• What is a 4-year college?

    4-year colleges are colleges and universities that grant primarily bachelor's degrees. Bachelor's degrees usually take around 4 years of full-time college coursework.  

    How do I prepare to apply for a 4-year college?

    The earlier you start planning for college, the more college options you will have! There are over 20 4-year colleges in the state of Florida alone, and they each have their own set of criteria they use when deciding who gets admitted and who earns the largest scholarships. 

    Remember, this process is a marathon. Not a sprint. Start here, and reach out to your high school's College and Career Counselor to explore a personalized plan that works for YOU

    • Use Xello to explore colleges, college majors, costs, and admission expectations. There are even quizzes to help you learn more about careers related to your personality, goals, and interests!  
      • Helpful Xello Quizzes:
        • Matchmaker 
        • Personality Style 
        • Learning Style 
    • You can also use resources like College Board to expand your search 

    What 4-Year Colleges Look For  

    The 5 main things 4-year schools will look for:

    1. Strong unweighted & weighted GPA
    2. Rigor of your course load (you’ll want exposure to AP and DE classes to be both the most competitive you can be and the most academically prepared to succeed once you get there!)
    3. Competitive SAT/ACT scores
    4. Leadership & life experience – part-time job and/or quality school involvement 
      • Schools want to admit students who will be an active part of their learning community. They anticipate this by how active you were in your school and personal communities.
    5. Project-oriented community service - volunteer hours in your community    

    Admission committees will also consider:

    1. Strength of your letters of recommendation (at least one should come from a core academic class)
    2. Strength of your personal statement/essay

    How to Prepare for Your 4-Year College Application 

    You will start applying to these colleges in August of your senior year. But, you start building your application long before then! If you are in high school...

    • Make sure both your School Counselor and your College and Career Counselor know that you are working toward 4-year college admission 
    • Meet with your College & Career Counselor starting in your 9th grade year to create a personalized plan and discuss your goals.
      • Here is a list of questions to ask your counselors       
    • Take academically rigorous classes (a “C” in AP is better than an “A” in a regular or honors class)
    • Look carefully into the pros and cons of dual enrollment/AP classes. Choose what is best for YOU when the time comes. 
    • Don’t slack off and settle for Bs and Cs if you’re capable of earning the A.
    • Do your best to find a balance. Challenge yourself, but do not overrun yourself. 

    4-Year College Application Requirements & Recommendations 

    Florida high school graduation requirements are much less rigorous than requirements for 4-year college admission.  

    • Keep a full, rigorous course schedule in your senior year  
    • Make sure you have the classes required for admission to the schools you are interested in.
      • Most schools will require at least the following classes: (It always makes you more competitive to have more.)
        • 3+ years of history
        • 4+ years of math (highest math class needs to be at least Algebra 2)
        • 4+ years of ELA
        • 4+ years of science (recommended – biology, chemistry, physics, and 1 additional science class)
        • 2 consecutive years of the same foreign language (for example - Spanish I and II, AP Spanish Language and AP Spanish Literature, French 3 & 4, etc)

    Building your College List 

    You should apply to at least 6 4-year colleges.

    Set yourself up for success! Research admission information for schools you are interested in to identify whether each school is a reachmatch, or safety school for YOU.  

    • Reach - test scores and GPA encouraged for admission are higher than yours 
    • Match - test scores and GPA encouraged for admission match yours 
    • Safety - test scores and GPA encouraged for admission are lower than yours 

    Use the links to explore who is admitted to 4-year public schools and private schools in Florida. Use the links to focus on GPA, SAT, and ACT scores from students admitted to each school to determine which schools might be a fit for you and to help you set some goals. This information is available for most schools on Xello.    

    The Application Cycle 

    You only have 3 years to get ready to apply to 4-year colleges. You start the college application cycle in the summer following your junior year.

    Seniors can use this checklist to help them map out their senior year and stay on track. Your College & Career Counselor will support you every step of the way! 

    Remember, it's much better to apply early and update your application as you get new test scores and add community service hours than it is to wait to apply.

    For most colleges, the latest you can take the SAT/ACT for your college applications is DECEMBER of your senior year. To submit the most competitive college application, counselor forms and letters of recommendation need to be requested on Xello by September 30th of your senior year. College applications should be completed and submitted by the financial aid priority deadline (NOT the application deadline) for each college you apply for. These dates usually fall before December.   

    Letters of Recommendation 

    Not all colleges require or even accept letters of recommendation. Check each school's application materials to see if they require or even accept letters of recommendation. If they do, think seriously about who will write your letters of recommendation for college.

    You should have at least 1 letter from a teacher who can speak to your strengths in an academically rigorous course. You should also have at least 1 letter from another teacher who knows you well. Ideally, these are teachers you've taken class with for at least 1 full school year already. You should start asking for letters at the end of your junior year. 


    1. Fill out a detailed brag sheet. You will give this brag sheet to your letter writer if they agree to write you a strong letter of recommendation.
      1. If you are asking a counselor, you will fill out the Common Application Counselor Brag Sheet
      2. If you are asking a teacher, you will fill out the Common Application Teacher Brag Sheet
    2. Ask your potential letter writer if they are comfortable writing you a strong letter of recommendation 
    3. Give your letter writers a copy of your brag sheet
    4. Give your letter writer at least 1 month to write your letter 
    5. Thank your letter writer 

    Finding the Right College for You 

    It is important to think intentionally about what college would be best to help you achieve your goals. Location, school size and average class size, cost, admission requirements, majors and programs, and support for helping you find activities related to your future career are all important things to consider. You can use Xello to explore these factors. Below are a few more resources to help you! 

    Questions to Ask Admissions Offices