College Expectations


As everyone gets settled into their second semester, high school seniors across the country are getting ready to start a new chapter of their life: college. Some want to stay close to home, some want to go across the globe, while some are not planning on going to a four year school, yet almost everyone faces the harsh expectations of college admissions. The assumption is that you must have a 4.0 GPA, 1500 SAT score, and a bunch of extracurriculars to obtain admission to most four-year universities. This can cause much anxiety for students, so it’s important to show the difference between myths and facts.

Do I really need to go to college?

First off, you do not have to go to a four-year university or any college after high school for that matter. College is a great plan, but not for everyone. Fortunately, Palmer Ridge offers courses that allow students to obtain an associate’s degree in any career path of their choosing while finishing their credits for high school! The Career Start program is an amazing resource for students who want to enter a career directly after graduation. This program includes options for cosmetology, welding, nursing, early childhood education, culinary arts, and many more! It is available for incoming juniors and seniors, and further information can be found by emailing counselor Angela Dawson at [email protected]

The school library’s college center; Photo by Mallory Sale

Another option for students who may not want to go directly to a four-year college is to attend community college and earn an Associate’s degree. If they choose to, students can then transfer into a four-year university and finish their Bachelor’s in only two years! If a student wants to go to an out-of-state school such as in California or Hawai’i, where the price of tuition is particularly high, they can first attend a cheap community college in that state for two years to earn in-state tuition to the university!

How good do my GPA and SAT scores need to be?

To address some common misconceptions about college admissions: GPA and SAT scores. Most public universities will accept a student with a 3.0 GPA and 1100+ SAT. More selective schools want an SAT score of around 1200+ and a 3.5 GPA. Top-tier schools such as Harvard and Stanford expect a 4.0 GPA and 1450+ SAT. Remember though, you do not need to go to a top-tier school to have a good life! Popular local schools such as UCCS, which has a 92% acceptance rate, are a great choice for students who wish to stay close to home. CU Boulder is another close school; however, it is more selective with a 76% acceptance rate.

UCCS Admissions based on PRHS students (via Naviance).

How many clubs should I join?

Some schools want as many extracurriculars as possible, some schools don’t put too much weight on them, but the best plan is to do what makes you happy. If you don’t enjoy soccer, don’t play it to get attention from schools. If you enjoy theater, try it out! There’s always something to get involved in, with some more time-consuming than others. If you enjoy writing and photography, the Bear Truth Newspaper staff might be the place for you (email Mr. Patrick [email protected] if you’re interested!!), if you like public speaking, Speech and Debate might be perfect! Here is a link to the PRHS activities and clubs page, which has a directory of all school-sponsored clubs and activities available for students to join!

The Bear Truth interviewed one student who has quite a plan for his future, Ethan Matthews (11). When asked what his plans after high school are, Matthews replied, “…my top pick [for colleges] is University of North Dakota. I plan to major in Commercial Aviation or Aviation Management…” Along with a plan for college, Matthews has a career path already figured out, and he’s well on his way to succeeding in it! “I plan to be a commercial pilot, and to ‘hit the ground running’ I am already working on my Private Pilot’s license so I’ll have that before I graduate high school,” says Matthews.

Ethan Matthews (11) takes flight! Photo Courtesy of Ethan Matthews

While having a solidly-planned out life is awesome, it is perfectly fine to be a little unsure of what you want to do. Deciding a career and entire life at 16 or 17 seems almost impossible for many, and having a rough draft is a great idea. Ceci Eversole (10) was interviewed and has open options, but doesn’t have a particular plan on classes or colleges. “I think I want to major in music education and then get a Master’s degree in clarinet performance. As for my high school plans and how they will affect getting into college, it really depends on COVID.” This seems to be a common thought process for freshman and sophomore students.

Underclassmen have yet to experience a full year of classes in high school due to COVID-19. This makes it hard to gauge where they really stand academically and what interests them. Interests change with experience and because freshman and sophomores have little to no experience with finals and AP tests, they may not know what interests them enough to pursue a career in.

Photo Courtesy of Mallory Sale

College admissions may look a little different this year due to the coronavirus; however, the basic requirements are the same, and the best way to learn more about college admissions is to talk to your counselor or teachers! Also, be sure to specifically research the colleges you want to apply to in order to learn about their admission requirements. Just remember, you’ve got this, and don’t let the common misconceptions about college admissions scare you. There is always a path in life to be happy, and not all of them are necessarily the same!