College Planning

Before College

Plan your course of study.

Take the most challenging classes you feel comfortable taking.

For Illinois Colleges, it is recommended that college-bound students take at least:

  • Four Years of English
  • Three Years of Mathematics, including Algebra and Geometry
  • Three Years of Laboratory Sciences, including  Biology and Chemistry
  • Three Years of Social Studies, including History and Civics
  • Two Years of Electives, chosen from foreign language, music, or vocational education

Find out about entrance requirements for the public state colleges in Illinois.

Prepare for and take the proper college admission tests.

How is College different from High School?

How to Do a College Search

Finding the Right “Fit”

“One Size Does Not Fit All” – The most important consideration in your college search is whether the college is right for you.  Try to match your personality to the culture of the institution, your interests to the programs available, your academic record to the school’s admission requirements, and your goals to the school’s graduate placement record.  Be advised that “right” for you cannot be determined by looking at the annual “best” guides that appear on newsstands every spring (See Gladwell “The Order of Things”).  What makes a college “right” is different for everyone.

First know yourself

What aspects of your high school years have you enjoyed the most?

What are your academic interests?

How do you learn best?

What careers / majors have you considered?  Try career cruising (username: lacc, password: careers).

What is important to you in a college?  Try Fiske Guide to Colleges Self-Quiz.

Treat your search like a research project:

See what options are available.  There are many websites available that allow you to search by geography, size, majors available, selectivity, and athletics available.

Talk to people – Ask people you know (parents, teachers, neighbors, PTHS alumni, your guidance counselor, and visiting college admission representatives) where they attended college.  What did they major in?  What did they like and dislike?  You may find the a college you have never heard of would be a great one to investigate.

Find the “right fit” by asking the right questions:

Would you prefer a school in Illinois or one in another part of the country?  Should it be located in a large city, a suburb, or a rural area?  Start with map.  Most students select a school within a few hours driving distance from home, but that is not necessarily the right decision for everyone. 4 Year Colleges within 100 miles of Pontiac

What are my chances of getting in, or how selective is the college?  How do you compare to the typical admitted freshmen for the college?  Try College Navigator to find the information.  Consider the the following are used by a majority of admissions committees as factors in determining the strength of your candidacy:

  • Your grades (This is likely the most important factor)
  • The “rigor” of the academic coursework you took in high school (including your 7th and 8th semesters)
  • Your standardized test scores (ACT or SAT)
  • Other factors can include the quality of your essay (if applicable), teacher or counselor recommendations, your extra-curricular activities, or your personal recognition or awards.

Factors in the College Admission Decision


Organizational Guide to College Applications

Visit Campus

College visits are often the largest determinant in choosing a college, and upperclassmen are encouraged to use their “college days.”

 There are three basic types of college visits:

  • Spring / Summer of Junior Year – either “self-directed” or led by a backwards walking student or admission officer.  Classes may or may not be in session, so keep in mind this may not accurately reflect how the campus truly feels.  It is a good idea to call ahead and make an appointment with the admissions office.
  • Fall Semester of Senior Year – Generally can be scheduled for a Friday or Saturday (Labor Day and Columbus Day are also popular open house days for colleges).  Visit classes, speak with faculty talk to admission officers about admission requirements and chances of success, visit the residence halls (possibly stay overnight), try the cafeteria food, and see the town/city outside of campus.
  • Spring Semester of Senior Year – After you have been admitted, find more information to verify your early impressions.  You may meet with a financial aid staff member or perhaps even, a coach.

College visits are most beneficial when students use them to develop a point of reference and use them to make comparisons to other colleges.

College Comparison Worksheet