• Interested in attending a 4-year college after graduation? 

    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. 

    Continue reading for great resources and things to think about as you prepare for 4-year college admission! 

    Remember, this process is a marathon. Not a sprint. Start here, and reach out to your 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 for 4-year school admission, and the most academically prepared once you get there!)
    3. High SAT/ACT scores
    4. Leadership & life experience – part-time job and/or quality school involvement 
    5. Project-oriented community service - regular involvement in your community 

    Admission committees will also consider:

    1. Strength of your letters of recommendation
    2. Strength of your personal statement/essay

    It's not just about getting accepted to your dream school. It's about being academically prepared to succeed there. 

    • 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 Honors 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. 

    Make a plan and get insight on how to spend your time each year of high school using the 4-Year Plan Template

    4-Year School 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)
      • Many 4-year colleges will want to see successful completion of AP or DE classes

    Build 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. (Click here for the checklist in Spanish!) 

    Seniors can also view Poinciana's Step by Step Guide for 4-Year College Applications for directions for applying to 4-year colleges.  

    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 OCTOBER 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 November 1st of senior year to ensure your application will be considered for financial aid.  

    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 

    Click here to learn more about creating your own, professional email account and to see sample emails for recommending letters of recommendation and submitting fee waivers. 

    Seniors - see the Step by Step Guide for 4-Year College Applications for step-by-step directions on how to make sure your colleges get your letters of recommendation!  

     Finding the Right College for You  

    Questions to Ask Admissions Offices 

    Questions to ask financial aid counselors.   
    20 Questions to ask college representatives   

    Bright Futures

    Check to see what you are missing to be eligible for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program 

    Qualifying for a Test Waiver and College Application Waivers

    If a junior or senior qualifies for free/reduced lunch, the student qualifies for the following:

    • College Application Fee Waivers
    • 1 SAT waiver (covers the cost of TWO Saturday test dates)
    • 4 ACT Waivers

    Where can I complete the free/reduced lunch application?

    Visit the school district website to complete the free/reduced lunch application

    You can also see if you qualify for free waivers by completing the Alternate Income Verification form. Stop by the College and Career Center (room 276) to pick one up.