Whether you are in high school, undergraduate studies or graduate school, it’s important to put your best foot forward and focus on your academic career. High school prepares you for college and college prepares you to take on the real world. But first, you have to get there!
Does Your GPA Matter?
A solid grade point average (GPA) is important as you make plans for your future education. GPAs start to accumulate during high school, typically in ninth grade. Both your GPA and weighted classes are used to determine your class rank, which can put you in the best academic light for college placement and scholarships. While an acceptable GPA may get you into the door, a strong GPA indicates that you are competitive, hardworking and dedicated to academic success.
GPA is a factor for admissions staff at most four-year universities, but the requirements and importance vary widely from one college to the next. Below is a general outline to understand your current GPA:
- 3.5 to 4.0 is a high GPA
- 3.0 to 3.4 is an average GPA
- 3.0 or lower is a below-average GPA
Of course, having a high GPA is not everything. Due to all of the academic disruptions of the past year, many colleges and universities are placing less importance on overall GPA. They understand that the past year has been a challenge for everyone. Ultimately, they want to know that you are well-rounded and have the skills and experience needed to excel.
If your GPA is not where you want it to be, you are not alone! Here are some ways to raise or hold a steady GPA.
- Attend every virtual or in-person class.
- Participate in class activities and discussions.
- Review class material and study weekly so the content stays fresh in your mind.
- Seek out teachers/professors during office hours and ask questions.
- Align yourself with other stand-out students.
- Take advantage of all available resources like study groups, tutors, etc.
Note that a GPA lower than 3.0 may require remedial or lower-level college courses to be taken before more advanced courses within your chosen field. It can also prevent you from enrolling in particular programs or declaring a major until competitive grades are achieved. If you are planning on continuing to graduate school, your GPA also matters!
Does Your Major Matter?
Many of us know that we want to further our education and go to college but cannot decide on a major. You are not alone! It is ok if you do not know what career path to pursue. In most colleges, you have an opportunity to enroll in general classes for at least the first several semesters while you decide. In the meantime, volunteer, find internships, take diverse classes and explore various professions to gain experience.
Here are five tips to help you decide how to focus your studies.
- Pick a major that matches your natural talents. (Hint: Think about what people say you’re good at.)
- Select a field that excites you.
- Explore the career options available within the field—and how easy or how hard it might be to find employment.
- Consider your preferred future lifestyle and how much you hope to make financially. Ask yourself: Does the field have a good ROI (return on investment) after graduation?
- Talk with a mentor or professionals working in various fields for real-world insights.
One of the most exciting aspects of college life is that it introduces you to new subjects and fosters new passions. You might enter college enjoying marketing but discover a hidden passion for operations. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, double-major or add a minor. However, be sure you understand all of the major or minor’s requirements and prerequisites or it may take more than the traditional four years to earn a degree.
Let’s be real—the major you choose will neither predict nor guarantee your future. Many graduates end up finding jobs that have nothing to do with what they studied in college. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average twenty-something changes jobs every three years and the average person changes career fields two or three times in their lifetime.
Does Your SAT/ACT Score Matter?
Because many SAT and ACT testing dates have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most colleges and universities have adopted “test-optional” or “test-flexible” policies, or plan to lessen the importance of standardized test scores when reviewing applications. However, that doesn’t mean you should immediately cross one of these tests off your college prep to-do list.
Even if you’re applying to a test-free or test-blind school (who will ignore standardized test scores completely), it’s important to understand the potential benefits of still taking either the SAT or ACT
If you have access to safely test, here are a few reasons why it may still be a good idea.
- Some colleges still require test scores for out-of-state or international students, or for students pursuing specific majors or programs.
- Most “test-optional” schools will still consider your SAT/ACT score if it is submitted. If you have a strong test score, this may give you an edge over other applicants.
- Colleges want as much information about you as possible, so other parts of your application will be highly scrutinized. This means that other parts of your application—your GPA, essays, extracurricular activities, community service, leadership experience, achievements and letters of recommendation—must show you’re a strong candidate.
- Test scores are often required or heavily weighted when it comes to awarding merit-based scholarships and grants, so not submitting scores might put you at a disadvantage. Be sure to confirm all scholarship requirements before applying.
- Colleges can find and recruit you based on your SAT/ACT scores, even if you did not apply to that school.
When it comes to preparing for college success, aim to be competitive and plan to start early! Your past academic performance, chosen major and standardized tests all matter, but be sure to know the specifics for your intended college or university. Most importantly, stay motivated and keep your eye on the prize!