if you have passion?

        • If you can write your essay in about an hour.  It comes from the heart and will just flow!

      • Proofread, have someone else proofread for you.

        • Spell check is not your friend!  Words can be spelled correctly but used incorrectly.

      • Your essay should contain your voice.

        • Most schools do not give you an interview, your essay or personal statement is YOU on a piece of paper.

        • You want to be the statement that they can’t stop talking about, that they share with others.




    • Create/login to your CFNC account

    • Gather all your testing data (ACT/SAT)

      • It is possible that colleges will waive these score requirements for the upcoming year (final decisions not made yet)

    • Know your GPA and class rank

    • College Lists with requirements

    • Research college options

    • Possible college majors (minors)

    • Tour Colleges

    • Transfer credits available