Iowa State Admission Essay Prompts

Admission Requirements

Regent Admission Index

Students who wish to enter Iowa State University directly from high school will be admitted based upon their Regent Admission Index (RAI) score. There are two mathematical formulas for computing student's RAI scores, the primary RAI 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)
Alternative RAI Formula
(for students whose high school does NOT provide class rank)
Percentile class rank x 1
+ ACT composite score x 2
+ Cumulative GPA x 20
+ Number of years of high school core courses x 5
RAI score
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.

Calculate your unofficial Regent Admission Index.

Minimum High School Course Requirements for Admission

Students who wish to enter Iowa State University directly from high school must also meet the minimum high school course requirements for admission as indicated below:

English/Language Arts4 yearsEmphasizing writing, speaking, and reading, as well as an understanding and appreciation of literature
Mathematics3 yearsIncluding one year each of algebra, geometry, and advanced algebra.
Science3 yearsIncluding one year each of two of the following fields: biology, chemistry, and physics.
Social Studies2 years

Additional entrance requirements for the Colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences

In addition to the high school course requirements listed above, 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

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.

General Equivalency Diploma (GED)

General Equivalency Diploma (GED) applicants are welcome to enroll at Iowa State University. The specific GED score requirements for admission depend upon when the GED test was taken.

GED taken prior to 2014

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. Applicants are also required to achieve GED sub-test scores at the 75th percentile for subject areas in which they did not satisfy the 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.

High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)

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.

Home schooled students

Each year, Iowa State welcomes freshman applicants who have been educated at home.

Because all of the factors which make up the RAI are typically not available for home schooled students, all home schooled applicants must undergo an individual review before an admission decision is made.

In addition to submitting the freshman application for admission, home schooled students must also submit the following items:

  • Home school transcript. For each core course the student has studied, the transcript should include the subject title, text book used, and course syllabus.
  • High school transcript if any courses have been taken through the local high school.
  • College transcript(s) if any college coursework has been attempted.
  • Official ACT or SAT scores (must be received directly from the testing agency).

Please contact the Office of Admissions for additional details.

Students with disabilities

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:

  • 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.
  • Information pertaining to accommodations and services used in high school or the most recent educational setting.
  • 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.

Core Design Program

Essay Question

After completion of the Core, each student must go to one of the ELO Testing Centers on campus to complete the required essay between April 16 and April 27, 2018, in order to complete the essay requirement of the major application.

Do not wait until the end of this period to write and submit your essay! Expect testing centers to be busy.

Essay Topic

Each student will be assigned a prompt on which to write an essay. The prompt is from key concepts presented during DSN S 183: Design Cultures.

Essay Requirements

The essay should be a thoughtful, clearly written argument in response to the essay prompt. Reviewers will evaluate the essay based on a number of factors that may include ability to write standard English (mechanics), clarity of argument, appropriateness and specificity of examples used to support your argument, and quality of language (word choice, sentence structure, etc.).

  • No notes or electronic devices will be allowed in the testing area.
  • Your essay should be at most 500 words in length (word count displays at bottom-right corner of text box).
  • Do not use formatting tools such as bold, italic, bulleted or numbered lists, different fonts or colors, etc.
  • Be sure to save your work as you go.
  • You have one hour (60 minutes) to complete and submit your essay.

Disability Accommodations
Students with documented disabilities who have utilized exam accommodations in the past are encouraged to complete a SAAR form with Student Disability Resources staff for the “Core Portfolio Essay” scheduled for April 16–27, 2018. Your signed SAAR form must be presented to Michelle Rasmussen, Design Student Services, 297 Design, by Monday, April 16, 2018 for appropriate accommodations to be made.

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