College Preparation Tips

six students having robotics competition
student smiling with text book

College Preparation Tips

Before College

You don’t really feel the stress and nervous excitement of getting ready for college until close to the end of your high school career. But preparing for college is much more than the flurry of activity during those last few months. We’ve compiled some tips that will assist you in preparing for the college selection process and for college itself.

student smiling with text book
six students having robotics competition
  • Enroll in the best available and most challenging courses. We recommend four years of English and at least three years of mathematics, natural sciences, foreign language, and social studies. We generally expect students to enroll in five academic courses per year, and if a student does not take four years in a particular subject area, it should be replaced with an academic course of equal rigor. For students applying to the Pratt School of Engineering, we require coursework in calculus and strongly recommend physics. We also encourage students to enroll in advanced-level work in as many areas as reasonable, regardless of your intended major. For some students, this will include AP or IB courses, whereas for others it will include honors, accelerated, or college courses.
  • Get involved in the school or local community. Not only are extracurricular activities a great way for you to balance your academic life, but they are also a means by which you can identify your passions and interests. Understanding what is important to you can help give the Admissions Committee an idea of your potential impact on our campus.
  • We recommend that you investigate the standardized tests most colleges and universities require for admission. Buy a study guide and begin taking practice SAT and ACT tests. We recommend that a student take an official SAT or ACT in the springtime of your junior year if you plan to submit testing.
  • Develop a list of important college characteristics. Knowing what to look for when reading through college websites and brochures, or knowing what to ask when speaking with a college representative, will save time and result in a more thoughtful college choice. Think about tangibles such as academic programs offered, size, location, and intangibles like intellectual and student culture.
  • Investigate the websites and social media accounts of your favorite schools. This is an easy and inexpensive way for you to get an overall sense of a school’s community, setting, academic programs, and will also give you a firsthand look at student life.
  • Get to know your school counselor. School counselors are extremely important people during the application process. They serve not only as recommenders but also as invaluable resources to help you select the college that best suits your needs, drawing on their knowledge of a wide range of schools and experience with many students.
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Research poster presentation at Visible Thinking.
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Student at Last Day of Class festivities.
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Students boarding the C1 bus for East Campus.

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Policy

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences students may be granted up to two elective course credits toward the degree requirement of 34 course credits for any combination of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or pre-matriculation college credit. For more detailed information about receiving Trinity College course credit on the basis of AP and international exam scores or on the basis of college coursework completed at another American college, click here.

Pratt School of Engineering Policy

The Pratt School of Engineering evaluates AP and IB credit as Trinity College does, but awards transfer credit to qualified students for college-level course work with a grade of at least C- prior to matriculation. Although the criteria for evaluating such work are the same as in Trinity College, the Pratt School requires official notification by letter from the high school principal or school counselor that the credit earned was not used to meet high school diploma requirements. For more information about receiving Pratt course credit on the basis of AP and IB exam scores, click here; similarly, for details regarding credit on the basis of college coursework completed at another American college or university prior to enrollment at Duke, click here.

International Placement Testing

Entering students who have completed internationally recognized college-level examinations (the British “A” levels, the French Baccalaureate, the German Abitur or Swiss Maturite Certificate) with superior scores will receive international placement credit in essentially the same way that credit is awarded for AP exams.

Foreign Language Placement

Students with previous experience in one of the foreign languages offered at Duke who wish to continue their studies at Duke should consult Languages at Duke for placement guidelines. Some languages, including Latin, French and German, use the SAT-II or AP exam scores, if available, for placement. The Spanish Language Program uses AP exam scores, if available, for placement purposes. Students must have their exam results sent to Duke before they enroll in late August.

Students who plan to begin a new language that they have not previously studied do not need to submit a placement score and may register for an introductory course.

Mathematics Placement

The Department of Mathematics offers several different approaches to the study of calculus. Students should consider their strengths and interests in determining how much math they need to take at Duke. For specific information about suitable math courses, refer to the Academic Advising Center.