There is a myth that colleges look only at grades and ACT or SAT scores to decide whether to admit students. While college admissions committees like to see strong grade-point averages (GPAs), students who assume it is the only important element may be disappointed. In selecting future students, colleges like to see that students have prepared themselves for college-level coursework by enrolling in and successfully completing more difficult classes in which they may have earned a lower grade. For example, when parents and students worry that classes with increased rigor — such as an Advanced Placement course or the fourth year of math or science — could result in a lower grade, they may opt for a class that is less demanding. While only three units of math and science are required for ACE curriculum, students' willingness to take an extra year may make college work easier and indicate to admissions committees an ethic to work above and beyond the minimum. Colleges want to admit students who will be successful and graduate from their schools; a strong work ethic indicates potential for success.
Success in college begins long before a student enrolls in college for the first time. Students' choices and successful completion of more rigorous high school courses help prepare them to succeed in college. Keeping in mind graduation requirements, college requirements, and what college admissions personnel look for in college applications can help prepare students for academic success beyond high school.
Parent involvement in these important decisions increase the likelihood their students are prepared to graduate high school and enroll in and be successful in postsecondary education.
Gregg Garn is director of the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma. This column is offered by the K20 Center Gear Up For Success program. For more information about the program, go to k20center.ou.edu. For more about college preparation, go to www.OKcollegestart.org or call 225-9239.