The Application Process

Applying for college or university and financial aid can feel like finding your way through a maze. Higher education has its own language, one that even native English speakers must learn.

College and university entrance exams are part of the process. ACT stands for American College Test. SAT stands for Standardized Aptitude Test. The ACT is used most often at Tennessee colleges and universities.

Each university or university system sets its own rules for application and admission. Whether they are public or private, most colleges and universities require students who apply to submit some or all of the following:

  • High school or GED/Hiset's transcripts
  • Standardized test scores, either the ACT or SAT
  • Information about extracurricular, leadership and community service activities
  • Information about special talents or skills
  • An essay or personal statement
  • Recommendations from teachers or counselors

Keep a checklist so you can track what each college requires and when you submitted your application package.

Here’s a quick rundown of basic admissions requirements at Tennessee’s public collegesand universities. Make sure you check with individual college and university admissions for specific requirements.

Tennessee Technology Centers
Students who did comply with the above requirements may be able to be admitted to pursue a technical career.
Tennessee Community Colleges
Students need a high school diploma and their ACT test scores. Community colleges have open enrollment, which means they use the test scores to decide whether new students need to take remedial classes before starting college coursework.
Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Universities
As a general rule, TBR universities require entering freshmen who are under 21 to have a minimum grade point average or a minimum score on the ACT or SAT test. These institutions are Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, and Tennessee State University in Nashville among others.
University of Tennessee (UT) campuses
UT has a competitive admissions process, which requires higher test scores and GPAs. UT requires applicants to demonstrate they had a rigorous academic high school program.

Private colleges and universities also have competitive admissions policies, also known as selective admissions.

Colleges and universities in Tennessee that are funded by the state have two different tuition rates. One is called “In-state” and the other “Out of state”. Generally “In-state” rates are for qualified Tennessee residents who are U.S. citizens or those who are designated Permanent Residents. Most state colleges and universities charge “Out of state” tuition rates to all other people. You should check with the specific school to see what is required and how tuition is handled. Private colleges and universities each have their own system for determining tuition rates and generally do not have “In-state" and "Out of State.”