Preparing for College

Most likely, the prospect of college is exciting, but the process can also seem daunting. We truly believe that it doesn't’t have to be stressful. We offer the same advice to all students: spend the coming months or years taking a strong curriculum in high school, participating in outside activities that are meaningful to you, and spending time with your friends and family.

Part of your time should also be spent conducting a thorough college search. This search can begin anywhere—on the Internet, in the biography of an author you love, in your high school counselor’s office, or at a college fair in your area. We hope that you ask important questions of colleges and take the time to get the facts straight, but that you also ask important questions of yourself about what you want out of your college experience. Your answers may surprise you, so it’s important to keep an open mind.

Recommended Curriculum

When making curriculum choices, always seek out courses that will enrich and challenge you, rather than thinking about how they will look to a college application reader—every college reads applications differently, so it’s difficult to predict what will look “good” to every college.

High School

When we read applications, our first concern is whether a student has prepared himself or herself to do the work in the College. Though no specific secondary school courses are prescribed, a standard college preparatory program is recommended:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3–4 years of math
  • 3–4 years of laboratory sciences
  • 3 or more years of social sciences
  • Study of a foreign language


Colleges seek students who engage with the world around them and who care about the communities in which they live and study. They ask in the application what you do with your time outside of class not because they have a specific idea of what this should be, but because they want to know more about who you are and what's important to you. Participation in officially organized clubs or teams is great, but family responsibilities, part-time jobs, hobbies, and independent projects are just as valid as ways to spend your time. In your application, include anything you spend your time outside of class. 

The best advice on how to choose extracurricular activities in order to impress colleges? Don't choose extracurricular activities in order to impress colleges. Choose what you do outside of class based on what's interesting, meaningful, or worthwhile to you, not on what you think a college will want to see.



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Spring Junior Year Take the SAT or ACT test
Visit campus
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Summer Junior Year Begin your UChicago Supplement
Complete the Common, Coalition or Universal Application
Campus visits and interviews continue
October 1 Sit in on classes and stay overnight on campus
Fall Senior Year Ask your teachers for recommendations
November 1 Early Action and Early Decision I deadlines
Mid-December Early Action and Early Decision I decisions
January 1 Early Decision II and Regular Decision deadlines
February 15 All financial aid forms due
Mid-February Early Decision II decisions
Late March Regular Decision decisions
April 1–30 Admitted student visits
May 1 National Reply Deadline