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Schools in the USA

Preparing for Private College or University

If you are considering applying directly from high school to a private college or university in the United States, your post-secondary planning process should begin early. Private colleges and universities--or particular programs within an institution--are extremely competitive; therefore, it's important to plan your high school courses accordingly. Your area of interest will determine what you should take. If you are considering a science or technology-based program, you should load up on courses in math, chemistry, physics and computers to ensure that you are well prepared for the schools that make your list. Communication skills are always important, in virtually every field, so don't forget your English! In general, English and math are the most-often required courses for all fields of university and college study. If you are going into a more general program--or don't know yet what you plan to study--then go for breadth: take courses across the curriculum in science, social science, humanities, creative arts and technology. Find out what the university's policy is on pre-requisites, because if you are missing a required course, some institutions will offer specific courses to help you complete what's needed.

Taking the required courses, though, isn't necessarily enough; you should also be sure to keep your grades up. Private colleges and universities in the US have a minimum cut-off average for general admission, which is usually around 70% or higher. Quota or other highly competitive programs may require a competitive grade point average (GPA) of up to 85%. The competitive GPA can change from year to year as it is based on the quality of the applicant pool and space available in the specific program.

In addition to your academics, there are several additional things you can do to prepare for success in your university or college application:

  • Undertake to read and study independently. This is a good way to develop interests, expand your knowledge and improve the vocabulary and reading comprehension skills needed for your program. This will also help you if admission requirements include an interview, since you will be able to impress the interviewer or admissions committee with the knowledge you have built up of terms and issues specific to your area or program of interest.


  • Since lots of students have excellent grades, many private college and university admissions committees base their decision partly on a student's personal qualities. These qualities can be developed through participating in extracurricular activities. Consider joining or even starting school clubs, whether related to your area of interest or not (of course if it is related to your proposed field of study, all the better!). This is also a good way to develop demonstrated leadership skills, which are also an important aspect of any competitive application.


  • Prove your work ethic. Private university and college study takes a lot of commitment and plain old hard work. Therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- is an achievement often regarded highly by admissions committees. Any work experience related to your chosen field is extremely beneficial: university programs are competitive, and being able to show the admissions committee that you have some experience in the field will be a definite plus.


  • Validate your interests. Show the admissions committee you are serious by attending a summer camp or community course related to your proposed field of study. Showing that you are committed to pursuing your study interest outside of the classroom can show your committment.


  • Have fun! Believe it or not, private college and university admissions committees want to see that you are involved in personal interests aside from your academics. These schools want well-rounded candidates, so hobbies, sports or other pasttimes may count for more on your application than you might think!

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