Applying to college. Admissions categories. Types of admissions

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1 Applying to college Most counselors recommend that students create a list of at least five or six schools that include: colleges that are very likely to be a good fit based on transcripts, GPA, and standardized test scores second-choice schools with admissions requirements that match their transcripts, GPA, and standardized test scores choice schools with difficult admissions standards and a high number of applicants; often called reach schools Admissions categories Early decision A student can apply by an early deadline, stating that the school is his first choice. If accepted, he commits to attending and withdraws applications to other schools. Early decision is binding and can adversely affect the student if the school does not provide enough financial aid. Early notification/early action A student can apply and receive notification earlier than regular applicants. This does not obligate the student to attend or to withdraw applications submitted to other schools. Regular admission A single deadline applies to all applicants; applications are pooled and reviewed, with admission offered to the most competitive candidates. Rolling admission Applications are reviewed as soon as all parts of the application have been received by the admissions office. Openings are filled on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified students, so those who apply early stand a better chance of being accepted and being included in the first round of financial aid. Wait list A student is put on a list for acceptance if space becomes available in the incoming class. The student may be asked whether or not she would like to remain on the wait list or be removed because she s accepting another school s offer of admission. Types of admissions Non-competitive: Everyone with a high school diploma or equivalent is accepted. Placement tests and/or SAT/ACT scores may be required. Minimally difficult: Accepted students can be ranked in the lower half of their high school graduating class, and can have ACT scores of 19 or below and/or SAT scores of 1515 or below. Moderately difficult: Accepted students are ranked mostly in the top 50 percent of their graduating class, and typically have ACT scores of 18 or higher and/or SAT scores of 1515 or higher. Most difficult: Accepted students are primarily ranked in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, and have ACT scores of 29 or higher and/or SAT scores of 1965 or higher. Deferred admissions A student can apply and, if accepted, postpone enrollment until the following term or academic year. This is an option for any student who needs or wants to take a year off before continuing her education. Note: Any student planning to earn money during her year off should find out how increased income may affect financial aid. 29

2 College admissions and financial aid application timeline (senior year) for traditional four-year colleges November December January February March April May June July College application deadlines Scholarship preparation (application and all materials for VSAC-assisted scholarships are due March 4, 2016) Deposits due Continue searching for local, regional, and national scholarships FAFSA and VSAC grant application process Look for college admission and financial aid awards letters College financial aid deadlines Students accept financial aid offers Students complete loan promissory notes Keep track of all application and financial aid materials due to each school, along with the deadlines for those materials. Organization is key! Help your student submit complete accurate applications to the high school counseling office (if applicable) at least two to three weeks before deadlines. Most colleges charge from $25 to $100 to process applications, though some colleges will waive the fee. Check with your high school counselor or college if your student needs help with fees. The college application process Contact your high school Many high schools want to see completed applications before they re mailed. Some high schools prefer to package and either mail or upload applications for their students. Many high schools have their own procedures for assisting students with college applications. Check with your school counselor early in your student s senior year. Ask about forms. Your high school may have special letterhead for teachers or counselors to use for recommendations, as well as request forms for students who want their transcripts mailed to colleges. Consider online applications Most colleges encourage students to apply online, and some schools will even waive application fees for students who submit their applications electronically. Find out if the colleges on your student s list have online applications or use the Common Application (an online form accepted by more than 400 colleges). Both can save time, energy, and paper. Learn about the Common Application at Neatness and completeness count If your student is using a paper application, encourage her to photocopy the blank application and use the copy as a draft. That way, the final application will be neat and clean. She should use the same pen throughout to avoid color changes. 30

3 Help your student determine what supporting information and documents need to be included in the application, and be sure he provides this information by required deadlines. Use the college admissions checklist on page 39 to help organize details. Possibilities include: transcripts teacher or counselor recommendations standardized test scores essay(s) interview audition tape or CD (for performing arts programs) portfolio (for art or architecture programs) Letters of recommendation Encourage your student to: check to see how many recommendations each college requires and from whom choose people who will write positive recommendations and do them well allow writers plenty of advance notice and time to complete recommendations provide writers with deadlines and the appropriate forms, if forms were provided by colleges check in with writers to keep them on track and thank each one who provided a recommendation The essay Once college admissions counselors have seen a student s grades and test scores, they next want to know what makes this student different from other applicants; they want honest insights into the real person. Students should write from the heart. Good admissions essays are creative, interesting, and thoughtprovoking; students should be relaxed and natural when writing. Students should avoid big words and big sentences, but take care with spelling and grammar. Make sure students read directions and understand the question(s) they must answer. Remind students to write, rewrite, and proofread, and then have at least one English teacher or another skilled person review the essay. When recounting an experience for an admissions essay, students should demonstrate what they learned and how they felt about it, as opposed to providing simple narration. This may require them to think about things they ve never thought deeply about before. Be aware of deadlines Teachers and counselors receive many requests for recommendations and need time to complete them. Encourage your student to ask early in the fall and to allow writers plenty of time before letters are due. To make the process easier, have your student fill out a form for everyone writing a recommendation. Your high school may have a form for students to fill out. If not, use the one at (scroll down to the section on applying for college and click on recommendation request form ). The form provides space for: addresses of all the schools to which your student needs the recommendation to be sent all submission deadlines details on his or her classes, awards, activities, after-school jobs, and goals Providing this information will make it easier for teachers and counselors to write accurate recommendations and to meet deadlines. 31

4 If your school has Naviance (see page 2) use it to explore interests and careers or visit VSAC Roadmaps for other college and career exploration tools. Remember, though, that even if your student has a particular major or career in mind, taking related coursework in college will help determine whether that major or career is a good fit. The college major What you need to know Regardless of one s major, colleges require students to fulfill specific core requirements covering a wide variety of subjects, including English, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts and humanities. The benefits are two-fold: Students become more adept at interpreting and analyzing information, appreciating other viewpoints, drawing accurate conclusions, solving problems, and expressing themselves more effectively. These are skills that students can build upon and transfer across jobs and careers throughout a lifetime. General requirements often expose students to subjects they haven t had a chance to pursue in the past. What better way to choose a major than to take a variety of courses to learn more about different subjects, while fulfilling college requirements? Choosing a college major Choosing a major is not the same as preparing for a career, as most majors do not lead to particular jobs. As a result, choosing a major based on a career goal may not be necessary (exceptions include nursing or other health care fields that require very specialized programs). Instead, it s common to choose a major in an area of interest that a student wants to explore in depth through courses and activities. If a college application asks your student to indicate a major, it s perfectly acceptable to write undeclared or undecided. It will not hurt his or her chances of being accepted. At most four-year colleges, students usually are not required to choose a major until the end of the second year, which gives them plenty of time to explore different subjects. To graduate with a particular major, a student needs to take and earn passing grades in specific courses recognized by the college as relating to that major. Narrowing the choice Encourage your student to: review college websites or catalogs for lists of all academic majors at colleges on his list. Identify the requirements for admission (if he s going to state a major on his application) and the requirements for graduation. check the Internet for various What can I do with a major in...? fact sheets review college catalogs or websites page by page, highlighting interesting courses. Notice any patterns? 32

5 If she s deeply interested in more than one subject area, she should speak with an academic advisor about declaring a double major (which, in some cases, will require a heavier course load), a self-designed major, or an inter - disciplinary major that combines classes from several different departments. Remember that every major has applications that might not immediately come to mind. A political science major could become, among other things, a fundraiser, consumer advocate, convention organizer, social worker, journalist, market researcher, or museum staff member; and an education major might become a corporate trainer or a living history guide. The gap year Every year, more and more high school graduates are choosing a longstanding British custom the gap year, a year off between high school and college. Schools usually look favorably on the idea, but this depends on what students do with the year off. If a gap year interests your student, talk to her about her plans. More often than not, a well-planned year to explore interests and ideas before going to college can enhance the experience of college. If college has always been her goal, a year off for a planned experience won t take her off track. Books Taking Time Off straightforward recollections and thoughts by students who took time off If your student is thinking about a gap year, encourage him to apply to colleges during senior year postponing the application process may make it more difficult later, when students have lost access to teachers and counselors. Many colleges will allow accepted students to defer for one year to pursue an interest, volunteer with an organization, or intern with a business. Travel is fine, too, as long as the trip has clear educational value. Online resources for international employment for study abroad, gap year, and interim learning opportunities for gap-year options overseas and links to other gap-year websites for information on spending a year in Britain getting paid to work in various industries 33

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