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Pathway to College

The following year-by-year course selections, admissions tests, and college preparation activities are recommended for students planning to attend the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), or other highly selective private and independent universities.  While admission requirements are not the same for all colleges and universities, a strong academic program, along with focused extracurricular activities and community service always give students the best chance of being admitted to the school of their choice. Also see the Half Moon Bay High School Student Planning Guide for a suggested course of study.


The "a-g" Subject Requirements
The college preparatory course pattern is also known as the a-g subject requirements. The University of California is responsible for reviewing high school courses in the state of California to certify that they meet the college preparatory standard. To satisfy the UC subject requirements, students must complete 15 units of UC-approved high school coursework. (A unit is equal to an academic year, or two semesters, of study - which would be a total of 30 semesters or 150 credits in the HMBHS system.) Beginning with the class of 2012, 11 units of coursework must be completed by the end of junior year. Check out the site below for the “a-g” Subject Requirements link for more information, as well as to view the list of courses at HMBHS that fulfill them. 


Should focus on academics and extracurricular activities. The 9th grade is a critical year in terms of social and academic adjustment.  Encourage students to get involved at school in whatever activities they are interested.  These activities will pay off not only in the socialization process but can lead to some excellent community service and leadership opportunities that will be critical later on in the college application process.


Don’t push college visits, and testing at this stage. Many well-intentioned parents who have been frightened by publicity about the competitiveness of the admission process actually do more damage than good by passing their anxieties on to their 13 and 14 year old freshmen. Kids can be demoralized by being forced to take advanced college preparatory classes along with the PSAT this year.


Campus Clubs
As mentioned above, freshman should go out of their way to pursue school-related extracurricular activities. Campus clubs provide students with a wide range of interests to meet other like-minded students, as well community service, resume building, & leadership opportunities. For a list of clubs, please click here.


Students should not only continue to focus on academics and extracurricular/volunteer activities, they should increase in their rigor and responsibilities. This can look like Advanced/AP Courses as well as leadership roles within clubs and activities!


Though the Practice SAT (PSAT) is designed for juniors, sophomores are HIGHLY encouraged to take this test. It is a great introduction to the official SAT and will not hurt their chance for admissions. Rather, with more SAT practice, it will increase their chance of a higher SAT score! For more detail on the PSAT visit:


Honors/AP Courses 
10th grade is the year that most students can begin to access AP and Honors courses. For students that feel ready for such a challenge, it is highly recommended to enter honors/AP courses. It will not only prepare you further your education, it will prepare you for college.


SAT Subject Tests

Many universities, both public and private, require a minimum of two additional tests as part of their admissions requirements. These tests are known as the SAT Subject Tests. Since they are “subject specific,” the best time for students to take these exams is at the end of the year in which they are taking the equivalent AP course in High School. For example, many sophomores take AP World History and prepare for the AP exam in May. If a student is doing reasonably well (at least a "B" grade) and diligently studying for the AP exam, they should take the equivalent subject test in May and/or June; world history is offered as one of the many SAT Subject Tests. For more information, please visit

** Please note that SAT Subject Tests is NOT required for admission to the UC/CSU campus, but is HIGHLY recommended for any students applying to majors in the math and science field - engineering, physics, chemistry, and more. Also, most private schools require at least two subject tests as part of their admission requirements. For university specific requirements, please log on to Naviance or visit the university's webpage.



Continue to focus on academics and extracurricular/volunteer activities. This is perhaps the most important year in terms of the college application process. For most colleges (i.e. the UC and CSU systems), the grades from this year will be the last ones that can be used for the GPA calculation on the admissions application! This is also the critical year for students to insure that they satisfy all of their admissions testing requirements; students may continue to re-take these exams until December of their senior year.


Juniors should take the PSAT in October. When taken in the junior year, students may become eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. It is excellent preparation for taking the official SAT in the spring of the junior year.


Students should also consider enrolling in some form of test preparation program prior to taking the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT in the spring. At the very least, students should work through one of the many test prep books or CDs that can be purchased at any bookstore. It is critical for students to then complete full-length practice diagnostics in one sitting to become more acquainted with time requirements.  The length and timing of the test is the most difficult part of the SAT and ACT. It is recommended that students have taken at least 3 full-length practice tests prior to taking an official SAT/ACT. The SAT Reasoning Test and/or the ACT should definitely be taken at least once during the spring semester of the junior year.


Students should also consider taking some additional SAT Subject Tests. For example, most students will probably be their most prepared to take the History, English, and Math tests in the spring of their Junior year. Note: it is possible to take as many as 3 of these Subject Tests in one sitting!


Schools that do not use SAT or ACT scores for admission decision. You should know that there are about 900 institutions for whom SAT & ACT are optional and not used in admission decisions. For more information visit


Test Preparation
Options for test preparation include online test practice, enrolling in a local Community college course, or a private company Take the practice test to reinforce your test-taking skills and to be more comfortable when you take the SAT. This practice test will give you a good idea of what to expect on the actual test. is a free service of a nonprofit group of educators. This website was created to provide free practice test questions for students in a variety of career situations. The site contains a modular approach to learning the content on these exams. They include the information that will help you get maximum value from your testing experience.


Average SAT & ACT Scores 
The Princeton Review has published a list of the “Average SAT & ACT Scores” scores of incoming freshmen at 345 leading colleges. To view the list click:


The summer between the Junior and Senior year is the most important time to seriously research which colleges you might be interested in. HMBHS students have access to NAVIANCE, a one-stop shop for college and career preparation. A great tool for students and families to research colleges, programs, admission requirements, and more, students should use the summer to prepare a list of at least 10 colleges and universities that he/she wishes to apply to.

Still focus on academics! Grades count in the senior year.

Seniors should be taking their SAT Reasoning test, Subject tests (if required), or ACT test for the last time during the fall of their senior year. December is the absolute last month to take these tests for most Fall admissions.

Many college fairs are scheduled throughout the year, be on the watch for them. This is a great way to meet admissions representatives and pick up free materials. Check the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) website for upcoming fairs:

May/June are critical months for seniors because last semester grades do count! Spring semester classes (that were listed on the student’s admission application) that are dropped or not passed may result in a college rescinding its offer. Most competitive universities expect seniors to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in the senior year.

Naviance: College Web Resources

College Entrance Dates and Deadlines To access this page click here.
This is a link that is dedicated exclusively to the needs of seniors at this critical point in the college admissions process.


Application Process For more information click here.
The deadlines for college applications begin early in the fall semester of the senior year, but vary widely from school to school. The application process can essentially be broken out into two categories:

  1. The UC/CSU application process (with deadlines between October 1st and November 30th).

  2. The Private/Independent/Out-of-State application process (with deadlines typically between December 1st and January 15th).

UC & CSU Admissions For information on UC/CSU Standardized Admission Guidelines click here.

All UC & CSU applications should be filed before 11/30 each year. For many other schools, the deadlines are still in the future, so the process continues. If letters of recommendation are required from counselors or faculty members, students should be giving them at least three weeks advanced notice before the deadline.

Mid-March is when most UC and CSU schools begin notifying applicants of acceptance or denial. Berkeley and UCLA are usually the last to send notices.

April (during Spring Break) is the time to make final visits to schools that have made offers of acceptance. May is then the month students will submit their Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) to the school they wish to attend; deadline is typically May 1st.


Private Colleges and Out-of-State Colleges For information on admissions click here.
If applying to a Private Institution, seniors should check to see if the school requires a CSS/Profile as part of their Financial Aid process. Individual schools have different deadlines, and students should contact the campus Financial Aid Offices directly if they don’t know the deadlines. (Hint) Most deadlines are listed in the admissions application instructions. More information about the CSS/Profile can be accessed at the following website:


Early Action/Decision
If you are applying to a private school, especially the very competitive ones, consider the Early Action/Decision process! The dates are very early (September or October). So you need to be ready to act quickly! For more detail visit:

**Cal Poly Pomona now offers early decision. Please visit the school's website for more information.


Financial Aid: FAFSA -
January is the time to begin the application process for both Federal and State funded Financial Aid. The FAFSA cannot be filed until after January 1st, but it is possible to request your PIN numbers before the 1st. You can go to the online application by clicking on:  Spring semester is when locally sponsored scholarships are the most plentiful.


To access Financial Aid Internet Resources and more information click here.


Many colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, and scholarship programs use the information collected on the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to help them award nonfederal student aid funds. Students need to check whether the schools they’re applying to require the PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA. The PROFILE can be accessed at: March 2nd is the deadline to submit the Cal Grant GPA Verification form.


Local Scholarships
Each year, over fifty individuals and groups in the community contribute to the HMBHS Local Scholarship Program. Last year one hundred and fifty awards were made to ninety graduating senior recipients, for over $100,000.00. One application is all that is needed for consideration in a wide variety of awards. Please make sure to check the Local Scholarship Program page for deadline and application.


The UC & CSU’s do not require transcripts at the time you apply, but may ask for a transcript after you have completed your 1st semester of your senior year.  Then, if you ultimately commit to attend a UC or CSU school, you will need to send a final transcript that reflects your 2nd semester senior year grades to that school! This transcript must be requested before school ends to give ample time to be sent off before the July deadline.  Most Community Colleges also require an official high school transcript as part of their application process. 


Many scholarship applications will also require an official transcript. To request a transcript, you may submit a paper request by completing a “Transcript Request” form available in the Registrar’s office. Please return this form to the Registrar's office at HMBHS with your $5 payment. Make sure to denote if you need a transcript immediately or if you would like to hold for final grades.


Coming soon: Naviance will allow students to request transcript electronically. More instructions to come.


Letters of Recommendation 
The UC’s & CSU’s do not require or accept letters of recommendation, except UC Berkeley. Beginning Fall 2015, UC Berkeley is the only UC school that will accept letters of recommendations. Private colleges require both recommendations and transcripts. Most applications for scholarships will also require them. If students want their counselors to write a letter of recommendation, students must submit their request through Naviance no later than three weeks prior to the due date for your application. All components of the Letter or Recommendation request must be filled out. Please log on to Naviance for more information.  Last minute requests cannot be honored! Please be aware that the Counseling Office is closed over the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday.


Students can also request Letters of Recommendations from teachers through Naviance. Please speak with the teacher at least three weeks in advance to determine the best way to request a letter. Please note, some schools only accept paper Letter of Recommendations. Be ready to provide your teacher and/or counselor with a stamped, addressed envelope. Recommendations are supposed to be confidential. Students should not ask the writer for a copy! If students need multiple letters of recommendation, they should use the same teachers/counselors for those letters as well.


Community Colleges 
If you are interested in the junior/community college option, check out the web resources for Two-Year Community Junior Colleges and Local Community Colleges. Junior Colleges can be an outstanding choice to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree or earn two-year professional or technical program and an Associate in Arts (AA) or Science (AS) Degree.