College Planning Guide

Selecting and applying to college is one of the most important and impacting steps taken in a young persons life. Where a person chooses to attend college will affect where that person chooses to live and work in the years to follow. It is a decision that should be made by the family based on as much information as possible. The Student Services staff at Juan Diego has much of this information on hand. Juan Diego is committed to supporting and assisting students in this process. We can help a student make informed decisions about the future. This guide was designed to assist in that process from the moment a student walks in our doors.

Part I: The Academic Record

In Part I you will find brief explanations of the many terms you need to know in order to guide and advise your son or daughter.

Admissions Criteria

Colleges will use some, if not all, of the information listed below when determining admission for a student. Individual colleges differ in how they evaluate the information (e.g. One college may place more importance on test scores than another).

  • Grade Point Average (GPA)
  • Class Standing (vs. Class Rank) in Relationship to Peers
  • Strength of Subjects
  • ACT and/or SAT Scores
  • Recommendations
  • Activities/Awards, Community Service
  • Personal Essays
  • Interviews

Grade Point Average

Although individual colleges use their own criteria when evaluating prospective students, virtually all colleges consider a student's GPA combined with the level of difficulty of high school courses to be the most important criteria for college admission. GPA is the average of a student's semester grades, starting with his/her freshman year. Juan Diego applies a 4.0 scale where an A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, D=1.0, and F=0. Since college applications are generally completed during the fall of the senior year, the GPA at the end of the junior year is very important.

Class Standing in Relationship to Peers

Juan Diego applies class standing to show where a student stands academically in relation to the other members of his/her graduating class. Class standing is often followed by the total number of students in the class (e.g. Top 10%/135). It is necessary to have a high GPA in order to have an impressive class standing. In an effort to keep students learning oriented rather than grade oriented, Juan Diego does not report a specific class rank. Instead, class standing is reported in terms of the decile in which the student falls, e.g. the top 10%, 20%, 30% and so on. A GPA breakdown of each decile is reported on our high school profile (a copy is sent with each student transcript), so a college or university can see where that student stands in relation to his/her peers.

Student Transcript

A transcript is a document that details a student's academic achievement in high school. Although the appearance of the high school transcript varies from school to school, Juan Diego's transcripts will contain the following information:

  • Courses, grades, and credits for each grade level completed, beginning with 9th grade.
  • Current cumulative GPA.
  • Standardized college entrance and placement exam scores including ACT, SAT I, SAT II, and Advanced Placement (AP) scores. Written permission from the student and parent - if the student is under 18 - to release these scores is required.
  • Anticipated graduation year.

Almost all college and most scholarship applications will request a transcript be submitted at the time of application. The transcript provides the college admission and scholarship committees with important objective data.

Usually applications will request an Official Transcript be forwarded. This means the transcript must include a signature and stamp or school seal of authenticity. An Unofficial Transcript is exactly the same as an official transcript minus the signature and seal or stamp. "Official" transcripts cannot be given to a student or parent unless the college or scholarship program states it is permissible to do so.

To request an Official Transcript be sent, a student needs to complete a "Transcript Request Form" which can be obtained in Student Services. A $3.00 charge for each transcript requested must accompany the request. It is reasonable to allow 5 working days for a transcript to be sent.

College Recommended Courses

Four-year colleges recommend students complete certain college preparatory courses while in high school. These generally include:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of Math (including Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II at minimum)
  • 3 years of Science (including 2 of these 3: Biology, Chemistry, or Physics)
  • 2 years of the same Foreign Language
  • 3 years of Social Studies
  • 1 years of Fine Arts

(Students who do not have these courses may be required to take remedial and/or additional courses prior to or once they enter college.)

College bound students should try to complete all of the above recommended courses. Some of the more competitive schools and/or programs consider the above as "bare minimum requirements." Students should take as many college preparatory classes as they can handle and will fit into their four-year high school career.

College Testing

ASPIRE (Practice test for the ACT): This is a summative assessment linked to ACT college Readiness Benchmarks and other sets of state standards. The test covers the following 5 content areas: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Direct Writing. The ASPIRE is given to all 10th grade students in April at Juan Diego. (

PSAT/NMSQT - Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (Practice test for the SAT): It is also used to determine National Merit Scholarship Competition semi-finalists. The PSAT/NMSQT is given each October to all juniors (and select sophomores) at Juan Diego. (

SAT I (College entrance examination): Generally taken during the junior and/or senior year. Students receive a Critical Reading, Writing, and a Math score. Each of these scores are combined to form a total score. (

SAT II (College entrance examination): Subject tests to measure a student's knowledge of specific subjects and his/her ability to apply that knowledge. These tests are required by some colleges, particularly the University of California public system and many highly competitive colleges. It is best to take these at the end of junior year when subject information is still fresh. (

ACT (College entrance examination): Generally taken during the junior and/or senior year. Students receive score in English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning as well as a Composite score. An ACT with Essay is also an option for students. (

College Majors

Students who know what they want to major in should choose their high school courses accordingly. A large number of students go to college without having decided upon a major. "Undecided" students use their first two years of college to fulfill their general education requirements and explore their major options.

Students will find most colleges have a broad range of majors from which they can choose. The following is a list of popular college majors:

  • Accounting
  • Anthropology
  • Architecture
  • Art Education
  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Business
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Communications
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Science Engineering
  • Criminal Justice
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • English
  • Elementary Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • Fine Arts
  • French
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • German
  • History
  • Home Economics
  • Information Science
  • International Relations
  • Journalism
  • Management Info. Systems
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Music
  • Music Education
  • Music Performance
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Pharmacy
  • Philosophy
  • Physical Education
  • Physical Therapy
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Pre-Law (concentration)
  • Pre-Med (concentration)
  • Psychology
  • Public Relations
  • Religion
  • Secondary Education
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Spanish
  • Special Education
  • Speech Pathology
  • Urban Studies
  • Wildlife Management
  • Zoology

NCAA Requirements

Before an athlete can play a sport or receive an athletic scholarship at a NCAA Division I or II college, he/she must meet specific academic criteria as set forth by the NCAA. A student must have at least a 2.0 GPA (based on a 4.0 scale) in 16 core courses (Div II/ 14 for Div I). A student must also achieve a minimum composite ACT score of 18 or an SAT score of 820. To be eligible at a Division I school the student with a minimum test score will need a higher GPA.

Students must take specific courses in order to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. These include a certain number of college preparatory English, Science, Social Science, and Math courses, with at least one year of Algebra and one year of Geometry. Because the NCAA has such specific requirements, and because these requirements can be confusing, it is very important athletes meet with their college coordinator to obtain information on all NCAA requirements. Athletes should take the ACT and/or SAT no later then the spring of their junior year. This allows time to retake the test if necessary. In order to initiate the eligibility process athletes also need to complete a NCAA Clearinghouse Student Release Form. The form can be submitted only after completion of the junior year. Forms and information are available in Student Services or

Two-Year Colleges, Career and Technical Schools

A four-year college education is not for everyone. Students can better prepare for some career fields in two-year colleges, or career or technical schools. Students can also begin at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year college. Most two-year colleges and career or technical schools do not require students to take the SAT or ACT, nor do they require applicants to have followed a college-prep program in high school.

If a student prefers career-related courses and/or a more hands-on approach to learning, a two-year college is a great post-secondary option. These schools are also a good option for students who prefer or need an environment with smaller classes (compared to the large public universities) and less pressure. Resources for exploring two-year schools can be found in Student Services.