2Identify Important Factors in Choosing a College In choosing a college, the first things you'll probably consider will be the type of academic program and the availability of the major—or majors—you are most interested in.Here are some other things to think about as you compare colleges. How you rank these other factors will depend largely on your personal preferences and needs.Number your top five factors by importance below.
3Choosing a CollegeChoosing a college is one of the toughest choices you'll make in high school. Each of these articles offers some great tips for choosing a college.Identify important factors in choosing a collegeA list of things to consider when evaluating and comparing colleges.Think about your reasons for going to collegePeople go to college for different reasons. How do your reasons for wanting to attend college affect your college planning?List, compare, and visit collegesIt's time to narrow down your list of possible colleges. Use ACT's online College Search to collect information about colleges that might meet most of your needs.Questions to ask on a campus visitA list of questions to ask on a campus visit.Make final decisionsIt's time to decide which college you'll attend.
4Factors to consider Location Size distance from home enrollment Environmenttype of school (2-year or 4-year)school setting (urban, rural)location and size of nearest cityco-ed, male, femalereligious affiliationSizeenrollmentphysical size of campusAdmission requirementsdeadline(s)test(s) requiredaverage test scores, GPA, rankspecial requirementsAcademicsmajors offeredspecial requirementsaccreditation—recognized by regional or national accrediting bodies as meeting its objectivesstudent-faculty ratiotypical class sizeCollege expensestuition, room and boardestimated total budgetapplication fee, deposits
5Factors to consider Financial aid deadline(s) required forms % of student population receiving aidscholarshipspart-time employment opportunitiesFacilitiesacademicrecreationalotherActivitiesclubs, organizationssororities/fraternitiesathletics, intramuralsOtherCampus visitswhen to visitspecial opportunitiesHousingresidence hall requirementsavailabilitytypes and sizesfood plans
6Key conceptsOpen admissions is some colleges' policy of admitting virtually all high school graduates, regardless of academic qualifications such as high school grades and admission test scores.GPA is computed by multiplying the number of grade points earned in each course (generally, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0) by the number of course/credit hours, then dividing the sum by the total number of course/credit hours taken.Class rank is a rating that compares your cumulative GPA to those of others in your class. Class rank is often used as a college admissions and scholarship standard.
7College Entrance Requirements High school academic performanceYour high school grade point average (GPA), class rank, and the types of classes you take are obvious starting points.If you're a high school freshman or sophomore, keep in mind that the grades you're earning now will affect your overall GPA just as much as your later grades will. Don't wait to start buckling down!Although a good GPA is important, don't believe the GPA myth and take easy classes just to pad your GPA. Most colleges require completion of certain high school courses for admission. Make sure you are taking the right courses so you'll be considered for admission to the school of your choice.Related information Recommended college prep courses
8College Entrance Requirements Standardized test scoresBecause grades may not tell the whole story about your academic ability, nearly all colleges will also ask you to submit scores from a national standardized test. The ACT test is one of two national exams used for this purpose.Your ACT composite score, together with your high school grades, indicates how prepared you are for college. In addition, the scores from the various sections of the ACT will help your college place you in the right classes, matching your skills with course requirements.The ACT is accepted or preferred by more colleges and universities—including all of the Ivy League colleges—than any other entrance exam.Admission essay, interview, or other requirementsParticular colleges may have additional entrance requirements such as admission essays or interviews. These additional requirements help colleges decide how likely you are to fit into their campus community and to succeed in their academic program.
9Questions to ask when on campus What activities and services are available to help students get settled (academically and socially) during their first year?How big are the classes?(Ask students) How easy is it to meet with faculty?(Ask students) Are you able to register for the classes you want?What is the total cost of attending the college?What types of financial aid does the college offer and how do I apply?Are all freshmen assigned to an academic advisor?Where do most freshmen live?Can I take a tour?What activities are available for students?Who teaches the courses for first-year students?How successful are the college's graduates in finding jobs?What services (such as transportation and shopping) are available locally?What is there to do on weekends? Do most students stay or leave campus on weekends?
10College Planning Checklist Freshman YearFind out how to make the most of high schoolPlan challenging high school coursesFind out why you should go to collegeBecome familiar with college entrance requirementsTake EXPLORE®—a set of four tests that measure academic achievement; EXPLORE results can be a benchmark before taking PLAN® and the ACT® testReview EXPLORE results with your parents and school counselorStart thinking about reasons for attending collegeJoin/continue extracurricular activitiesAttend summer camp at a college to experience a college-like atmosphereResearch college costsContinue/start saving for collegeMeet with your college/career counselor at least once a yearExplore careers on the Internet by visiting ACT's free interactive World-of-Work Map
11College Planning Checklist Sophomore YearContinue to take and plan challenging high school coursesContinue to meet with your college/career counselor at least once a year or by visiting ACT's free interactive World-of-Work MapThink about what kind of education/training different careers requireTake PLAN®Review PLAN results with your parents and school counselor; compare these to your EXPLORE® results to measure growthStart collecting college informationCheck out ACT's free college searchVisit colleges and talk with college studentsBe ready with a list of questions to ask on your campus visitUse this list of college characteristics to decide how to evaluate different collegesBegin filling out the college comparison worksheet (PDF; 1 page)Continue/start saving for collegeConsider your reasons for going to college and how they relate to your career interestsJoin/continue extracurricular activities
12College Planning Checklist Junior YearKeep meeting with your college/career counselor at least once a yearContinue to take and plan challenging coursesKeep your grades upJoin an academic clubRegister for the ACT. You should be academically ready to take it by spring. If not, take it early in your senior year.Read our key information about the ACT testTalk with your parents and high school counselor about colleges that interest youPrepare a list of questions to ask on campus visitsContinue to visit colleges and talk with college studentsList, compare, and visit collegesStart or update an academic resumeConsider putting together a portfolio that highlights your special skills and talentsKeep filling out the college comparison worksheet (PDF; 1 page, 64KB)Check into applying to colleges onlineInvestigate scholarship opportunitiesVolunteer for activities and clubs related to career interestsGet a part-time job, apprenticeship, or internship; or job shadow in a profession that interests you
13College Planning Checklist Senior YearSenior year is finally here, and it's full of things to do to get ready for college. Use this senior year checklist to keep track of your progress and upcoming deadlines for testing, admissions and financial aid.AugustSign up for the ACT (if you didn't take it as a junior, or if you aren't satisfied with your score, or if you've learned a lot since you first took it.)Review ACT test results and retest if necessary
14August – DecemberVisit with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirementsConsider taking courses at a local university or community collegeKeep working hard all year; second semester grades can affect scholarship eligibilityAsk for personal references from teachers, school counselors, or employers early in the year or at least two weeks before application deadlines. Follow your school's procedure for requesting recommendations.Visit with admissions counselors who come to your high schoolAttend a college fairBegin your college essay(s)Apply for admission at the colleges you've chosenAvoid common college application mistakesFind out if you qualify for scholarships at each college you have applied toStart the financial aid application processSee your school counselor for help finding financial aid and scholarships
15January – MayIf you need it, get help completing the FAFSAAsk your guidance office in January to send first semester transcripts to schools where you applied. In May, they will need to send final transcripts to the college you will attend.Visit colleges that have invited you to enrollDecide which college to attend, and notify the school of your decisionKeep track of and observe deadlines for sending in all required fees and paperworkNotify schools you will not attend of your decisionContinue to look for scholarship opportunitiesKeep track of important financial aid and scholarship deadlinesWatch the mail for your Student Aid Report (SAR)—it should arrive four weeks after the FAFSA is filedCompare financial aid packages from different schoolsSign and send in a promissory note if you are borrowing moneyNotify your college about any outside scholarships you received