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Academics Matter

Grades matter. So do the courses you take. To get ahead or catch up, talk with an adviser to understand what classes you can take to be college ready. If you are struggling, seek help from your school or from one of the many tutoring programs across the five boroughs. Not in school? Find a program in NYC to help you reconnect.


  • I’m not the best student. Should I try going to a training program instead of going to college?

    The decision to go to a training program or to college is not all about your grades. You need to think about what careers you are interested in and what skills you need to develop to get there.  College can be challenging, but “bad” grades do not have to hold you back.  You have options, especially at community colleges that offer open admissions. Talking with your school counselor or a college adviser can help you make the best decision for yourself.

  • I’m in 9th grade and I want to go to college. What can I do now?

    It’s never too early to start thinking about college. There are a lot of things you can do before your junior and senior year. One thing you can do is take the right classes. Meet with your guidance counselor to check-in about your classes. Make sure you take classes in your five major subjects (English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language) each year, if possible.

    Also talk to your guidance counselor about taking a challenging course load in high school, including advanced math or science courses, Advanced Placement courses, Career and Technical Education (CTE) program courses, and other college preparatory classes. If you are a New York City public school student, take advantage of dual enrollment programs like College Now to earn college credit while you are in high school.

    If you are having a difficult time as a new student in high school, ask for help. Speak with your guidance counselor or another trusted staff member about what you can do to make a better transition. This may mean joining a club to make new friends (and build your resume for colleges). If you’re overwhelmed by your classes, you might get tutoring from a classmate or an outside service. Don’t forget that colleges will look at all of your high school grades.

    If you are serious about college, make early contact with the school’s college counselor. He/she can help you find opportunities to learn more such as college fairs and visits. It’s never too early!

  • How will colleges evaluate my transcript?

    The transcript is one of the most important documents in your college application. It is a record of all of your high school grades as well as your regent’s scores. Colleges look for a number of things on your transcript.

    Colleges will notice grade trends. If your grades improve over time, it will reflect positively on you. If your grades dip at times or decline overall, they will wonder why.  If this is the case for you, you may want to spend some time explaining this in your essay, personal statement or an additional letter.

    Colleges will notice the classes you took. They will look for challenging courses such as AP and honors courses. They will be pleased to see that you took that fourth year of math, even though it wasn’t required, for example.

    In addition to noticing your GPA, which is your average for all of your classes, colleges will notice your Cumulative Academic Average.

    This is the average of your academic courses (English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language).

  • My high school doesn’t offer any advanced courses. What do I do?

    Colleges are looking for students who challenge themselves, so it is important that, if possible, you take advanced courses in your best subjects. That said, not all schools offer these opportunities. If this is your situation, take advantage of opportunities outside of your school. One example is the College Now program at the City University of New York (CUNY) ( If you are a public school student, you can apply to take a free credit or non-credit course at a CUNY school, during after school hours or on weekends.  Most colleges also offer summer programs. Start exploring now so you can beat the deadlines and apply for scholarships, if necessary.

  • I didn’t do well on the SAT. Will I get into college?

    If you didn’t get the score you wanted on the SAT, you should know that it is just one of the many things colleges will consider. They also look at your transcript, your essay, your resume, and your letters of recommendation.  College admission decisions will be based on the strength of your application package as a whole. In addition, some colleges are “SAT optional” and do not require you to submit SAT scores as part of your application.

  • Where can I get help preparing for the SAT?

    Check-in with your school college counselor. Many schools offer SAT courses for their students.  Many community based organizations also offer free SAT courses. Search the NYC College Line directory for programs in your neighborhood.  Call programs that you are interested in to make sure that you qualify and to ask what the next steps are to enroll.

  • Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

    The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that, together with your transcript, are supposed to predict college success. Most students in NY take the SAT. However, more and more students are turning to the ACT for many reasons. Some students are under the impression that the ACT is easier than the SAT. The truth is that most students score similarly on both tests. If a student scores on the 23rd percentile on the SAT, she will most likely score on the 23rd percentile for the ACT.

    If you think you might do better on one of the two tests, we recommend taking a full-length timed practice ACT and SAT. Score both tests and see how you do. This way you can make an informed decision about which test to take.

    You could always take both tests but we don’t recommend it. Taking both tests means that you will have to prepare for both, which will take a lot of work and that’s not a good use of time when you are going through the college application process.

  • Do I have to take other tests other than the SAT or ACT for college admission?

    This depends on the schools you are applying to. Some competitive schools will also require one to three SAT Subject Tests. These tests are hour-long content-based tests. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests which focus in one of the five major subjects (English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language).

    Also, if you did all or part of your high school years in a non-English speaking country, some colleges may require you to take the TOEFL exam. This test evaluates your listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in English.

    Make sure to research using the school’s web site or communicate with your college counselor or the admission office at the schools you are applying to in order to check whether you will have to take any of these tests.

  • Why should I take the PSAT?

    The PSAT assesses your verbal and math skills. There are many reasons to take this test. It is very similar to the SAT, so it helps you practice. All students who take the test get a free account with the College Board’s My Road program, which helps with college and career planning. Lastly, taking the test puts you in the running for the National Merit Scholarship competition. Also, if you are a 10th or 11th grade student in a NYC public school, you can take the test for free. You can’t lose!

  • I haven’t been in school for a long time. What can I do to get ready for college?

    If you’ve been out of school for a while, you may feel you’re not ready to go back. There are a number of programs that can help you get ready. Check our NYC College Line directory for community organizations that offer tutoring or college prep programs for adults.

    Additionally, if you are applying to the City University of New York (CUNY), rest assured that CUNY offers a number of support programs for its students. CUNY Start helps students to develop their reading, writing, and math skills, before they register for classes. CUNY ASAP helps enrolled full-time students graduate within three years by offering a number of supports. There are several other programs you may be able to take advantage of. If you want to go to college, you can make it happen!

Recommended Resources


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