High School

1302 North Street
Olympia, WA 98501
Phone: (360) 596-7000
Attendance: (360) 596-7003
Fax: (360) 596-7001


Basic Steps to Applying to Four-Year Colleges  

Its never too early to start planning!  

Freshman, Sophomore Year


  • Take the most challenging courses available, considering both ability and interest.  
  • Advanced Placement or Honors courses are advised as are AP tests for potential college credit.  
  • Involvement in clubs, sports, arts or activities encouraging a variety of exploration and experience.  Build your resume for scholarships and future opportunities.  
  • Keep a record of activities, volunteering, employment, and awards.
  • Research summer programs at colleges or in your community that build on career interests or exploration.  
  • Encourage attendance at college fairs and visitations.  


Junior Year


  • Continue to take challenging courses.  End of junior year transcript is a colleges first look at your cumulative GPA.  Semester 1 senior grades are sent following most application deadlines.  Sem 2 grades will continue to count toward admissions, schools have the right to deny admission up to 
  • Research different colleges and programs. Develop a list of colleges (6-8 maximum) to apply to and request information through their websites.  Discuss options with family, develop a ranked list of factors based on personal preferences. 
  • When reviewing admission requirements consider the following factors when researching colleges:  
    • Programs of study or major
    • School size
    • Class size
    • Location
    • Climate
    • Support programs
    • Campus culture
    • Distance from home
    • Extracurricular activities
    • Athletics
    • Religious affiliation
    • Cost
    • Financial Aid options
    • Outside learning options/Study abroad program
  • Review the college Freshman Profile to find numeric data on acceptance. This is not a final deciding factor, just a guide. It can assist in determining if the school you are considering is a REACH, MEET OR SAFETY school on your list. 
  • Visit college campuses whenever possible to help decide where to apply. Midwinter Break and Spring Break are ideal times, care usually in session and you can get a real feel for what life would be like on that campus.
  • Find the COA (Cost of Attendance) and complete a FAFSA 4caster and the schools cost of attendance calculator to determine estimated cost and financial aid packages.  
  • Take the PSAT in fall of the junior year, pre-test of the SAT. The PSAT won't count towards your college admissions applications, but it is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship.
  • Take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring and/or summer of the junior year. Check whether SAT Subject Tests are needed for specific colleges you plan to apply to.  (know the date of LAST test you can take to meet application deadlines) 


Senior Year

  • Get application information started (create a profile) and gathered in August, September and October. Complete the applications during November and December (even if due dates are January or later - earlier is better!).
  • Watch deadlines and get in applications ahead of time.  Will you be applying Regular Decision?  Or choose Early Action, Early Decision?  click here for definitions on each. 
  • September obtain a FAFSA ID, for signing FAFSA documents online.  Both parent/guardian & student must have a FASFA ID to start application process.  
  • October Take your final SAT or ACT if needed.  Get test scores sent directly to the colleges by going to www.collegeboard.org. 
  • Request secondary school reports from your counselor if needed.
  • Request letters of recommendation sent from teachers and others, if needed. Ask recommenders 2-3 WEEKS IN ADVANCE of your timeline, providing ample time for an exceptional letter.  
  • October 1st - Washington State is on a first first come, first served basis for financial aid awards- APPLY EARLY.  File a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), www.fafsa.org If your family feels you would not qualify for grants or loans, you are recommended to STILL APPLY, if a student receives a scholarship the awarding school may need a FAFSA on file.  FAFSA completion events are held in the area throughout Oct-Dec.  
  • Get transcripts sent from high school and, if a Running Start student, from SPSCC.   Pay the $5.00 fee (good for ten transcripts) in the ASB Office and bring the receipt to the Career Center for processing. 
  • Check with the college to determine if any other financial aid forms are needed, some schools require a CSS Profile.
  • Keep files for each college and track paperwork received and other information.
  • Select college to attend by May 1st deadline. Make sure to watch for deposit deadline, housing, orientation, and other time sensitive requirements.    
  • Continue to maintain GPA and a clean school record as schools can rescind or revoke admissions for significant drop in grades, disciplinary issues, suspensions, arrest or convictions.  
  • June or July - Plan to take the colleges Mathematics Placement Test, which is required for most students who are planning to enroll in first-year math courses at several of the state's public universities.  The MPT is used for course placement and for college readiness testing.
  • Some schools will allow your Smarter Balanced Assessment Score of 3 or higher.  Check your college website for details & requirements. 


The Common Application is used by over 400 private colleges nationally in order to process information and recommendations from guidance counselors and teachers. The Common Application process has a distinct look and purpose.  Teacher and counselor will complete the recommendation forms online via the Common App Online School Forms systems.

Other private in and out of state colleges such as Whitworth, PLU, Willamette, etc. may have their own Recommendation Reports for teachers and counselors that will be online and emailed to you directly at school. Please do not confuse these with the Common Application forms. If confused talk to Mrs. Dale in the Career Center or one of the counselors.

For teachers the form is the Teacher Evaluation (TE). For counselors the form is Secondary School Report (SSR) that includes school profile, transcript, letter of recommendation, and finally the Mid-Year Report after first semester grades are posted. When an applicant creates an account on Common App Online, the student must identify which teachers and counselor they wish to “invite” to submit a recommendation. An email is sent to the teacher and counselor with information about how to log on. Applicants are able to track the progress of their various documents from teachers and counselors, but will be unable to see what is written. The advantage of using the Common Application is for efficiency. We only need to submit the documents one time for the many colleges our students may apply to. 


Four-Year College Applications

Useful Information

College admissions counselors look most favorably at students’ cumulative academic achievement and willingness to take rigorous classes. Using a comprehensive review process, admissions personnel look at an essay or personal statement, leadership opportunities, contributions to the community, individual circumstances, and distinctive attributes. “While included in the mix, standardized test scores rarely are the decisive factor.”

Here are some areas where students hurt themselves on college applications:

  • Little or no academic course work beyond the core requirements, even though options were available.
  • Too many capable students who mistakenly assume that simply meeting core requirements is sufficient or that the senior year is not important.
  • Ongoing struggles in math. With quantitative reasoning being the #1 stumbling block for freshmen, all college-bound students need 3-4 years of math.
  • Not fulfilling core requirements for Chemistry or Physics.
  • Sporadic or negative grade trends, frequently followed by an across the board drop in curricular rigor.
  • Poor presentation; not taking the time to put the best foot forward; missing deadlines; failing to follow up on requests for additional information

Distinguishing factors that had a positive impact on college applications include:

  • Taking a full academic load through senior year, including math through pre-calculus or calculus
  • Taking 3 or 4 years of the same foreign language.
  • Taking 4 years of science - including chemistry and physics.
  • While advanced classes such as AP, Honors, Running Start, and IB are outstanding options for many students, taking a full schedule of "regular" classes can be equally impressive  in  the application review.
  • Perseverance in the face of significant hardship.
  • Potential contributions to the community such as multiculturalism, exceptional talent, leadership, "heart", and passion for a subject, activity or cause.
  • Well-written personal statement that helps colleges get to know what is important to a student and/or to understand academic choices and personal circumstances.
  • Sustained involvement and leadership, rather than occasional or one-time participation in extracurricular activities.
  • Students who list activities that occurred for one hour or one-half day generally lose credibility in the review process.
  • Being involved in a “risk taking” situation, such as going on exchange, standing up for one's beliefs, or accepting new challenges stand out

Summarized from Western Washington University’s Admissions Office “We Admit” Newsletter



Colleges like to see students take rigorous academic courses in high school.  The more a student challenges themselves in high school the more college options will be available.  


Olympia High School has open access to Honors Classes staring in 9th grade.  These classes cover the same academic material as regular classes, but are more in depth and typically faster paced.  Generally, they are not the equivalent of college-level work and do not earn college credit.  However, taking Honors courses show colleges that students are willing to take the academic challenge. 


Olympia High School has open access to AP Classes, but students often must be prepared in pre-requisites These courses prepare students to take rigorous nationally administered exams in May that can lead to college credit.