What Are the Entrance Requirements for a 4-Year College?

The entrance requirements for a 4-year college or university are fairly consistent and typically include a high school diploma and acceptable standardized test scores. Read on to learn more about entering college.

Overview of Admission Requirements

Admission to a college or university typically entails a high school diploma or GED, certain coursework completed at the high school level and minimum aptitude test scores. The exact courses and test score minimums vary between schools. Entrance requirements also include the ability to pay the costs of college, although student loans and financial aid make that possible for many applicants.

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Diploma Requirement

The 4-year college to which you apply will want official transcripts from your high school and from any other college you have attended. Home-schooled students are increasingly welcomed by 4-year colleges. They may find the diploma part easiest if they were registered with an accredited school that monitors curriculum and provides a diploma, or if they can provide a portfolio of high school work. Proof of a GED credential is acceptable as well. If you have an associate's degree or at least 60 college credits, many colleges will waive the high school diploma requirement.

Prerequisite Coursework

Almost all 4-year colleges specify certain educational background requirements. You should have passed the following courses at the high school level:

  • Four years of English
  • Three years of mathematics (specifically algebra I, geometry, and algebra II)
  • Three years of a foreign language, unless you can show fluency
  • Three years of science, including at least one laboratory science course
  • Some social sciences or history

These are only minimum requirements. If your intended major is in science or engineering, for example, the school may expect you to have taken calculus or pre-calculus and one or more additional laboratory science courses.

Standardized Aptitude Tests

The SAT or ACT examinations are traditional entrance requirements for 4-year colleges and universities. School descriptions in books like Barron's Profiles of American Colleges note the entering class' average score or suggested minimum scores for applying to each college. Some colleges weigh standardized test scores more lightly than the rigor of applicants' high school coursework and their grade point averages.

Unique College Entrance Requirements

An alternative 4-year college like Goddard College in Vermont, which uses an education model similar to independent study programs, focuses more on an applicants essay, recommendations, and optional interviews to determine student fit. A school of music or fine arts will ask for a portfolio or audition. For example, applicants to the Berklee College of Music in Boston are required to audition and complete an interview. Alternative format schools do, however, usually require transcripts from all previous schools just as mainstream schools do.

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