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Challenge Yourself: Show Colleges You're Ready

The biggest factor in getting into college is performance in challenging courses. Meeting challenges outside of class counts, too.

Colleges expect you to set the bar high all four years of high school. Stepping up to difficult material shows you are willing and able to handle college-level instruction.

Seek Academic Challenge in Core Subjects

When colleges evaluate your application, one of the first things they consider is the "strength of curriculum" in your transcript. They want to see that you did well taking the most challenging academic courses available to you.

Colleges look specifically at your grades in these core subjects: history, math, English, lab science, and foreign language. They expect you to take each subject for three to four years.

Take Courses Colleges Consider Challenging

You will find the most challenging core courses through the following programs.

  • Advanced Placement (AP). AP courses are designed for high school students, but the content is at the college level. There are over 30 AP courses, ranging from the sciences to foreign languages.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB Program is a two-year high school curriculum culminating in six rigorous exams. The subjects studied include languages, social studies, the experimental sciences, mathematics, cultural understanding, and community building.
  • Honors courses. Most high schools offer honors courses, which are more intense and faster paced than regular courses. The content is not at the college level and their difficulty varies from school to school.
  • College courses. Another avenue to advanced instruction is taking college courses at your local community college or university during the school year. You can also take online college courses or attend college summer programs.

If Your Academic Options Are Limited

Colleges know the level of the classes your high school offers. If you have limited access to challenging courses, they will look for additional efforts you made to challenge yourself, such as taking community college classes, taking advanced courses online, and participating in academic clubs offered by your high school.

Seek Challenge Outside the Classroom

Colleges want to know how you have challenged yourself personally throughout high school. They will look for evidence of this in your application essays and short answers. For example, an athlete might work for several years with physically disabled students and write about what he learned from their courage and determination. These sorts of experiences, and what you learned from them, show the college that you have the maturity to seek personal growth.

What's Next

For Students Age 18 and Older

Have you received a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit card?

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1st Financial Bank believes students who pick colleges wisely will also want to learn how to use credit cards wisely.

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.