Four Year Colleges

Post- Secondary Planning

What Colleges Look For

No single factor determines acceptance or rejection from a college. Some colleges do consider only grades and test scores, but most consider interests, accomplishments, and future goals. On the other hand, poor grades and weak course selections will not impress an admissions officer, regardless of extracurricular activities. This is especially true if you hope to be admitted to a selective college. For selective colleges, you need to take the most demanding courses offered by the school and maintain a high scholastic average.

Factors Considered in College Admissions:

  • GPA
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Class Rank*
  • Essays
  • Strength of the Program
  • Interviews
  • Test Scores
  • Resume (activities/leadership/ awards)
  • Major/College Applied To

*Most Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) do not rank students. Colleges have been informed and this does not affect a FCPS student's application

Other Factors considered:

  • Special Talents
  • Internships
  • Athletic Talent
  • Special Circumstances
  • Summer Experience
  • First in Family to Attend College
  • Diversity
  • Legacy

College Planning Grades 9-12

Preparation for college begins in 9TH grade. If you wait until senior year to earn good grades and take college preparatory courses, it may be too late. Here are four basic ways you can start preparing yourself for college:

Do your best in school

All grades from ninth through twelfth grade go on your high school transcript. Colleges use your high school grades to determine if you are prepared for college-level work. Colleges will look at your overall grades and consider whether your grades improved during high school. Colleges don't want to see grades slide senior year.

Take the most rigorous college preparatory courses that you can

Research shows that taking rigorous college prep courses in high school is the most important predictor of college success. As a result, colleges look favorably on students who take more difficult courses. Slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A's in a less challenging coursework. Academically successful students include several Honors and Advanced placement classes

Participate in extracurricular activities to develop your talents and interests

Colleges want to know what you've been doing, and how successful you've been while doing it. They assume that If you've been involved in the community or taken a leadership role in an activity while in high school, it's likely that you'll be similarly active while in college and beyond. Consider all your options and come up with an extracurricular strategy as early as possible, and stick to it. Having passionate involvement in a few activities and demonstrating leadership and initiative is more impactful to colleges than having a "laundry list" of activities. Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.

Community service showing evidence of being a contributor demonstrates concern for other people and a global view. Not only do colleges view community out-reach positively, but you can also work towards earning a Civics Seal and Service Cord.

Colleges positively view work experiences or out of school experiences (including summer activities) that illustrate responsibility, dedication, and development of areas of interest—a job or other meaningful use of free time can demonstrate maturity

Start learning as much as you can about college and how to finance our education

As a Fairfax County student, you and your parents have access to great resources regarding college planning. One such resource is:

Family Connection Resource

Use to research colleges and scholarships as well as to view and exchange information about your plans with your counselor.

  • Go to Blackboard and log in with your student ID and password
  • Do the Learning Styles and Personality Types Inventories
  • Look below to see what information is available to you and your parents

In school, you can visit our Career Center which houses information on all post-secondary options as well as scholarships, financial aid and testing. Share the information you find out with your school counselor who will help you prepare for your post-secondary school plans.