Counseling College Planning Guide

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1 Counseling College Planning Guide 1

2 Dear Students and Parents: We are pleased to present you with our College Planning Guide. It is specific to Bishop O Dowd with references to our Family Connection/Naviance account, and to the way we work with and advise our students. Providing a wealth of information, we hope this manual will guide you through the complex maze that is college admissions today. We work closely with our students and guide them through every step of the college process, including helping you and your student through the maze of financial aid. Please use this guide, and us, as your primary resources. While we acknowledge there are many other sources you might access to help you, we ask that you start here and stay in close contact with your counselor. While we feel our entire guide should be read closely and carefully, there are two sections to which we would like our Seniors to give special attention. The section titled Important Deadlines is critical to making the process run smoothly. Please meet them! Please also pay particular attention to the section titled, Writing Your College Applications. Included are our detailed instructions on the counselor and teacher recommendations. Your attention to these details will help make this process run smoothly both for yourself and for the counselors and teachers. From now until you graduate, we will be referring to this guide many times as we meet with you throughout the junior and senior years. Please become familiar with it the information is thorough, and many of your questions can be easily answered in the guide. In fact, we will often refer you to the guide. You will find this to be an exciting and joyous time that may occasionally cause you anxiety and self-doubt. This is also a time for self-discovery, a time to deeply explore who you are. You can relieve much of the anxiety if you read all your materials carefully, observe deadlines, and organize yourself early. And take a deep breath! Work to the best of your abilities in all your classes and you should have no regrets. Enjoy these final months of high school by making the most of your time here. Wishing you well, Bishop O Dowd Counseling Department 2

3 TABLE OF CONTENTS GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE SOPHOMORE YEAR...3 Page COLLEGE PLANNING FOR JUNIOR YEAR... 4 COLLEGE PLANNING FOR SENIOR YEAR... 6 DATES TO REMEMBER... 8 GOOD ADVICE TO KEEP IN MIND... 9 IMPORTANT DEADLINES TESTING PROGRAMS FOR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PSAT/NMSQT ACT COLLEGE BOARD EXAMINATIONS (SAT REASONING AND SAT SUBJECT TESTS) REGISTRATION FOR COLLEGE BOARD EXAMINATIONS SCORE REPORTS REVIEW COURSES GENERAL INFORMATION ON COLLEGES THE UNIVERSITY VERSUS A LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE SPECIAL PROGRAMS COLLEGE CALENDAR SYSTEMS GETTING READY TO APPLY FOR COLLEGE THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS AND OPTIONS ADMISSIONS OPTIONS Regular Admissions Early Decision Early Action Service Academies/ROTC Candidates Reply Date Agreement Wait List THE COLLEGE ESSAY WRITING YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATIONS COUNSELOR RECOMMENDATIONS TEACHER RECOMMENDATIONS FINANCING COLLEGE: COSTS AND RESOURCES COST OF ATTENDANCE (COA) FINANCIAL AID RESOURCES COMMON MYTHS STUDENTS HAVE ABOUT COLLEGES RESOURCES TO HELP YOU THROUGH THE PROCESS SOME COLLEGE GUIDES AND OTHER HELPFUL BOOKS ON THE PROCESS USEFUL WEBSITES A FEW PARTING THOUGHTS (Some famous college graduates and their colleges)..38 3

4 GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE IN SOPHOMORE YEAR IN GENERAL: Ø Work hard in class. Your UC/CSU GPA begins this year with your college prep classes (preceded by a P on your transcript). If you were not serious in your freshman year, this is your wake-up year. Ø Develop good study habits. If you do not feel you have good habits, it is not too late to start. They will carry you through college and will contribute to later success in your working life. Cultivate them now when you have the support and encouragement of your parents and your school. Your counselor can help you with this. SPECIFICALLY: Ø Take the ASPIRE test. This is a pre-act normed on sophomores. All sophomores at Bishop O Dowd take it on testing day in mid-october. Ø In January, when scheduling your classes with your counselor, choose to take challenging classes but also seek a healthy balance. Ø Don t miss your scheduled appointment in the Counseling Resource Center. In the spring you will be called in to the center to learn more about Naviance s Family Connection, the web-based program that allows you to discover more about who you are, explore career interests, and begin an early search for colleges. SUMMER: Ø You have many options. Find something meaningful to you and something that will also be restorative. Some of you may work on your Peace & Justice hours, do paid work, travel, take enrichment classes, or develop a passion. Read it is good for you and will help you earn better scores on your SAT or ACT! Ask your English teacher or counselor for recommendations, or read something that connects you to a passion or interest. Ø Visit a college or two. Begin to learn about the different types of colleges (small vs. large, university vs. liberal arts) by visiting some schools close to home or near where your family may be vacationing. Register for the tours and go to information sessions. Don t get too serious about the search process yet, but make it fun and exploratory. There is no pressure now so enjoy it and think about who you are and what fits for you. This is practice because next year you will really take it seriously. 4

5 COLLEGE PLANNING FOR JUNIOR YEAR September: October: Jan/Feb Attend College Night held at Bishop O Dowd High School. While it is still fresh in your mind, brainstorm all the things that appealed to you (or not) from the information you gathered. PSAT/NMSQT is administered. Read what the College Board website says about it, and read the information booklet on the exam. Pay particular attention to test taking strategy. Get a good night s sleep!! PSAT results are distributed to students. You are assigned a special ID number so you can review your results online at the College Board. Learn from your mistakes and speak with your counselor for further interpretation. During the scheduling meeting with your counselor, make sure your course selections for senior year are in line with your college aspirations. Take the most academically challenging classes that are appropriate for you. Your counselor will compare your sophomore and junior pre-test scores to determine which is the better test for you, and work with you to set up a testing plan for SAT and/or ACT. See Family Connection, under Documents, where you will find a helpful chart differentiating the SAT from the ACT. Sign up online for an SAT test in March or May (or ACT in April or June) and SAT Subject Tests in June, if applicable (see your counselor for this). UC s no longer require SAT Subject exams. If taken, they will be used in considering you for admission, and they may be recommended for certain majors. Check UC campus websites for specific major requirements (Engineering is often the exception). Some highly selective private colleges/universities still require two or three SAT Subject Tests. Mar-May: Review this booklet with an emphasis on: Ø General information on colleges Ø Testing programs used for college planning and admissions. Ø The application process Ø Bishop O Dowd Counseling Department DEADLINES!! Ø Financial aid information Ø BECOME AN ACTIVE USER OF FAMILY CONNECTION! Meet with your counselor to create a list of prospective colleges and discuss strategies for visits, interviews, and applying. Parents are encouraged to ask for meetings with the counselor to discuss the process from both the student and counseling perspectives, to discuss/create a list of prospective colleges, to understand where their child might gain admission and have a positive fit, and to gain a clear understanding of how our process unfolds. 5

6 April through August: Ø Complete the first round of SAT testing (if you are lucky, it may be your only round!). Ø Consider the type of college or university experience that might fit you best, keeping in mind factors such as location, size of student body, tuition, and courses of study. Ø Research with the Naviance program, Family Connection, accessed through the BOD website. In addition to the links from Family Connection, please also refer to the section in this book titled Useful Websites. Research college web sites for: Ø Campus life diversity of student body; social options/activities provided by the college; community service opportunities; campus ministry options; are students active and involved beyond academics Ø Take a virtual tour Ø Academic programs; majors; opportunities to create your own major and/or possibilities for interdisciplinary majors. Ø Research and internship opportunities for undergraduates Ø Libraries (most campuses have more than one) and the hours they stay open, the extent of their collections, is it a pleasant place to study? Ø What is the career placement center like what types of career workshops and assessments are offered for juniors and seniors; who interviews on campus; availability of summer internships on or off the campus. Ø Residence hall options; menus being served that week; are there options for vegetarians as well as for others with special dietary needs; social events (lectures, concerts, road trips, etc) Ø Read the school newspaper and learn what are the hot issues on campus Ø If you are an athlete, check out the facilities and gauge your abilities; contact a coach Ø Contact an admissions officer; ask to link up with a student ambassador who can tell you what life is really like on campus. The admissions office will take this as another indication of your interest Ø What is happening in the town/city/region? Augment your research with college guides (we are partial to the Fiske Guide to Colleges). See other recommended books at the end of this booklet. Use Family Connection as a primary source of information. Under Document Library there is a description of the Naviance features that will help you understand how to use the program. 6

7 COLLEGE PLANNING FOR SENIOR YEAR July through December (broad picture): As you continue your research, colleges about questions that might arise regarding their programs. Write a rough draft of your college essays; topics can be found at college websites and at the Common Application site. If you re one of the lucky 60 seniors who sign up early, attend College Boot Camp before senior year begins. Most of what we discuss below will get taken care of there. If you re not able to August: Meet with college representatives who visit BOD during the Fall semester see the Visit Schedule in Family Connection, under the Colleges tab and sign up. Write and rewrite essays; share with your counselor for help!! Attend College Night in September. Complete applications. Note requirements and deadlines. Register to take October SAT, and others, if needed. UC will accept SAT tests taken from junior year through December of senior year. The same holds true for CSU, however Cal Poly SLO asks that your testing be complete by October test (and they often prefer the ACT with Writing option. Many private schools will also accept a January test date, but verify this with the college. Be very aware of each college s test requirements for admission. Fill out and turn in Senior Questionnaire if you did not do it over the summer. Counselors will meet with you regarding college after the questionnaire is returned, and in the order they receive them. For ED/EA applicants (see section titled The College Application Process and Options ) it is essential that you turn in your questionnaire early no later than the end August. September: Attend College Night. Narrow your college choices to a reasonable number of schools (6 10; count the UC s as one school since it is one application). At Family Connection check to see if representatives from colleges on your list are visiting O Dowd. These are updated regularly. Sign up to meet with them through Family Connection. Why? Ø The college rep is usually the person who will be the first reader of your application. She will be your advocate with the admissions committee. Meet this person, ask intelligent questions, and help her remember you. Ø If you cannot visit the campus, this may be your best chance to personally indicate your interest. Ø Later, when your application is read, your rep will count meeting you as a plus in your favor (of course you want to make a strong impression). October: Early Decision/Early Action (ED/EA) candidates it is absolutely essential that you turn in your counseling paperwork to your counselor by October 10, and you must observe the same deadline with your teachers. If required at your 7

8 ED/EA college, register for CSS Profile at the College Board s website (link to CSS is at Family Connection). Write application essays and have them reviewed/critiqued by your counselor. Regular decision candidates: Submit paperwork to counselors and teachers for recommendations by November 10 even if applications are not due until February. If you know only one or two schools to which you definitely plan to apply, we ask you still submit the paperwork by November 10. You can ask that your recommendations be sent to additional schools at a later date in the semester. Our deadlines are firm if you want a letter of recommendation that is thorough, complete, and well-articulated. Senior grades are important the work you do in fall semester is crucial to your acceptance. Admissions committees at private colleges will see the 7 th semester grades of regular decision candidates before they make decisions on your applications, and they may ask for your progress report grades before they go to committee in the winter. WORK HARD!! If you are an early ED/EA candidate, colleges may ask our office for your midterm grades it is essential you work at a consistently strong level. November: December: File UC and CSU applications by November 30. UC applications can only be filed only between November 1 and November 30. CSU applications can be filed between October 1 and November 30. Early decision/action applications have filing dates this month. Remember regular decision candidates request recommendations no later than November 10. Financial aid forms for ED/EA colleges (private schools who use the CSS Profile) will be due early as well. Complete testing for UC/CSU applications. When you are done with testing, order your official scores to be sent from the College Board to each college to which you are applying. With score choice, take care that you are sending the correct number of scores that colleges need they will vary. Many schools will ask for all your scores. They will pick your best to put you in the best light. UC s and some out of state publics will use your best sitting; CSU s, and most privates will pick your best section scores from multiple sittings. Remember: They are looking for ways to accept, not to deny you! Check Family Connection and scholarship bulletin board (in the Counseling hallway) for local and national scholarship information. Begin compiling information for financial aid applications and their deadlines, which vary. The FAFSA portal opens on December 1 but cannot be filed until after January 1; CSS Profile opens earlier and may have an earlier date if applying ED/EA. January: Parents complete and file the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). You must mail/file between January 1 and March 2, however to be considered for some scholarships, earlier deadlines may apply. Check each college for deadlines. If you are also using the CSS Profile for private schools, due dates will vary, with some starting as early as January 15. Pay attention to deadlines. 8

9 If applying to colleges (public and private) in California, turn in a GPA Verification Form (for Cal Grants) to Counseling by the end of February. February through April: Colleges will begin to inform you of their decisions. You have until May 1 to decide which offer you will accept. When you have made a decision, reply to that college. It is a nice gesture to inform the others that you have accepted another offer and to thank them for their interest in you.. A note on housing: When accepted to colleges with limited housing, apply as soon as you receive notice, even if you are not sure you will attend. While you may lose a deposit, it is far worse to not have housing your freshman year. This is particularly critical for public colleges, some of which do not have sufficient space to accommodate all freshmen. During second semester, maintain or improve academic grades. Remember, your acceptance is always conditional and can be rescinded if after you graduate, your college sees a significant drop in your spring semester grades. In late June/early July we mail your final transcript to the one college you chose. Grades are of special significance to wait list candidates. Dates to Remember College Night September UC Applications Due between November 1 and November 30 CSU Applications Due between October 1 and November 30 Private Applications CSS Profile FAFSA SAT Reasoning Test ED/EA varies by campus but usually in November. Check dates. Regular Decision varies from December 1 to March 1. Regular candidates can file as early as October 15 ED/EA candidates must file early, often at the same time as your application. Pay attention to dates set by each college some merit scholarship programs require earlier filing. File between January 1 and March 2 but check deadlines for each college. Some scholarship programs require earlier filing. October (last test date for some selective CSU s), November (last test date for most ED/EA applications), December (last test date for all UC and some CSU schools) 9

10 SAT Subject Tests ACT Same as SAT Reasoning dates Fall semester testing dates different Saturdays from the SAT 10

11 Good Advice to Keep In Mind We recommend the following words of wisdom given by Fr. Aloysius Galvin, S.J., of Georgetown Prep: You, the applicant, really hold and control all the aces and trumps in the deck; your senior course selection, your grades, GPA and testing scores, your activity record, (in school and out), your written application, your essay(s), your interview. That s a strong hand, one to be played with care and thoughtfulness, with energy and courage. Play it well. 1. Initial Attitude: Peace. Be positive about yourself and confident of your future. Be honest with yourself about who you are. Keep an attentive ear open to parental and other advice. Run your own ship and steer your own course, trying to sail free from subtle peer pressure. In a word, keep a clear head and a free heart. This is a process that began earlier than senior year. At any given moment during high school you may have had an opinion about your college choices, and each time, that opinion probably changed. You will be different in junior spring than you are in fall what you thought you loved a year ago could be different from what you love now or what you may love in April when you make your decision. Be patient. Remember that the application/acceptance/matriculation enterprise is not a canonization process, nor is it intended to be an ego trip for family or student, nor is it a measure of your worth. It is a search for a home away from home where you will be productive and happy, grow and prosper. There are many fine colleges out there. You are the chooser. Do not let the process eat you up or determine your worth. Be yourself and find the right fit. 2. A Typical Application Pattern will include schools that are: Ø Long Shots, stretches, or reaches or schools which you might love, but would have difficulty getting into. Ø Targets or schools to which you have a possibility of acceptance. Ø Safeties or schools to which you are sure of acceptance. Fall in love with your safety schools as much as your stretch schools. If you did your research well, you chose those safety schools because you liked them. Keep this in mind. 3. Initial List and Selection of Possible Choices: There are many colleges you may not have heard of that have strong programs, quality faculty, distinguished alumni, impressive graduate school placements, excellent facilities, good research opportunities, etc. A college s reputation or brand name is not necessarily a marker of a great school. No college, whatever its merit or general reputation, is in itself better or best. The name of some colleges is based more on their graduate school rather than their undergraduate school, and others gain a reputation based on their athletic teams. Some college reputations lag behind their real quality. The college you select should fit YOU and not your friend or your parents. The only college that deserves the title good, better, or best is the one that is the BEST FIT FOR YOU WHERE YOU CAN REACH YOUR HIGHEST POTENTIAL. 11

12 IMPORTANT DEADLINES SAT Testing: ACT Testing: Fall semester: Testing dates on 1 st weekends of October, November, and December. Registration deadlines are one month prior to test. Spring semester: Testing dates are usually on 3 rd weekend or 4 th weekend of January, the 2 nd weekend of March, and 1 st weekends of May and June. Registration deadlines are one month prior to test. Fall semester: Testing dates are in September, October and December and generally a week after the SAT test date. Registration deadlines are at least one month prior to test. Spring semester: Testing dates are in February, April, and June, and again, generally a week after the SAT test date. Registration deadlines are at least one month prior to test. Application & Recommendation Deadlines: September 1: Final date for EA/ED candidates to return completed Senior Questionnaire to counselor October 10: Final date for EA/ED candidates to ask counselor and teachers for a recommendation and to give them required documents and list of colleges (see pp 25-27). Envelopes also must be included. November 10: Final date for regular decision candidates to ask counselor and teachers for a recommendation and give required documents and list of colleges (see pp 25-27). Financial Aid: October 1: Registration portal opens for CSS Profile which is required by many private schools; register online at NOTE: Deadlines and priority dates vary at schools and you can quickly check them at college websites by searching the site with: Financial Aid deadlines. See Counseling handout on financial aid for more tips and strategies regarding financial aid. January 1: FAFSA filing period begins. Check college websites for priority dates as well as regular filing dates. They will vary. Merit scholarships often ask you to file by an earlier priority date. Last week of February: Final time for submitting Cal Grant GPA verification forms to Counseling. We submit the Cal Grant forms, as a group, to the Cal Grant website. March 2: Final filing date for FAFSA (found at fafsa.gov, not fafsa.com) and CSS Profile (see note above regarding earlier and priority filing dates) 12

13 TESTING PROGRAMS FOR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS Bishop O Dowd School Code (Use on all SAT and ACT test registration materials) Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) The PSAT is a practice version of the SAT that measures verbal and mathematical abilities important in college work. It is normed on juniors and given only once a year, in October. This test is not required for college admissions, nor will colleges ever see your PSAT scores. The PSAT serves two purposes: 1. It provides information on student abilities to do college work and it helps students estimate the caliber of college he/she could attend. It also familiarizes students with the types of questions that are on the SAT. 2. It helps students who are seeking recognition and financial assistance. Several organizations use the results to determine scholarship recipients. They are the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the National Achievement Scholarship Program for Negro Students, and the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Winning one of the awards, as well as being named a National Merit Commended Student, can be beneficial for college admissions. Score Reports: The PSAT reports verbal, math, and writing scores scaled between 20 and 80. Add a 0 to predict a possible SAT score; the report will also give you an expected SAT range based on the PSAT. The Selection Index, scaled between 60 and 240 is determined by adding the verbal, math, and writing skills scores. NMSC uses the Selection Index to determine candidates for their scholarship programs. The score threshold for scholarships varies every year. Use your score report and test booklet to learn where your problem areas might be and how you can improve your results when you take the SAT Reasoning Test. Read the score report carefully as the information can be very helpful. American College Testing Program (ACT) Colleges and universities in the Midwest have traditionally preferred the ACT assessment to the SAT. The ACT tests you on knowledge you have learned and the abilities you need to succeed in college. It is scored differently than the SAT and some students find they perform better on the ACT than the SAT. The ACT is a four part exam that tests abilities in English, Math, Reading, and Science. Within each of these areas, sub scores are also generated, indicating your strengths and weaknesses. ACT offers an optional Writing test along with the regular ACT. It is scored separately and will not be included in your composite score. If you take the ACT for admission to the UC/CSU systems you must also take the optional Writing test. Admissions requirements for the ACT will vary among colleges and universities you must check each 13

14 individual college for their requirements. ACT s website, has a listing of colleges and universities that require or recommend taking the writing test. Colleges throughout the U.S. accept the ACT or the SAT. See your Counselor to determine which test might be best for you. Because you took the PLAN in sophomore year, you have a predicted ACT score. In converting this score to an SAT, we can make some assumptions as to how you will test on the ACT compared to the SAT. See Document Library in Family Connection for a comparison of the ACT and SAT Reasoning. College Board Examinations (SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests) 1. SAT Reasoning Test : This exam is more than 3-1/2 hours and it measures a student s ability to communicate and to reason with words and abstract concepts. Separate verbal, math, and writing scores are reported, each scaled between 200 and 800 points. To optimize earning your best scores, take the test once in spring of your junior year. Retakes can be done in the Fall (October, November, or December) of senior year, taking advantage of your summer to study. We do not recommend taking this test earlier than junior spring, as most students do not score as well prior to that time. If you retake the SAT Reasoning, we recommend you take it no more than once or twice more. 2. SAT Reasoning Test : Beginning with the March 2016 test date, the SAT Reasoning test will consist of just two sections (Math and Evidence-Based reading and Writing) for a total score of The Writing test will be optional, but we suggest you add this option since some of your colleges may require it. If you are unsure, talk to your counselor about this. Please see the link at Naviance, Document Library, Counseling Resources, for a full description of the changes for SAT Subject Tests: These are one-hour exams that measure a student s achievement in various high school subject areas. Some colleges require or recommend two exams for admission and/or placement in college classes. You may take as many as three exams in one day. If you plan to take subject exams, you should take them in June of the year in which you complete the subjects. Retakes can be done in the fall. Registration for College Board Examinations Register for exams online at There is also a link from Family Connection. Following are guidelines that will make the process run smoothly: 1. Keep a record of your user name and password and always use Bishop O Dowd s CEEB code of When you register, use your name as it is on your social security card and the name you will use on your college applications. So that the College Board keeps all your records in order and reports your scores accurately, it is important 14

15 to give your name and all other information in exactly the same manner on all College Board forms/website and in all communication with the Board. For example, using initials or a middle name one time and not the next may cause confusion and your scores may be delayed or not reported to your colleges, or colleges will not match your scores with your application. Important Note: If your name is different on your transcript, now is the time to make sure all your names agree otherwise colleges may set up two files for you when you apply. 3. Pay attention to deadlines. The earlier you register for an exam, the more likely you will have first choice of your preferred location for the exam (check with your counselor for recommended testing sites). The College Board website is rich with information. Explore it and use it. You will find the site provides tutorials and information that can be very helpful. At the website you can: 1. Compare SAT Subject exams by taking a brief diagnostic test online of the exams you are considering. College Board will analyze your results. 2. Prep for SAT Reasoning Test for practice, take an entire SAT exam online! Become familiar with test taking strategy. 3. Learn about financial aid and have your need estimated. Do calculations for both institutional and federal methodologies. Link is at Family Connection. 4. Complete the CSS Profile. 5. Under Plan for College read articles that help you develop action plans, learn better time management skills, get help with procrastination and senioritis (see motivation article), and many more 6. Go to the AP Test Prep Center and pick up valuable hints that could help your performance on the AP exams. 7. Get help with writing your college application essay that will augment the help you receive from your teachers and counselor. 8. SENIORS See the Decision Making Guide when you start considering your college acceptances. This can be an agonizing decision for many your counselor can help you too. Score Reports Score reports are sent to the student s home. We do not show your SAT Reasoning and Subject Test scores on your transcript. All colleges will require an official score report to be sent to them. It is your responsibility to see that your scores are sent to your colleges. Do not send scores in junior year. We also receive all your scores, electronically. Important note: Because of the College Board s Score Choice Policy, you may not want to order your scores sent to your colleges until you have seen them. Here are some considerations: 15

16 1. Score choice is an optional feature, e.g. you can still send all your scores to colleges, and most colleges will continue to consider only your best scores. 2. Colleges continue to set their own test requirements and they will vary from college to college (UC s and CSU s will be uniform within their systems). It is your responsibility to note the different requirements. 3. If you choose Score Choice, you may send Reasoning scores to colleges by sitting (test dates and not by section) and by individual Subject test. 4. At the time you register for your last SAT exam (Reasoning or Subject), you may request that the scores to be sent to four colleges for free. An extra fee is charged for reports to additional colleges. 5. NOTE: Except for UC and CSU, most colleges will use your highest verbal, math, and writing scores, mixing them from different sittings. Some schools will still require all scores be sent. Read the college policies carefully!! REMEMBER: Most colleges are looking for reasons to accept you, not to reject you. Review Courses If you decide to consider a course, investigate it thoroughly. Ask for verification of all claims of results. Weigh the investment in both time and money. Information regarding test preparation programs is available in the Counseling Center and through your counselor. Prep courses are offered on the Bishop O Dowd campus. One course focuses on tips and strategies ad covers some content, which is enough for many students. Another, through Revolution Prep, will also cover tips and strategies, and include more content as well as several diagnostic tests, carrying a guaranteed raise of 200 points from the first diagnostic to the actual test. Private tutors are also available if you wish one-on-one help. See your counselor for references. If you cannot afford a review course or private tutor, the College Board has an official SAT online course at a reasonable cost, and they publish The Official SAT Study Guide. Both of these can be reviewed at their website and appear to be very good, inexpensive resources. At your Naviance homepage, there is a link to a free online test prep course at Finally, ask yourself what you can do in your regular schoolwork, in your free time, or in working with fellow students or adults to prepare for the SAT s. Sign up for Question of the Day (a daily ) at the College Board website, or download the app for your phone. The mere 10 minutes a day that you spend on this will accustom you to SAT questions. Read books outside of class, read editorials in a well-respected newspaper, read magazines with good writing (Time, Sports Illustrated, Atlantic Monthly, etc. if you are a consistent reader and pursue these activities regularly, you will likely have stronger verbal scores. 16

17 GENERAL INFORMATION ON COLLEGES The University versus a Liberal Arts College Choosing a university or a liberal arts college can have a tremendous impact on your own personal development. Before you fully settle on one or the other, keep an open mind about the advantages of both, and think about the way you learn and how you like to relate to your teachers, how you socialize and make friends, and the extra curricular activities you enjoy or hope to pursue, including how available the opportunities are for those activities. At a university the student body can range from small to very large (3,000 to 45,000 students). Multiple areas of study are available, often in different colleges, e.g. Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Business, Conservatories (music or theater), and Agriculture. Universities are known for their graduate schools and research activities. Resources can be wide-ranging. Universities will generally have museums that are well regarded and have extensive library holdings. However, keep in mind that often some resources are available primarily to graduate students. Professors who prefer research to teaching commonly choose to affiliate with universities and may teach only two or three undergraduate classes a year. There are exceptions, yet accessibility to classes taught by the most exciting and finest teachers can be competitive, and classes large. To be successful, students must learn self reliance and be comfortable taking the initiative. Many classes are large ( students) and your grade may depend on a combination of only two or three measures (paper/midterm/final); class discussions may be limited. At a liberal arts college the student body can be small to medium-sized. In general, professors who choose to work at these schools do so because they love to teach and mentor undergraduates. They are approachable and interested in their students, and a very high percentage of classes are small, often taught in seminar style. Professors at liberal arts colleges are also researchers, and because there are generally fewer or no graduate students, undergraduates are offered the opportunity to participate in research. All of the professors are expected to publish as well, though their primary duties are to the undergraduates, and they are hired because they are engaging teachers (or believed to be). If you anticipate attending graduate school someday, you will be able to ask for recommendations from professors who really know you and the work you do. There is a strong sense of community in liberal arts colleges. Some liberal arts colleges have joined forces with others in close proximity to form a consortium. Students attending any college in the consortium may cross-register for classes at any of the other schools, use the libraries, etc. Consortiums expand your social opportunities, and provide many advantages of a university while maintaining the integrity of a smaller college. Some well-known examples include: Amherst, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire, and U Mass at Amherst (Five College Consortium) Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer (Claremont Colleges) Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, University of Pennsylvania 17

18 Special Programs Cooperative Education: This is a college program in which a student alternates between semesters of full-time study and full-time employment in a student s major area. The student is usually paid for the work, and the opportunity is invaluable as a resume-building experience and a valuable networking opportunity. Sometimes five years are required to complete a bachelor s degree program. This type of program usually appeals to someone who has very well-defined career plans. Look at Northeastern University in Boston for the best example of a coop school. 3-2 Program: Usually found in a liberal arts college, this is a program by which the college works in cooperation with another university that offers technical preparation for professional careers (business and engineering for example). Five years of study are required, resulting in a BA or BS from the liberal arts school (three years) and a second degree from the school offering the technical degree (two years). The distinct advantage of this program is the graduate obtains a broad, liberal education that enables creative, flexible thinking as well as a technical education that can be advantageous in the job market. This type of program can enhance a graduate s prospects for management within a technical field. Some examples are engineering through Occidental and Cal Tech or through Whitman and Columbia. College Calendar Systems Semester System: Like Bishop O Dowd, the academic year is divided into two periods. Semester exams usually occur at the end of each period. Trimester or System: The school year is broken into three ten-week periods of study (September to mid-december, January to Mid-March, and April to early June). Students usually take three courses each term. Quarter System: Like the trimester system except there is an additional quarter in the summer. An advantage to students is that any quarter can be used for work (think about the opportunities of not competing for jobs during the summer months). Theoretically, a student could earn a degree in three years System: This is an adaptation of the traditional semester system. After the three to four month fall semester, there is a one month term in which students take one or two classes that are often conceptually unique. They might include travel to Hawaii for biology, to Florence for art history, to an archeology dig, or simply a fascinating class taught on campus. This often provides a welcome break that stimulates and rejuvenates System: Similar to the system except the one month term falls at the end of the school year, opening up interesting possibilities that can combine with summer plans. Block System: An example is Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Students take one class for three and one-half weeks and then have four to five days off before starting the next block class. Eight classes are completed in the year. This allows for an intensely rich experience, and in many instances, allows you to study away from campus (in an archeology class the students might become part of a team at a dig in New Mexico, biology students take off into the mountains for a few days to study the ecosystem, etc.). 18

19 GETTING READY TO APPLY FOR COLLEGE Senior year is unquestionably the busiest, and the hardest, of your high school years. You must continue to work in school at your highest academic level, and you must spend extra time on your college applications, keep up with your extracurricular activities, and cope with the emotional ups and downs of looking ahead to separating from your family. This is an exciting, challenging, and sometimes difficult time for you as well as your family. In preparation for your senior year and the application process, some of the following tips will help insure a smoother process for you: Ø The summer following junior year is important! Rest, work, visit colleges, pursue an interest, follow your passion, broaden your personal experience, and do community volunteer work. Highly selective colleges ask how you spend your spare time and, if you have a particular talent, developing interest, or passion, they expect to see you follow through with it at a consistent level. Colleges seek students who have interesting, developing interests, and they often equate this with people who will contribute to campus life when they are college students. Ø Read and write! Always have a book you are reading for pleasure. Read editorials for three reasons: To broaden your horizons and familiarize yourself with current issues; to develop your vocabulary; and to encounter good writing style. Not only will these activities help you with your SAT, but they will make you more interesting to colleges, and just perhaps, a new interest will be sparked that moves you in a new direction. You may also find inspiration for your college essay. Remember, this is a process! Ø Complete your Senior Questionnaire during the summer (you can find it at the Counseling website), and turn it in to your counselor. This is your chance to reflect essay ideas may come from it. Be thorough if you have not seen your counselor much during your high school years, this may be a starting point to help him or her get to know you better. Believe us when we say that we really do rely on the questionnaire to give us more information about what makes you tick and to use as a starting point for conversation with you. PARENTS: Your input is invaluable you provide another perspective on your teenager. We truly appreciate your thoughts and ask that you please return your input (the last page in the questionnaire) to your son or daughter s counselor mail it in separately if necessary. Ø NOTE: In the fall of your senior year, you will meet with your counselor in the order of receiving the Senior Questionnaire. At that initial meeting, if you are applying to private schools, you will receive BOD-generated forms that are required by us to see you through the process. You will also receive information on the UC and CSU applications. Every high school has a system that works for them this is ours and we ask that you respect it. Keep on top of the process! 19

20 THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS and OPTIONS The application process actually begins when you decide where you will apply. Hopefully you will have a chance to visit campuses, but if you cannot, we strongly recommend you meet with the college admissions officers who visit Bishop O Dowd (check College Visits on Family Connection often!). Typically an admissions officer covers a specific region of the United States with the express responsibility of getting to know the students, their counselors, and the high schools in their region. This contact can be particularly important since the admissions officer who visits is usually the first reader of your application, and he or she will be the admissions committee member who is most familiar with Bishop O Dowd and the quality of our students. This person can be a strong advocate for you. Make your presence known!! As you begin to sort out your list, you will no doubt find some schools you love and others you merely like, although throughout the months of application and waiting, the loves and likes often switch places. The best advice we can give you is to learn as much as you can about each of the schools on your list. Make contact with the admissions office in each of these schools learn to love each one. There are good reasons for this: Ø If your first choice school rejects you, you will be happy with the schools that do accept you. Ø If you have visited and/or made contact several times, the admissions committee takes this a strong sign of your interest. If you never make contact, they could turn you down because they feel you are not interested, even if you are a dynamite student. Ø Ask yourself two questions: Can I get in? and Do I want to get in? You may not be able to answer yes to the first question for every college, but you must be able to answer yes to the second for every single college to which you apply. Admissions Options When considering all of the following options, keep in mind that this is a process, and you will change throughout the months to come. This final year and a half of high school is a time of tremendous growth. Think about how different you are now from when you entered high school as a freshman. Assuming you are reading this in the spring of your junior year, you will be considerably different a year from now when you are weighing decisions in your senior spring. By keeping an open-minded perspective, you will have an easier time making and accepting your decisions. You are stepping into new territory that is rich and varied, exciting and daunting, and finally, a big decision. Explore the territory carefully and intelligently you may never again have such an opportunity. Regular Admissions: Most colleges require applications to be submitted by a specific deadline, and members of the admissions committees begin reading an applicant s file once all the required documents are received. You will be considered within the larger pool of applicants and colleges will notify you of their admissions decisions by the commonly adhered to date of April 1. Ø The University of California application must be filed between November 1 and November 30. It will not be accepted before the 1 st or after the 30 th. All 20

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