What Exactly is College Readiness?

“College readiness” might just sound like a phrase thrown around during the college search and application process. On the surface, it seems like a generic “are you ready for college?” sort of question, but in truth it’s much more specific than that.

College readiness refers to the set of skills, knowledge, and behaviors a high school student should have upon graduation and entering their freshmen year of college. It’s all about the ability to find success while studying at an institute of higher learning.

So let’s break college readiness down. What skills are required to be college ready,what do you have to know, and what behaviors should you embody?

A crossing light showing a green man walking.


While the specifics of college-ready knowledge might differ from state to state, generally it includes the Common Core subjects: math, language arts, science, and oftentimes foreign language. A broad and well-rounded education is desirable, even if the student decides not to round themselves out and focuses on a certain subject by taking extracurricular or advanced classes.


College-ready skills include things like writing well-structured essays, following through with mathematical formulas, being able to use the scientific method, etc. Additional skills that classrooms may not explicitly teach, but help in both college- and career-readiness (and life!), include: critical thinking, problem solving, time management, decision making, communication, and networking.


College is a challenge, and students must have certain mindsets to meet that challenge—and thrive! These behaviors and habits can include things like: self-motivation, putting in 100% effort, being mature, etc.

How do Schools Measure College Readiness?

While many of the aforementioned skills are more subjective than strictly measurable, college readiness is largely determined by the following: class rank, coursework, GPA, and test scores (ACT / SAT). Different institutions or states may use different indicators to measure college readiness differently. However, institutions generally accept these examples as readiness measures.

SAT/ACT Benchmarks

The people at ACT have created benchmarks as a measurement tool to determine how a student might perform at college. They take a student’s score on one of their tested subjects and estimate what kind of grade that student might get at an introductory-level course in college. For example, a student who scores an 18 on the English section of the ACT. That student has a 50% of earning a B or higher in an English Composition class in college. These benchmarks act as a sort of guideline more than a definitive unit of measurement. ACT scores vary by state and year taken, and are not entirely applicable to SAT-takers.

Why is College Readiness Important?

Students aren’t the only ones who look at (and benefit from) college readiness levels. High schools use it to determine the quality of a student’s education, and if they need to make any changes to the curriculum or teaching staff. College admissions teams will use it to determine whether or not they should extend an acceptance letter to a student. Even employers take a look at college readiness, as many of the skills can translate to career-readiness as well.

Are you ready for college? You can use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover how your ACT/SAT scores and GPA affect your acceptance odds at schools around the country!

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