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:
- Personality Style
- Learning Style
- You can also use resources like CollegeBoard to expand your search
What 4-Year Colleges Look For
The 5 main things 4-year schools will look for:
- Strong unweighted & weighted GPA
- Rigor of your course load (you’ll want 3-6 AP or DE classes to be competitive for 4-year schools)
- High SAT/ACT scores
- Leadership & life experience – part-time job and/or quality school involvement
- Project-oriented community service - regular involvement in your community
Admission committees will also consider:
- Strength of your letters of recommendation
- 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 “B” in Honors is better than an “A” in a regular class)
- Look carefully into the pros and cons of dual enrollment/AP classes. Choose what is best for YOU when the time comes. (The most competitive college applicants have at least 4-6 of these classes.)
- 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: High school graduation requirements are much different 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.)
- 4+ 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 reach, match, 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 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 October 31st of your senior year.
Letters of Recommendation
At the end of your junior year, 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, coach, or community member who knows you.
- Fill out a detailed brag sheet
- Ask your potential letter writer if they are comfortable writing you a strong letter of recommendation
- Give your letter writers a copy of your brag sheet
- Give your letter writer at least 1 month to write your letter
- Thank your letter writer
Finding the Right College for You
Questions to Ask Admissions Offices