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Iowa State University - 2016

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Institution Information

General Admissions

Entrance Requirements and Recommendations


Students who wish to enter Iowa State University directly from high school are considered for admission based upon their Regent Admission Index (RAI) score. There are two mathematical formulas for computing student's RAI scores, the primary formula (for students whose high school provides class rank) and the Alternative RAI formula (for students whose high school does not provide class rank.)
Below is a detailed description of each formula:

Primary RAI Formula (for students whose high school provides class rank)
Percentile class rank x1
+ACT composite score x 2
+Cumulative GPA x 20
+Number of years of high school core courses x 5
=RAI score

Alternative RAI Formula (for students whose high school does NOT provide class rank)
ACT composite score x 3
+Cumulative GPA x 30
+Number of years of high school core courses x 5
=RAI score

Note: For purposes of calculating the RAI, SAT scores will be converted to ACT composite equivalents; high school rank is expressed as a percentile with 99% as the top value; high school GPA is expressed on a 4-point scale; and number of high school courses completed in the core subject areas is expressed in terms of years or fractions of years of study.

Applicants who achieve at least a 245 RAI score and who meet the minimum high school course requirements will automatically be offered admission. Applicants who achieve less than a 245 RAI score and who meet the minimum high school course requirements may also be offered admission, but their applications will be reviewed on an individual basis.

Students who wish to enter Iowa State University directly from high school must also meet the minimum high school course requirements for admission: 1) English/Language Art--4 years, emphasizing writing, speaking, and reading, as well as an understanding and appreciation of literature; 2) Mathematics--3 years, including one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced algebra; 3) Science--3 years, including one year each of two of the following fields: biology, chemistry, and physics; 4) Social Studies--2 years.

In addition to the high school course requirements listed, students applying for admission to the College of Engineering must complete two years of a single foreign language. Students applying for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences must complete a third year of social studies and two years of a single foreign language.

Nontraditional students are held to the same high school course requirements as all entering freshmen. However, because research has shown that traditional measures of high school performance (e.g., GPA, class rank) are not always good predictors of academic success for nontraditional students, those who achieve less than a 245 RAI score are still encouraged to apply for admission.

GED taken prior to 2014, GED applicants who have achieved an overall average score at the 50th percentile or higher with no score lower than the 45th percentile will be offered admission. GED applicants whose high school classes graduated after 1990 are also required to achieve GED subtest scores at the 75th percentile for subject areas in which they did not complete high school coursework as stated in the section titled Minimum High School Course Requirements for Admission.

GED taken in 2014 or later. Applicants who have achieved a score of 170 or higher on each of the four content areas (Reasoning Through Language Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, Science, and Social Studies) will be offered admission.

In January, 2014, the state of Iowa began using the HiSET (in place of the GED) as the assessment for persons who wish to earn their high school equivalency diploma. The HiSET is composed of five sub-tests listed below, each of which are scored from 1-20 with a score of 8 considered "passing" and a score of 15 considered "college ready". The total HiSET score ranges from 1-100. HiSET sub-tests: Language Arts-Reading, Language Arts-Writing, Mathematics, Social Studies, & Science. Freshman applicants who achieve a minimum sum score of 75 on the HiSET and a minimum score of 15 on each of the five sub-tests will automatically be offered admission. Applicants who do not meet these minimum requirements will be considered on an individual basis.

Each year, Iowa State welcomes students who have been educated at home. Because some of the factors that make up the RAI are frequently not available for these students, increased emphasis is given to standardized test scores in the admission review. Home-schooled students are asked to provide thorough documentation regarding the subject matter (i.e. subject titles, text books, and syllabus) studied. Contact the ISU Office of Admissions for additional details.

Students with documented disabilities are held to Iowa State's regular freshman admission requirements. Those who feel their academic record does not accurately reflect their ability to succeed and, therefore, wish to be considered for admission on an individual basis are asked to submit additional documentation explaining their circumstances. This documentation should include: 1) A letter from the applicant requesting special consideration. This letter should identify the disability and include a description of how the disability impacts academic performance; 2) Information pertaining to accommodations and services used in high school or the most recent educational setting; 3) A recent typed report prepared by a qualified provider that contains a specific current diagnosis, treatment history, and existing functional impact as it relates to one's participation at Iowa State University. Please refer to Student Disability Resources Web site for more details on documentation requirements. For additional information about services for students with disabilities, visit Student Disability Resources.

Some freshman applicants who are not admitted unconditionally are offered the opportunity to enroll during the summer session on a trial basis. Select freshman applicants who don't meet Iowa State's admission requirements, but whose academic records suggest a reasonable chance for achieving success, are offered the opportunity to enroll at Iowa State during the summer term on a trial basis. Those students who are successful are allowed to continue their enrollment unconditionally.

While the success rate for summer trial students varies from year to year, on average, approximately 80 percent of those students who enroll are successful. Those who aren't successful are not permitted to continue their enrollment, but may re-enter Iowa State as transfer students after they have completed at least 24 semester credits of transferable coursework from another accredited college or university with at least a 2.00 transfer GPA.

Freshman applicants who are offered summer trial enrollment must meet all of the following requirements in order to continue their enrollment at Iowa State University: 1) Enroll beginning Summer Session II, an eight-week term that begins in mid-June. 2) Complete at least six credits (typically two courses) selected in consultation with an academic adviser 3) Earn at least a 2.00 cumulative GPA for the summer term 4) Earn a grade of C- or better in each course attempted.

Students must take their courses on the Iowa State campus. In other words, students may not complete their summer trial enrollment by taking Iowa State online courses or by taking courses at any other college or university.


High school credits particularly important to students wishing to study engineering include 2 years of algebra, 1 year of geometry, 1/2 year of trigonometry and 1/2 year pre-calculus; 1 year each of chemistry, biology and physics; 3 years of social science and 4 years of English. Placement in mathematics, English, and chemistry will generally be based on high school preparation and test scores. Advanced placement is possible for exceptionally well-prepared students. Students who are not adequately prepared may be encouraged or required to take additional preparatory coursework and should expect to spend more than the customary time to complete the engineering program. Any coursework which is preparatory or remedial in nature cannot be used to satisfy credit requirements for graduation in any of the engineering curricula.