How to Get Into College Without Test Scores and Only 1 AP Class

Young woman holding her phone in one hand, raising her other arm in victory. Her head is back, and she is excitedly exclaiming.

How to Get Into College Without Test Scores and Only 1 AP Class

Published November 28, 2023

Young woman holding her phone in one hand, raising her other arm in victory. Her head is back, and she is excitedly exclaiming.

The mom of a Penn State-bound high school senior shared the following story in our Paying for College 101 Facebook Group, and it garnered tons of attention. It summarizes her daughter’s high school experiences both in and out of the classroom — experiences that included only one AP class and skipped standardized tests altogether. It’s proof that good students with full profiles can get into plenty of great colleges. It also shows that there are plenty of colleges that look at applicants holistically rather than as the sum of a few select parts.

Check out Kelley L.’s story below. It’s proof positive that there is no one single way to get into college. 

“My daughter goes to a high school on Long Island. She did not take the SAT or ACT, she maintained a solid 95 average throughout high school, and she only took 1 AP class. She had a math tutor throughout high school and worked hard for her grades.

She plays the French horn and was in the band, where she was a section leader. She was also in a few clubs, she worked on the school newspaper as a photographer, and she was on the yearbook committee. She was a member of both the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society.

High School Jobs And Activities Beyond School

Outside of school she participated in local theater and was in a dozen-plus shows during high school. She also takes pictures for the theater’s social media, and there were a few volunteer events she participated in. 

For the past two years, she has worked four days a week after school for a mom who works from home helping her children with homework and snacks. She also dog walks for two other families three or four times per week. She babysits occasionally, and she has been a host at a local restaurant for almost a year. She saves a lot of her money! All of this went on her applications and was used in some scholarship essays, too.

Building a College List With No Test Scores

[When building her college list] we started with a list of schools that had her major in states and places she thought she would go to. We looked at acceptance rates, cost, and academic requirements and some came off the list. We started tours in the summer and more came off the list. She started her essay in the summer and asked for recommendations early.

In total, she applied to nine schools. A community college was the tenth option if she wanted or needed it. Of the nine schools, four were Early Action, 1 Regular Decision and the rest were rolling admissions. 

Early Acceptance = Less Stress

She was accepted into two of the early action schools and was moved to the regular decision for the other two. Ultimately she got into one of those. Overall she got into seven of the nine schools. The two she did not get into she did not tour, so she had no attachment and shrugged it off. One was a school I went to so legacy does not always matter.

She received some acceptance letters early, which was nice. Her first came just four days after sending in her Common Application. We did lots of Accepted Student Days and visited some schools twice. After lots of reviewing and weighing the pros and cons, she finally accepted yesterday! She will attend Penn State University’s (PSU) main campus. She is over the moon and feels a huge weight off her shoulders. 

Now we continue to chase scholarships as PSU is not a merit school, which means she is still writing essays! We are so proud of her — PSU said they had 93,000 applicants. They accept 14,000 to yield around 9,000 for the freshman class. 

Good luck to all the families! Read a lot, ask questions, and start early as senior year is busy.” — Kelley L. 

Want to join the conversation? Dive in and read additional comments from other parents here.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Early Decision vs. Early Action: Ins and Outs, Pros and Cons, and How to Choose

Exploring Early Decision 2: How It Works and Who Should Consider It

High School Is Stressful: A Mom Expresses Concern and Our Community Responds




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