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Tips on Preparing for College

In Washington, the state constitution guarantees students a free public education, kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12). This guarantee applies to all students, without regard to gender, race, sexual preference, or legal status. There is not a similar guarantee for college. All students may attend college in Washington state, regardless of legal status, but you have to find ways to pay for it. In order to be prepared for college, you should begin thinking about and preparing for college in elementary school and continue through middle and high school. You will get out of your education what you put into it, and much more.

This page will provide tips on preparing for college. Contents by topic are below:

  • The Early Years
  • Graduate from High School/Earn College Credits in High School
  • Preparing to Enroll in a Community or Technical College (CTC)
  • Preparing for Admission to a University
  • Additional Resources
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for 1079 students

The Early Years

Preparing for college is a process that too often focuses on the high school years. While those years will be crucial in your journey to college, the early years are equally important. Throughout elementary and middle school you can begin to build a foundation for future success in high school, college and into the furture.

Beginning in grade school and middle school, focus on following three basic guidelines to prepare for college:

  1. Good Study Skills and Habits – Work hard in your classes, turn in your homework on time, and learn how to manage your time. This is something you will have to do throughout your whole educational experience and it will greatly benefit you to develop good habits and skills early on.
  2. Explore Opportunities – Visit colleges, learn about different career opportunities and get exposed to professionals and college students who can talk about their experiences. This will help you to know what options are out there for you.
  3. Get Involved – No later than middle school, get involved in school and community activities. For example, dance, music, visual arts, leadership, civics, sports, volunteer community service—all can help you gain admission to a university. Do the things you love to do and also try something new.

Graduate from High School/Earn College Credits in High School

To get to college, in most cases you will need to earn a high school diploma. Each school district sets its own high school graduation requirements. For those who do not earn a high school diploma, earning a GED (general education degree) can substitute for a diploma and help you gain admission to a university.

You should make sure you understand what your district’s requirements are as soon as possible. Talk to a teacher or counselor about high school graduation requirements and college admission requirements as soon as possible. These should become your goals—that is, something that you work towards achieving every day.

In high school there are classes such as Running Start, that allow you to earn high school credits and college credits at the same time—and there is no tuition cost. You can earn up to two years of college credits while in high school through Running Start. 1079 students can participate in Running Start.

Learn more about and how to qualify for Running Start

Preparing for Admission to a Community or Technical College

Community and technical colleges (CTCs) are two-year colleges that have open enrollment policies. Open enrollment means admission does not depend on grade point averages (GPA) or test scores, unlike universities. If you apply early or by the deadline dates set by the colleges, chances are good you can gain admission. But you still must apply and submit timely, accurate and good information.

It is also important to point out that even though CTCs have open enrollment policies, the college course work is often as demanding (rigorous) as universities. This gets us back to reminding you of the importance of preparing for college in elementary, middle, and high school. The better prepared you are for college, the more likely you are to graduate.

Community and technical colleges are located in many more communities than universities. And they are much less expensive than universities, especially if you live at home while attending college. Because of cost, many 1079 students start out in community colleges and after earning 2-year associate degrees, changes are good you can transfer to universities where you can earn bachelors’ and advanced degrees.

Click Community Colleges to learn more. 

Preparing for Admission to a University

Applying for admission to a university is a competitive process and for this reason it requires dedicated preparation. “Competitive” means your high school record is evaluated and compared to all other students who apply for admission to the same university as you. After evaluating applications, the university must choose you and invite you to attend. They use several factors to determine if you are to be selected and there are several requirements you must meet.

That is why, beginning as a freshman in high school, you will need to begin taking courses that are required for admission to a university. These courses are known as College Academic Distribution Requirements, or CADR.

Important: Before you leave middle school, talk to a counselor or other school official about the CADR so you know what classes to enroll in when you enter high school as a freshman. To improve your chances of university admission, it is highly recommended for you to enroll in Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Take the time to find out what Honors, AP, and IB classes are and what they mean to you and your future college plans.

If you take all of the required CADR courses does not mean you will be automatically admitted to a university. It means only that a university can consider you for admission. University admission officials will evaluate how well you completed your coursework and will compare your record to other students who apply for admission.

In other words, the grade point average (GPA) you achieved throughout your four years of high school will be a major factor in determining whether you will be admitted to a university. Your GPA will be compared to all others who apply for admission.

In addition to the CADR and your GPA, there are other factors universities must use in their admissions decisions. These factors are described in Washington’s College Academic Distribution Requirements, which include:

  • Your GPA (4-year high school)
  • Your SAT or ACT scores;
  • Your college admission essays; and
  • Your extracurricular — arts, sports, leadership, volunteer, community — activities.

The average GPA for entering freshmen students at the UW, WSU, and WWU is above 3.5. At CWU and EWU, the average GPA is slightly above 3.0. However, students may be admitted with lower GPAs, and this is where personal hardships, family income, and school and community involvement, can improve your chances of being admitted to a university.

Click Universities in Washington to learn more.

Additional Resources

In addition to this website, there other sites that over valuable resources and information to help you prepare for college. Please consider learning more about the following resources.
Preparing for College Checklist

FAQs about college applications for 1079 students

Q: What do I write when they ask for a social security # in a college application?
A: It is not a requirement to have a SS# to go to college. You can write in all zeroes.

Q: What do I write when they ask for my country of citizenship in a college application?
A: Write in the country where you were born; this is the country of citizenship where you hold a legal membership. You cannot be prevented from being accepted to college if you are not a U.S. citizen. However, the cost of college is much higher for non-citizens. That is the major barrier for undocumented students. But if you meet the criteria to qualify under the rules of HB 1079, make sure to submit the signed HB 1079 Affidavit so you can pay in-state tuition. See About HB 1079 on this web site.

Q: What does it mean when you say 1079 students are “residents” for purposes of higher education?
A: This means that all public colleges in Washington will treat you as a resident of Washington when it comes to paying tuition once you have been accepted and enrolled in college. You should not confuse this with being a legal resident or citizens of the United States.

See About HB 1079 on this web site.