Data indicates that applicants meeting certain criteria are more likely to be successful at the college level, particularly in the freshman year. When college admissions officers review applications, these students are rewarded for various demonstrated academic success predictors.
HIGH SCHOOL GPA
Along with standardized test scores, this is an obvious factor students should fully understand. Although there’s no universal rule on GPA requirements, some colleges do list minimum requirements for applying. Students with a GPA below that threshold are far less likely to earn a spot or even get through the initial review of applications.
It’s important for students to know their current high school GPA and identify schools with requirements that align with their academic record. There are even resources to convert a GPA to the 4.0 scale, making it easy to see how a GPA compares to each college’s acceptance range.
STRENGTH OF CURRICULUM
In addition to GPA and test scores, colleges consider a number of other factors that have less to do with grades. One of these methods is evaluating the strength of a student’s curriculum in high school. High school coursework serves to prepare students for the rigors of college coursework. College admissions officers want to see that a student was challenged in the semesters leading up to their freshman year of college.
At USF, we strongly encourage applicants to challenge themselves by taking coursework at the highest levels in which they can be successful, including Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) and dual enrollment courses. In addition, we expect that students will complete additional academic coursework beyond minimum state requirements, particularly in the areas of math, science and foreign language. Colleges want students who will be successful academically once they enter the college classroom, not just competitive for admission.
One of the most overlooked areas of importance in the admissions process is the high school grade trend, particularly in the junior and senior years. In fact, we defer many of our applicants to USF until they have received official first-semester senior grades. This allows us to evaluate their progress and performance as late into their senior year as possible.
Generally, the higher a student’s grades, the better. As expected, college admissions teams prefer to see more As and Bs than Cs (though a few Cs may be acceptable, particularly in the most challenging of courses). Ds and Fs are cause for concern and could hurt applicants even if their overall GPA remains high.
DUAL ENROLLMENT GRADE POINT AVERAGE
Taking dual enrollment coursework is a great way for students to get a head start on meeting college graduation requirements while also standing out in the college application process. However, students should realize that once they begin enrolling in college courses, they must take these advanced courses seriously. Enrollment in college courses establishes a postsecondary record that will follow the student forever on official college transcripts.
Poor performance in even a single dual enrollment course might lessen the chances of gaining admission to college, so students should ensure they are fully prepared to take these advanced classes. This poor grade could affect chances for admission to graduate, law, medical or professional school in the future. USF requires applicants to have a minimum postsecondary GPA of 2.50 (unweighted) in dual enrollment courses to be considered for (and maintain) an offer of freshman admission. We provide additional consideration to those applicants with a postsecondary GPA of 3.00 or higher, as they have proven themselves capable of being successful in college-level work.
PERSONAL STATEMENTS AND LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
Not all colleges require these items with an initial application. However, in the event that a student is deferred for any reason (including semester grades or new test scores), submitting this additional documentation is encouraged.
Letters of Recommendation: Students should send no more than two letters of recommendation. Consider recommendations written by teachers who can best vouch for the student’s potential for academic success in college.
Positive letters of recommendation are important for the application process, but they do not guarantee a student’s success in college. If a string of teachers decline a student’s recommendation request, however, this may highlight an academic or social issue the student should address.
Personal Statements: There are many names for these required documents, including "college essay," "essay prompt" and "supplemental essay." Before writing, students should know the differences and purpose of each type of writing prompt to tailor the content to exactly what the review committee wants to see.
GOOD RECORD OF CONDUCT
Even if a student checks all the boxes for grades, test scores and curriculum difficulty, a series of behavioral issues can serve as a red flag to colleges. A good record of conduct indicates to colleges that a student is prepared to succeed at their institution both from an academic and social perspective. Encourage your students to look for opportunities to highlight the qualities colleges seek:
- Maturity to withstand peer pressure that may distract from academics
- Responsibility to maintain focus on education while at college
- Motivation to succeed independently, without the presence of a parent