Tampa Preparatory School College Counseling Guide

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1 Tampa Preparatory School College Counseling Guide Jean Rutherford Wall Director of College Counseling x4039 Tara Nelan Assistant Director of College Counseling x4036 Table of Contents Introduction What is Expected of Seniors... 2 What is Expected of Parents... 3 What You Can Expect of the College Counseling Office Courtesies and Junior Year Focus Article: Dear Parent: I Can t Promise You Ivy... 7 The College Planning Timetable... 9 Self-Assessment Questionnaire Article: Do s and Don ts for Future Applicants Narrowing your College Choices Planning College Campus Visits Sample Questions to Ask The Application Process Factors in College Admission The Essay Writing an Effective College Application Essay Sample Resume Tips, Hints, and Suggestions College Checklist Article: The Privilege, Pleasure, and Agony of Reading College Applications Admission Decision Definitions Article: The Pain of College Rejection Application Deadlines Standardized Testing at Tampa Prep Testing Sign-up Information to Remember Recommended Reading Online Resources Tampa Prep College Counseling Website Naviance

2 introduction The purpose of this handbook is to provide you with information to guide you through the college admission process. This process takes a lot of planning and decision making. The uncertainty you may feel is normal. However, you must take specific steps in order to reach your goal. As part of your junior and senior year, allow time to plan, explore and execute your options. We hope that by using this book as an aid, you will find the college admission process to be a time of discovery rather than one filled with uncertainty and stress. It is important to remember you will have a lot of choices and paths to reach your goals. Making dreams a reality is not luck. Your motivation and hard work are the most important elements in reaching your goals. Good luck!!!! 1

3 What is Expected of Seniors? Use the as a tool to guide you through the process. Many of your questions are answered in this guidebook. Know the colleges deadlines and special requirements. Keep your parents informed about the college search process. Be open and honest with the college counseling staff, keeping us updated on new developments. You may do this via , Naviance, phone calls or by just dropping by the office. (for a sample of Naviance, please refer to the resources in the back of the guide) Meet our in-house application deadlines. (included in the handbook) Submit a Transcript Request via Naviance to the College Counseling Office at least two weeks prior to the deadline. Find and apply to at least one safety college where you know you will be happy if you are not admitted to your other choices. Work hard and do your best in your academic subjects. Give teachers at least one month to write letters of recommendation and provide them with a pre-addressed, stamped envelope to the college as well as the Teacher Recommendation Form found in Naviance under Documents. Proofread your college essays. Teachers and the college counselor will read and respond to a student s essay in draft form well before the deadline, but they will not make changes or rewrite it for you. 2

4 What is Expected of Parents Support and encourage your child, offering advice and guidance when appropriate. Encourage your son or daughter to use the and Naviance. Avoid pushing or forcing your preferences or biases regarding college choices onto your son or daughter. It is important to remember it is, as much as possible, a student decision. If we don t push, s/he will probably ask for our guidance and in the end will make a wise decision. Be open to new ideas and suggestions and even unknown colleges. Consider other factors as primary criteria other than close geographic proximity to home as this may narrow their choices. Help your student understand there is more than one college which is appropriate for him/her and where s/he can be happy. Encourage your child to explore many choices early rather than looking for the one right college too soon. At first, they should discover the right set of colleges. Support an ethical approach to the college admission process. Students are expected to complete their own applications. Hiring someone to type or rewrite essays is unprofessional and unethical. It is our responsibility to notify colleges if we know that students work is not their own. 3

5 What You Can Expect of the College Counseling Office The College Counselor will be accessible to parents and students. She will be there to guide, counsel and advise students. However, she will not tell them where they cannot apply or where they should enroll. The College Counselor will write a comprehensive, honest and positive descriptive statement for each student on behalf of Tampa Prep by collecting information from teachers, advisors, parents, students and from her own personal observation. The College Counselor continues to develop good relationships with the admissions officers at the colleges to which Prep students apply. The College Counseling Office lends perspective to any disciplinary incidents that must be reported to the colleges. (see The Guide to Academics and Students Handbook) The College Counselors may not have all the answers. But their college admission experience enables them to better understand what is important to the colleges and to guide you through the process. The college counselor s experience and advice will help students to present themselves in the best possible manner to the appropriate colleges. Nevertheless, it is the student s academic record that determines admission to college. The College Counseling Office will send on time (if the student meets our deadline) an application packet to the colleges. The packet typically includes: Transcript of courses and grades (Colleges require test scores to be sent directly from the test center) Counselor recommendation Fall term grades (if available) Tampa Prep profile 4

6 Courtesies Here are a few common courtesies which many students have found can help the journey go as smoothly as possible for all involved: Respect people s privacy. Not everyone wants to share their test scores, where they are applying, or their admission decisions. Some students need a couple of days to deal privately with bad news before they re ready to share with others. Do not denigrate colleges. The college you wouldn t dream of considering may be someone else s reach. Similarly, the college you visited and didn t like may be a perfect fit for someone else. Be sensitive. The day you get into your dream college may be the day that one of your classmates has just been denied by his. Or the day you re ecstatic about your SAT scores may be the same day that a classmate is devastated by hers. Please note: Our policy is not to share with others where you ve applied or your admission decisions, other than stating at the end of the process where you ve decided to matriculate. This also means we can t tell you who has applied to a given college, or the outcome. Junior Year Focus While most colleges consider several criteria in the admission process, the number one criterion is the academic record. While they look at and evaluate your entire record, the performance in your junior year and first semester senior year is very important. While a junior year will not erase a weaker 9th and 10th grade performance, it will show a trend, which if continued into the senior year, will open doors at many colleges. Conversely, a weak junior and senior year may close many doors. Not only are grades important; courses are, too. The general rule of thumb is that you should take as challenging a curriculum as you can handle successfully. Colleges would prefer to have a student take the harder class and earn a B than opt for the easy A. Another aspect of your academic record is your approach to learning. Among applicants with similar records, colleges prefer students who: Show a genuine interest in the material Participate in class Risk new ideas Go beyond minimal requirements Confront weaknesses Take responsibility seriously 5

7 These characteristics will be communicated in your teacher recommendations and they help you to stand out in a crowd. Students who always play it safe to protect their GPA are often not the ones who in college will be he most fun for the professors to teach, and often not the ones who will grow the most intellectually. Colleges love to see students whose reach exceeds their grasp. Big buzzwords in college admissions include intellectual engagement, original or creative thinking, and initiative going beyond expectations, as well as dedication and persistence. Keep up your extracurricular involvement as well. Most colleges prefer to admit students who have been active members of their school communities, although exactly what you have done is far less important. An in-depth, continued focus on a few activities, where you ve reached considerable expertise and/or leadership, is preferred to a long list of superficial and/or ever-changing commitments. In particular, colleges are always on the lookout for initiative. Finally, you will be taking standardized college placement exams this year SAT s and ACT s and in many cases AP exams. See the standardized testing section for more details. 6

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10 The College Planning Timetable sophomore year Fall Take the PSAT in October. Discover a new club, hobby or extracurricular activity that truly interests you. Familiarize yourself with the many college resources in the college counseling office and the library. Attend the Bay Area Private School College Fair Spring Summer Attend spring NACAC College Fair at the Convention Center. Do something interesting. Explore a new interest, try something different, develop a passion! For example, find a full time job, explore an area of interest by setting up an internship, participate in a summer program on a college campus in a different region of the country, go to a specialized camp for music, art or athletics, explore an academic interest by doing some independent research, or initiate a community service opportunity. READ! junior year Fall Begin your college exploration by looking closely at yourself. You may do this through the self-assessment questionnaires included in this guidebook. Make a list of the types of colleges and the criteria that will best meet your needs and interests. Begin to research schools that meet your criteria using the many resources at Tampa Prep. The College Counseling section of the Tampa Prep website offers links to many different resources to conduct a college search. Meet with admission officers who visit Tampa Prep. Take the PSAT in October. This test serves as the basis For the National Merit Scholarship recognition. Attend the Fall College Fair in October. 9

11 Begin to take leadership roles within your activities. Winter Spring Register to take the Spring SAT I. (6 weeks in advance of test date.) Take the SAT and ACT practice tests on your computer or online through Collegeboard.com. It is important to familiarize yourself with these tests PRACTICE HELPS! Based on your research in the fall, meet with your College Counselor to establish an initial list of schools that interest you and meet your criteria. Decide which colleges you would like to visit during spring break and make appointments for tours and interviews. Take the SAT I. Register for the SAT II if your colleges recommend or require them. Plan to take it in either May or June. AND/OR Register to take the ACT in May or June. You will begin to receive many college brochures. Take the time to read the college literature sent to you. This is a good way to further develop your list of schools. Conduct college research using your Naviance account Go on-line and check out college and university websites. Take a virtual tour of a college campus, send an to a current student or professor. Does the college have its application on the web? Check it out. What are the essay topics? Summer Once again explore a passion, an internship, summer academic course work, sports camp, summer camp or travel. Finish your initial visits to college campuses, keeping in mind the campus community and environment may be quite different during the summer. Begin to work on college essays. Begin to write your personal resume. (see sample resume in the guidebook) Most college applications ask a similar question about activities. How would you answer the following? 10

12 Please list your principal extracurricular, community and family activities and hobbies in the order of their interest to you. Briefly describe any scholastic distinctions or honors you have won beginning in the ninth grade. Look at college applications on-line. If you are applying to several private colleges, you should complete your Common Application. After July 1, go to commonapp.org to access your account. READ! senior year Fall Meet with your College Counselor when school begins to finalize the list of colleges to which you will apply. In addition to several optimistic/solid schools and a reach school, be certain you have at least one safety school on your list. (financial safety as well as academic safety) Visit colleges. Spend a night in a residence hall, attend classes, talk to students, meet with a professor and eat in a dining hall. Attend evening programs and receptions in Tampa that are hosted by colleges on your list. This is a good way to meet local alumni as well as college reps. Check merit scholarship deadlines! In October or early November, submit applications to early decision and rolling admission institutions. Contact your recommendation writers and your College Counselor about filling out the appropriate forms and having your official transcripts sent. Be sure to allow ample time for teachers to write recommendations. Please give them a copy of your resume so they may reference it when writing your recommendation. Give teachers stamped, college addressed envelopes with the college forms at least one month prior to the deadline. Register for the SAT I, SAT II or ACT if applicable. 11

13 Take the SAT I again. Remember, colleges will always take the highest score regardless of how many times you take the test. Be sure to send your official scores to the schools to which you are applying. Winter Finish your applications. Most institutions will have a final application deadline sometime during the month of January. All college application lists and Secondary School forms must be to the college counseling office no later than December 1 in order to be mailed before Winter break. If applying for financial aid, complete the FAFSA for federal financial aid and the Profile for private colleges. The Profile will be available by December in the College Counseling office and the FAFSA is available on-line at fafsa.ed.gov Check all deadlines carefully. Relax and enjoy your senior year as you wait to hear the decisions from colleges. Spring Respond to college offers of admission and/or scholarship. Notify the college or school you are planning to attend as well as those to which you were accepted but will not attend. If you are placed on the waiting list of a college that is your top choice, be sure to write a letter telling them they are your first choice school. Please let your College Counselor know as well so she can call them. Most colleges will wait until after May 1 to determine if they will be going to the waiting list. Therefore, it is crucial you send a deposit to one of the schools where you have been accepted. Attend spring admitted student programs on the college campuses or arrange an individual campus visit. This will assist you with your final college choice. Take A.P. exams in May. Tell the College Counselor which college you are planning to attend so that it will be listed accurately in the graduation program. Your final transcript will be sent to your college in June. Congratulate yourself and your family on a job well done! 12

14 self-assessment questionnaire As you begin the college search process, it is important to define your unique interests and needs. The questions below will help you begin the process of finding colleges that are good matches for you. Be honest when you examine your strengths and your weaknesses, your likes and dislikes. Identify your own abilities and limitations, goals and career aspirations. goals and values What aspects of Tampa Prep have you enjoyed most? In class? Extracurricular? What values are most important to you? What do you care about most? What concerns occupy most of your energy, effort, and thoughts? How do you define success? Are you satisfied with your accomplishments to date? What do you want to accomplish in the years ahead? Which events, people or experiences have shaped your growth and thinking? What types of jobs or careers appeal to you? What types of jobs don t appeal to you? What do you see as your academic and personal strengths and your weaknesses? Which adjectives would your closest friends use to describe you? academics What are your academic interests? Which courses have you enjoyed most? Which courses have been the most difficult for you? How do you learn best? Do you prefer lectures or discussions? What challenges you the most? Have you felt limited by Tampa Prep? What would you preserve or change about it if you had the power to do so? Do you want to continue the same level of challenge in college? What has been your most stimulating intellectual experience? Have you worked to your potential thus far in high school? What do you consider the best mea sures of your potential for college work? Are there any outside circumstances which have affected your academic performance? For example, such factors as: after school job, home responsibilities or difficulties, illness or emotional stress. 13

15 self-assessment questionnaire Is it important to you to have close interaction and attention from your teachers? Or do you prefer anonymity? activities, interests and hobbies What extracurricular activities do you most enjoy? Which ones do you want to continue in college? Do you enjoy being a leader? In which activities have you held or do you hope to hold leadership roles? Have you been recognized in particular activities with awards or honors? Are there new activities which you might like to explore in college? What do you consider your most significant contribution to Tampa Prep? What are you most proud of? After a long, hard day, what you enjoy doing the most? (QUESTIONNAIRE CONTINUES ON NEXT PAGE) 14

16 self-assessment questionnaire What is Important to You? This exercise asks you to make some distinctions about what might be important to you in the future. It is a list of things that are important when making career decisions. Using initials, rand each item on the list below in terms of your own priorities as Very Important (VI), Somewhat Important (SI), or Relatively Important (RI). Making a lot of money Surpassing the expectations of family and friends Exploring new subjects Playing on a prestigious team Gaining self-confidence Getting a well-paying job upon graduation Becoming more understanding of others Becoming more sophisticated and worldly Being able to be creative and try new things Living up to the expectations of family and friends Becoming recognized as exceptional in some way Becoming an expert in something Encountering a real challenge Getting away from home Learning more about who I am Making a contribution to society Making new friends Learning and gaining knowledge Meeting different people Making contacts for future employment YOUR TOP FIVE VALUES Now, identify the five most important statements on the list for you. Then, rank them from one to five. Your absolute top should be number one

17 self-assessment questionnaire Many times during the college application process, you will be asked to describe yourself. You need, therefore, to give some serious thought to identifying who you really are. To get started, please check ( ) all the words on the list below that apply to you. Use + for words that STRONGLY apply. Then, explore the pattern that emerges. If some applicable words are missing, please add them. reliable eager persuasive introspective flexible original stable ambitious organized mature adventurous goal-oriented curious logical quiet forceful careful idealistic assertive analytical attentive hardworking adaptable competitive impressionable gullible persevering courageous academic secure versatile trusting individualistic resourceful conservative strong deliberate spontaneous supportive empathetic imaginative liberal rebellious motivated inconsistent articulate relaxed driven complicated intellectual intuitive structured modest creative 16

18 Do s and Don ts for Future Applicants (Advice from an Admissions Office) DON T: DO:... take easy courses just to get good grades in high school. Admissions committees know that challenging courses benefit you more in the long run.... rely on crash courses to prepare for SAT and ACT exams. There are no shortcuts.... specialize in an extracurricular activity or sport unless you truly enjoy it.... go for quantity over quality in extracurriculars. It s better to do well on a few you enjoy than to have a lengthy list that suggests only shallow involvement.... choose a school or college only because of its prestige or its value in getting ahead.... be afraid of making mistakes. In early life, very little is irrevocable.... take time out from your busy schedule to think about what s important to you.... explore many different options, academically and extracurricularly.... seek opportunities to mix with others from different backgrounds.... make the most of your opportunities. College applicants are judged on what they ve done with what they had, not on what they had.... spend as much time as possible with your family while you have the chance....choose a school or college because it offers a good match with your temperament and talents.... take care to avoid early burnout. Have fun and enjoy the present. From Risky Business, an article in Harvard Magazine about college admissions by William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions for Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. 17

19 Narrowing your College Choices There are a great many factors which may influence your college choices. After looking at yourself, ask yourself questions that will help you decide what type of college would best meet your personal needs and interests. The list below will help you narrow your college choices. student enrollment Size (total enrollment, number of freshmen, percent of undergraduate and graduate students) Residential or commuter (percent who live on-campus, off campus, at home) Background (geographic, ethnic, racial, male-female ratio, religious and percentage receiving financial aid awards) Conservative or liberal Retention rate (percentage of students who finish their freshman year, the percentage who graduate in four or five years) college type and philosophy Public or private Liberal arts or specialized (Business, Engineering, Nursing, Arts, Professional, Technical) College (undergraduate) or University (has graduate programs) Religious affiliation (does it matter to you?) Traditional, experimental, deeply scholarly or career centered location Large city, small city, college town or rural Urban or suburban Distance from home Climate Proximity to recreational areas Attractiveness of campus and surroundings Travel costs and convenience faculty Percentage with a Ph.D Student-faculty ratio Emphasis on research or teaching Faculty advisors Percentage of classes taught by graduate assistants or teaching assistants Faculty involvement in student life Number of office hours per week Opportunities for discussion and ideas Opportunities for undergraduate research with a professor 18

20 academic environment Academic demands (workload, course expectation, laid back or pressure cooker?) Strengths of specific departments Honors programs Core and requirements Size of classes (freshman lecture courses, seminars, and upperclass courses) Student attitude toward learning Interest in political, social or world issues Percentage of those who go on to graduate and professional schools Job placement campus and student life Diversity and tolerance of differences Honor system Liberal/directive/restrictive social regulations Percentage living on and off campus Types of residential halls (coed, single gender, doubles, singles, suites, separate dorms for freshman) Types of meal plans Greek system Community service opportunities Athletics and fine arts Presence of religious, ethnic or cultural groups Organizations (newspaper, radio station, music groups and clubs) cost and financial aid Student budget for tuition and fees, room and board, books and personal expenses, including travel costs. Range of financial aid awards, average awards Need-based or merit awards Other financing options factors affecting students admissibility Applicant Statistics: Total number of applicants for the year Total number of spaces available in the Freshmen class Percentage of applicants the college can offer admission Percentage who elect to attend 19

21 Average test scores, GPA, Class Rank The middle 50% or median range of SAT or ACT scores of accepted students Middle 50% GPA of admitted students Percent of Out-of-State Students Percentage of students from outside the institution s state (a low percentage works in your favor at a private college, while at a selective state university, it can work against you). 20

22 Planning College Campus Visits 1. Plan ahead and make an appointment. 2. Ask the admission office what they offer for prospective students: campus tours group information session opportunities to sit in on classes overnight visits in the dorm with a host student meeting with a professor a meal in the dining hall 3. Admission Interviews Schedule one when you visit if they are offered on campus Ask if it will be an admission committee member or student If the college does not conduct interviews, do they offer alumni interviews in the Tampa area? 4. Does the admission office have a special fall open house planned? If so, when is it and how is it different from an individual campus visit? 5. After considering the above options, schedule your visit. Remember you want to see more than just the admission office and the tour guide! 6. Get directions and ask about parking as some colleges require special permits or parking areas for visitors. 7. Dress appropriately. 8. Try the food 9. See a dorm. 10. Look around and really observe. 11. Disregard the weather and the tour guide. 12. Ask yourself: Could I spend the next four years of my life here? 13. Before you leave campus make sure all of your questions have been answered by students, faculty and staff. Pick up materials you need such as applications and catalogs. 21

23 sample questions to ask During individual college interviews and information sessions most admission officers will give you a chance to ask questions. It is important to have some questions in mind to ask. As you formulate questions think about what you have read or heard from others about a particular institution. When admission officers visit Tampa Prep, listen attentively and don t be afraid to ask questions. Many schools tend to blend together when you are learning about so many. Try to discover the distinctive quality that each school possesses. 1. What academic programs are most popular? 2. I m interested in ; what does your school offer in that area? 3. Are classes taught by full professors or do you have teaching assistants? 4. Is teaching or research the emphasis of your institution? 5. What is your largest class? What is your average class size freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years? 6. Are most classes structured as lectures or discussions? 7. Describe the social life on campus. What do students do for fun? 8. If you could change something about your school, what would it be? 9. Do you have an honor code? Does it truly work and why? 10. What is your retention rate? 11. What is the nature of academic pressure? 12. What are the three most common complaints heard from students over the past year and what is being done to address these complaints? 13. Do most students live on campus? 14. Describe the residence halls and their different options. 15. Describe the support systems and programs for students. 16. What makes distinctive from other schools of its size and caliber? 17. What was your acceptance rate last year? 18. Please give a profile of the freshman class. 19. Do you have merit based scholarships? If so, how do I apply? 20. Describe the diversity of your student body. What is the ethnic breakdown? 21. Do you have special customs or traditions on your campus? 22

24 Sample Questions to Ask Current Students 1. Why did you choose? 2. What would you change about the college? 3. What would you fight to keep unchanged at your college? 4. What do you think makes your school distinctive? 5. What are the major campus issues? 6. Have you been challenged in your coursework? 7. How large were your classes freshman year? How large are they now? 8. What do students do on the weekend? 9. How effective is the faculty advising system? 10. How is the relationship between the students and the surrounding community? 11. How important is the Greek system? 12. Does the student body have a voice in the university? 13. Have you ever met the college president? 14. If you had to select a college from the start, would you make the same choice? 15. How many years will it take to earn your degree? 23

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