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College Admission Requirements Q&A for Parents

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Here are some commonly asked questions about college admission requirements and the college admission process from the parent's perspective.

How high school courses impact college admissions requirements

Are B's in honors or Advanced Placement classes better than A's in less demanding ones?

B's in first-string classes are more impressive than A's in easier ones. Even an occasional C won't rule out a career at highly selective college, but top applicants in the college admissions process often have all or mostly A's in top classes. Yet, while the most competitive colleges prefer the most competitive courses, there is room for fluctuation, and a second-level class in one or two weaker areas may work better for your child.

To compute class ranks, most high schools now use a weighted system where extra points are allotted for higher level classes, so the B+ student in honors courses is likely to be ranked above the straight-A student in the second tier. Colleges, too, are careful to note those high schools that do not use weighted ranks and take this into consideration when evaluating and comparing candidates. So, if your child attends such a school (and it's a good idea to find out), he or she won't be penalized for taking a tough load.

Admission professionals know that many high schools don't have Advanced Placement or IB programs and that some don't even have advanced or accelerated classes. Your child will be evaluated in light of what opportunities were available.

Public vs. private high school in the college admission process

Don't admission officers from highly selective colleges prefer private school applicants?

Colleges, even the choosiest ones, do not prefer either private school or public school candidates. Since most students attend public high schools, the vast majority at all colleges are public school graduates. Diversity now plays a role in college admissions requirements, and that means drawing students from all sorts of backgrounds.

Parents sometimes believe that paying for private school is like buying an insurance policy that promises that their child will be admitted to a name college. However, while admission officers recognize that the top independent schools are excellent proving grounds for top colleges, they are also aware that there are some crummy private schools and many outstanding public ones.

In addition, colleges and universities recognize that the college admissions process is about the student as well as the school. While they are aware of what high school the student attended and what its reputation is, they also take a close look at the applicant and his or her accomplishments.

Transcripts as part of college admission requirements

My child switched high schools, and the move has meant some transcript irregularities. Will admission officials figure it all out?

Be certain that each college will receive a transcript (or several) that covers your child's entire high school career. This may be the perfect time to add an extra statement explaining why moves were made, and what impact they had on course choices. (e.g., "Velma missed biology" or "Louie took math courses out of sequence") Parents who anticipate relocation should look ahead, where possible, and check into curricular differences at the transfer school.

Guidance counselors can be a great source of college admissions assistance, so they may also be able to help answer your questions.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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