How To Prepare for College

Whether you already know you’re destined for college, you’re on the fence or just checking out your options, this page is designed by Grand Canyon University to provide students and their parents or guardians with the know-how to prepare for college.

At GCU, our students are encouraged to find their purpose and shape their own perspective. Did you know you can prepare for college now while you’re still in high school?

Preparing for College in High School

Even before your freshman year in high school, your academic journey has already begun. As you progress through each academic year, we have provided the below guide to help you prepare for becoming a Lope.

Your freshman year in high school is the exploration year. It’s your opportunity to challenge yourself by trying new things and discovering your passions. Here’s how to prepare for college at GCU beginning in your freshman year:

  • Explore your interests by taking GCU’s Career Pathway Quiz
  • Start academically strong (GCU looks at your overall GPA, including your freshman year, in determining admissibility and scholarship eligibility)
  • Review GCU’s admission requirements and scholarship opportunities
  • Participate in scholastic and extracurricular activities outside the classroom — GCU has over 100 clubs and organizations as of Spring 2023

Sophomore year is your building year in high school. Keep the momentum going by building upon your efforts and accomplishments from your freshman year. Preparing for college at GCU as a sophomore includes:

  • Continue to focus on your academic performance
  • Explore your potential career paths using the GCU Career Compass (Access code: PURPOSE)
  • Research the costs to attend GCU and learn about your state’s 529 college savings plan 
  • Research the difference between tuition and costs for attending college online versus on campus
  • Take dual enrollment courses and start earning college credits to get ahead

Your junior year is often your year of discovery in high school. You have likely discovered new interests and now it’s time to learn how and where to pursue those interests further. Follow these steps in preparing for college at GCU in your junior year:

  • Track your academic and extracurricular accomplishments, which may be needed for outside scholarships
  • Meet with your school counselor to track your progress for going to college at GCU
  • Explore GCU’s campus virtually or through a GCU LIVE tour
  • Learn about financial aid and scholarships available at GCU
  • Explore outside scholarship opportunities
  • To get ahead, transfer courses
  • Although GCU is test optional, take the PSAT, SAT or ACT to potentially increase your scholarships
  • Understand GCU’s admission, housing and decision deadlines
  • As your junior year ends, make sure to apply to GCU — no application fee — and submit your transcripts after your sixth semester

As a senior preparing for college, this is your year for action. Follow along with GCU’s college planning checklist to complete any necessary tasks and stay on top of important deadlines. Get ready for GCU with these final steps in your senior year:

  • If you haven’t yet applied to GCU, connect with your university counselor to learn more about steps to enrolling
  • Upon acceptance to GCU, schedule your complimentary Discover GCU visit
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), if applicable
  • Apply to outside scholarships
  • Continue to take dual enrollment at GCU. Also consider taking AP, IB or transfer courses
  • Retake SAT or ACT in order to increase your scholarship eligibility (GCU is test optional)
  • Register to GCU early to take advantage of the benefits, including additional scholarship opportunities, preferred housing and schedule preference
  • Study and take placement exam
Connect with an admission counselor

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How GCU Can Help You Prepare for College and Your Future

At GCU, we believe your time in college isn’t just about the next four years or so, but how these formative years will prepare you for the rest of your life. It’s important to choose a school that best fits your interests and goals. Here’s how GCU can help as you begin preparing for college in high school:

  • Start by visiting campus.
    Taking a tour of GCU’s top-rated Phoenix campus is an excellent way for future Lopes of any age to get a glimpse of campus life and ask questions of student representatives.
  • Explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
    As you prepare for your next educational journey, you will need to consider how you will fund it. At GCU, we are committed to providing an affordable and transformative higher education for our students. Our university counselors will walk you through scholarship and financial aid opportunities available to you.
  • Learn about the admission requirements.
    Admission to GCU is based on your academic achievements in high school. Here are GCU’s high-level requirements for high school graduates:
    • Unweighted GPA of 3.0+ — No SAT or ACT scores required! or
    • Unweighted GPA of 2.5+ and a qualifying SAT or ACT score

For more details on admission requirements at GCU, view our University Policy Handbook.

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Considerations for Your College Planning Checklist

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To get you started on your college research, GCU has prepared a college planning checklist with questions to be answered in key areas. Keep a separate checklist for each school you are interested in. Answers to these questions can often be found by:

  • Reading through the college websites
  • Talking with friends and family members who have attended the schools of interest
  • Reaching out to admission/university counselors
  • Visiting the campuses and talking with student representatives
  • What are the initial costs vs. overall costs?
  • How will I pay for my college of choice?
  • What financial aid options are available?
  • What scholarship programs are available for students?
  • What outside scholarship opportunities are there for me?
  • What will my potential lifetime earning income be?

Start your research here:

  • Does my chosen degree path prepare me with the knowledge I need to become hired in my desired career?
  • Does the school offer hands-on experiences inside or outside of the classroom that will prepare me to enter a career in my chosen field?
  • If I need further education after receiving a bachelor’s degree, will this school prepare me to get into a post-graduate program?
  • What is the teaching experience of the faculty and instructors?
  • What is the typical student-teacher ratio in the classroom?

Read more about GCU’s degree programs and innovative colleges:

  • What is the learning environment like?
  • What student resources are available on campus?
  • What is the community atmosphere like?
  • Will I be able to meet new people? What opportunities exist for me to connect with others?
  • What are the living areas like?
  • Is there a health and wellness center on campus?
  • What recreational activities exist?
  • Do they have college athletics?

Learn what makes GCU different:

  • What is the surrounding city like?
  • Is this a good city to pursue my desired career path?
  • How does the school address campus safety?
  • Will I need to commute?
  • How far away from home is the school?

Get a quick glance at GCU:

  • What parent connection opportunities are there?
  • What support is offered that will help prepare me for my professional career?
  • What test preparation opportunities does this school have for graduate entrance exams?
  • What tutoring services are available for students?
  • What admissions support is available?

Learn how GCU can support your academic journey:

  • What do I desire to do? (Think about your end goal and work backward so you know how to start now and successfully pave your path toward your dream career.)
  • What is my next step today?
  • How do I find a major that is my best fit?
  • How do I find a career that best suits me?
  • What college information sessions are available for me to attend?

Find your purpose at GCU:


College Terminology and Acronym Guide

If you or your student is experiencing new college vernacular or acronyms during the admission process, it can lead to confusion and frustration during an already trying time. 

In an effort to lighten the load and have you well-versed during the college application process, GCU has provided a glossary of common terms and definitions. Not to worry, you won’t be tested!

Glossary of Terms

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Take the First Step Toward Your Future

If you have been preparing for college since your freshman year or you are still considering your post-high school options, GCU invites you to complete the form on this page to get started on your next steps. This can mean applying to GCU or talking with one of our friendly university counselors for more information.

Let GCU help you start on your future today!

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