Gaining admission and attending a college or university will be the result of all your hard work at PHS! However, it also requires thoughtful intentional planning.


Do you want to attend a two-year or a four-year college? Are you interested in public or private institutions, in small colleges or large universities? Do you want to go to school in a small town or a large city, near home or far away? Are you particularly interested in faith-based institutions? Do you want a liberal arts education or career and technical training? There is so much to consider! 


Based on an almost dizzying array of options it is expected that you will need support and guidance with making the best, and most appropriate decision for yourself. You can set yourself up for success by starting early, focusing on your interests, learning about colleges' expectations, and making the most of your time at PHS. 


Start with these questions as you prepare your pathway to college:


Yes! Based on 2019 data The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median weekly earnings of those with a high school diploma were $712, whereas those with a bachelor’s degree earned $1173 per week. The New York Federal Reserve found that the average return on college is around 14 percent, which demonstrates that college is still a good investment for many people. 


Aside from the monetary benefits, college is great for:

  • Learning; pushing your reasoning 

  • Building your social network 

  • Experience being in a learning community 

  • Discovering new opportunities 


There is no denying the rising cost of tuition in the U.S. However, there are ways to make it affordable! 

Most full-time students at four-year colleges get financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study opportunities to help them pay for college. Thanks to this financial aid, most students will pay less than a college’s published tuition and fees. 


Fast Facts: 

  • To be considered for financial aid, you must apply for it using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as Oct. 1

  • To get non-federal financial aid from many colleges and scholarship programs, you will need to complete the CSS Profile as early as Oct. 1 

  • Scholarships from private organizations are sometimes called ‘outside’ scholarships because they are not part of a colleges financial aid offer. These are often ‘merit based’, meaning they are based on academic qualifications (3.8 GPA for ASG), artistic or athletic talent, leadership qualities, or similar traits rather than on financial need.

  • Other ways to keep costs down include:

    • Attending ASCC with a scholarship (minimum 3.5 GPA/ 960 SAT or 19 ACT); most students will also qualify for the Pell Grant​

    • Live with family to save on room and board costs

    • Take a part-time job on campus or participate in a work-study program to earn a paycheck

    • Look into schools in Europe or the Pacific region that are low-cost or free

    • Take online classes from an accredited college or university


There is no one formula colleges use to admit students. However, we do know that it is a combination of the following factors that colleges consider to get the bigger picture and determine if you are the right fit for their institution:


Rigorous Curriculum & Grades: Your transcript is KING! GPA/grades matter but so do the classes you are taking. The academic intensity and rigor of your high school curriculum can outweigh test scores or academic rank. In general, you should satisfy the following requirements:


  • 4 years of English

  • 4 years of Math

  • 3 years (or more) of Science

  • 3 years (or more) of Social Sciences/History

  • 2 years (or 3-4 years for highly selective schools) of the same Foreign Language


Improvement of grades and progression of courses throughout high school builds a strong transcript. Additionally, good grades may enable you to qualify for certain scholarships!


Extracurricular Activities: You don’t need to do a little bit of everything. Instead, try to focus on a few of your serious interests or passions, and then get more deeply involved in those. Colleges want to see long-term involvement in activities that are related to a future goal. Activities that demonstrate leadership skills and ability are also a plus! Here are some examples:

  • NHS, JSA, Student Government, Yearbook, Environmental Studies Club

  • Church involvement

  • Community organizations

  • Working (even for family)

  • Summer volunteering, internships, jobs, academic programs

  • Sports

  • Musical instrument(s), recitals, dancing, the arts, etc. 


Standardized Test Scores: Most colleges will accept scores from either the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT (American College Testing). Neither is preferred. Some colleges do not require either test, but may have alternate requirements in lieu of standardized testing scores (i.e. graded paper). is a website that lists those colleges willing to accept an alternate to the SAT or ACT tests.


Personal Statement/Essay: Essays are both a measure of writing ability and a window into each student’s background and future goals. Many applications have short answer questions in addition to the essay. Use this opportunity to give additional information about yourself beyond the facts.


Recommendations: Be sure to read applications thoroughly to understand their criteria; some want at least one recommendation, rarely do they want more than two from academic teachers from two different subjects.


Admissions officers want to create a cultural “mosaic” on their campuses. Ultimately, colleges consider the whole package: Transcripts + Extracurriculars + SAT/ACT + Essay/Interview (who you are)

4. HOW DO I MAKE HIGH SCHOOL COUNT? (Planning Timelines)

If your end goal is to receive admission at your top choice institution, hit the ground running your freshman year! Think of your four years in high school as an opportunity to build an individualized portfolio that will evolve over time and set you up for success in college. Start now by using these helpful planning timelines: