When should we start the college admissions process?
This common question actually has a two part answer. The actual process of finding the right college typically begins in junior year of high school. However, the planning for the process starts much earlier, ideally in the freshman and sophomore years.
In the next few posts I will be exploring the issues that high school freshman and sophomores should be considering before beginning the actual search for the right college.
Classes to take
Ideally, students will take classes in the following subject areas:
- 4 years of English
- 4 years of social studies/history
- 4 years of math
- 4 years of science
- 4 years of one foreign language
Not every student will be able to handle this rigorous a course load but the closer you are to taking 4 years of each of the 5 academic subjects, the stronger candidate you will be for college.
Take rigorous courses
- Take the most challenging sequence of courses in which you can do well
- Colleges like to see students challenge themselves
- Colleges love to see AP or IB courses particularly if you do well in them
- Strongest applicants will have AP courses in several core subjects
- If you think you can get an A or B, then take the more challenging course
- If not, take the less challenging course
Grades received and courses taken are the most important factors in college admissions.
Stay tuned for part two in the early planning series: standardized tests.
I go to an extremely rigorous & well known private school in New Jersey, and am currently a sophomore. My course load is very heavy and I take all honors & AP courses, with as many APs as possible. I have two questions.
1. Would it be better to get a B/B+ in an AP course or an A/A+ in the regular?
2. In my junior year, I will have the opportunity to do one of three things. I can take Accelerated French for Spanish & Latin students (it covers 2 years of French in 1) with Latin AP and take only a minor art course, I can take a major studio art course and Latin AP whilst forgetting about French, or I can drop Latin and take French up to level 3 and take the major studio art course. Which is most impressive?
And, so you know, art is one of my main extra curricular activities. Most of my clubs have to do with the visual arts and I figure that my creativity combined with great grades & scores might help me stand out when applying to top quality schools.
Todd Johnson says
There are different factors that can effect my recommendations but generally, you are probably better off taking the AP course and getting a slightly lower grade. The best, of course, is taking the AP and getting an A.
As far as which course to take there is no one right answer. Based on the limited information provided I would lean toward the major studio art class since your focus is on art. Also, since you appear to have some background in Latin and none so far in French, I would go with the Latin AP class. If you really like languages and if you have the chance senior year, taking the accelerated French class would be a good option. Most colleges will have no preference for French or Latin so I would go with what you already have, Latin.
Kayla Mills says
I’m currently freshman and I absolutly know what i want to go to college for. I want to go for Labor And Delivery Nursing and then move up to a doctor. Should I go ahead and start looking into colleges?
Todd Johnson says
It is fine if you already know what you want to do but you still do not need to worry about particular colleges. Instead, what I would suggest, is that you look into what type of college you wish to attend. Small, large, urban, rural, academically focused, that sort of thing. Visit different types of colleges near you and you will most likely start to get an idea of what type of college is best for you.
Just a quick comment on what you wish to go to college for. Nursing school, like medical school, is general training, not specific. Once you have your RN you can decide which type of nursing you wish to do but you don’t need to worry about that in finding a nursing school.
The other comment is that if you are looking to eventually attend medical school I would suggest that you discuss this option with some of the nursing programs. Nursing tends to have very specific courses to take because you need to include your clinical training. However, medical schools also have some specific courses you need to take that will not necessarily be courses you would normally take in nursing school. organic chemistry is one example. See if you can find a nursing program that has the flexibility to allow you to take the pre med courses as well as the nursing courses. Otherwise, you may need to take a few additional courses to apply to medical school even after you have your nursing degree.
I’m a sophomore and I really want to get into AP classes but my school doesn’t have anymore spots open. I know I’m responsible and hardworking enough for AP classes but I think I missed my opportunity, should I just keep going with my regular classes or wait until my junior year to take AP classes.
Todd Johnson says
If you can get into AP classes as a sophomore and you can handle the class work, great. However, you don’t need to take AP classes to be competitive for selective colleges. If you can’t get into AP classes this year, just work to do your best in your regular classes and take AP classes next year.
So I’m a freshman… I’ve decided that i want to go to a college in a suburban area and study criminology. I take level 2 classes and level 1 Spanish and world studies but everything is level 2. I have ADD and I can’t really focus as well as other students. My guidance lady said that I should start looking into colleges that would interest me and have criteria of everything I want, major and minor classes. Will it be harder to get into college because of my disadvantage and the levels of classes? And is my counselor right about looking into colleges?
Todd Johnson says
Different high schools have different levels of classes so I am not sure what the difference is at your school between level 1 and level 2 classes. I can tell you in general terms that your grades and the classes you take to get those grades are the most important factors for virtually all colleges.
Right now you should focus on doing the best you can in the classes you are taking. You should be taking the most challenging classes that you can take and still do well in.
Having ADD will not be a disadvantage to you but if you get poorer grades because of that then it will impact the range of colleges that you can consider. Be assured that there are colleges in the US that are appropriate for every type of student. Even if you struggle with classes because of the ADD there will be colleges that will be options for you.
You don’t say if you are on medication for the ADD but if not you may wish to consider doing so. Talk to your doctor about this.
Your counselor is right that you will need to find the best colleges for you depending on your grades, test scores, interests and those type of issue. However, you do not need to be worrying about what college to attend at this point. Normally, I start identifying particular colleges for students to consider when they are in their junior year.
Patti Markel says
I’m a sophomore,and I have gotten some college information in the mail and I liked looking at them online.I take all academic classes and I take I’m in my second year of Spanish.I’m also in an Engineering class,and Art class.I wanted to start getting more college information in the mail but I don’t know how to get more colleges to contact me?
I’ve decided I want to go kinda far away for school,but not to far and Id like to go to a kind of smaller/medium sized college.
My teachers say that its about time that I start looking into colleges and deciding what I want to do after High School.Is it too early?Or is this about the right time?
Oh,and I was also wondering,I was thinking about taking some college classes next year,like Post Secondary classes,would that be a good thing that colleges look at,or does it really matter?
Todd Johnson says
It is not too early to start looking at what you might want in a college. Getting information from the colleges is fun but the real issue right now is trying to figure out what you want from a college. Location, size, academic competitiveness, that sort of thing. Here is a link to a page on my website that discusses some of the issues to consider. http://cap1.wpengine.com/resources/info-to-know/finding-a-college/
You may not have an idea on some of these issues and it is often helpful to visit some colleges near you of various types to see what type of college you might like. You are not looking at particular colleges yet but rather general types. So look at a big school, a mid size school and a small school to see which seems to fit you best.
Once you have a general idea of what you want from a college you can go to a site like College Navigator to find some colleges that might fit your needs. You can then request information from those colleges. If you take the PSAT or PLAN test you will be asked a question when registering that asks if you allow colleges to contact you. If you say yes, you will hear from many more colleges. Colleges buy the names and contact information of students from the SAT and ACT to send information to.
As for taking college level classes that is fine but generally you would be better taking AP classes if your school offers them. Many colleges prefer AP classes to college classes if both are offered since the AP is a standard test that they understand and know. The may or may not be familiar with the colleges you might attend while in high school.