Preparing for College

Recommended College Prep Courses

  • English, Language Arts: 4 years
  • Math: 3 years
  • Science: 3 years
  • Social Studies, Geography, Social Science: 3 years
  • World Language: 2–3 years

Earn Credit in High School

These programs are typically offered at no cost (with a few exceptions). Talk to your counselor or AP coordinator.

  • Dual credit: Community college courses often taught at the high school. Students earn both college and high school credit.
  • Advanced Placement: College-level courses taught at the high school. Many colleges grant credit, advanced placement or both to students who earn high AP exam scores. The Iowa Online AP Academy offers AP classes to students whose high schools don’t offer on-site classes.
  • Postsecondary enrollment: Courses taken through a college. Students earn college credit as well as high school credit for courses that meet district graduation requirements.
  • Career academy: Programs in specific technical fields at community colleges. Students prepare for entry and advancement in high-skill career fields. Students may earn both college and high school credit.

ACT or SAT?

ACT
  • Four sections: English, mathematics, reading and science
  • Primarily multiple-choice
  • Time (with optional essay): 3 hours, 40 minutes
SAT
  • Two sections: Evidence-based reading, mathematics and writing (optional), plus science questions throughout
  • Primarily multiple-choice, but math section requires you to produce your own answers
  • Time (with optional essay): 3 hours, 50 minutes

Check with your college admissions office to see if the school prefers one test over the other.

Watch Your Social Media

One in three college admissions officers visit applicants’ social media pages. Keep your accounts clear of negative posts. These might include:

  • Photos of inappropriate behavior
  • Bad-mouthing other people or schools
  • Discriminatory comments
  • Lying about activities or accomplishments