College Admissions FAQ

What’s the first step?
Start comparing schools on the websites for U.S. News & World Report and the Florida Department of Education. You can also check out, a new interactive tool to help you consider majors and careers.

How important are my SAT/ACT scores?
Schools use these scores to recruit students, award scholarships, and determine some course placement. Nearly all four-year schools factor them into admissions decisions as well; acceptable ranges are usually published online. Every school has students who scored above or below that range.

How important is my GPA?
Grades often tell a school more than test scores do, so they tend to carry more weight. If there is anything on your transcript that might send up a red flag, be sure to address it in your essay.

What if I don’t have any extracurriculars?
These are less important than they once were, but they do tend to give a more complete picture of your interests and values. You can also demonstrate these through your volunteer work and in your personal statement.

What do colleges look for in an applicant?
Primarily, schools want to admit students who will fit into the culture and be successful. This isn’t a cut-and-dry set of criteria, so you should worry less about your data and more about presenting yourself as a worthy candidate. For more helpful info, visit

What is the difference between “early action” and “early decision”?
“Early action” is when you apply before an earlier admissions deadline and receive a rapid decision, often within weeks of applying. It is non-binding, you do not have to accept the offer. “Early decision” is similar but is binding: If you apply early decision, you are agreeing to enroll in the school if accepted.

When do I have to submit my application?
Deadlines vary, but are generally between December 1 and February 15. Some schools offer rolling decisions, meaning that they accept applications until all slots are filled. Early action/decision deadlines are much earlier, typically in October.

How long does it take to find out if I got in?
Regular decision letters tend to arrive by March or April; early decision, by December; rolling admissions within about six weeks.

How hard is it to get accepted?
This varies so widely between schools and year-to-year that a meaningful answer doesn’t exist, but you can check acceptance rates online. We do know that admission is increasingly competitive across the board.

What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the first step in paying for college. It determines your eligibility for financial aid, both federal and local, and for certain grants and scholarships. You must fill it out each year, and the deadlines differ between schools, states, and years.

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