PORTLEDGE SCHOOL COLLEGE PLANNING HANDBOOK

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1 PORTLEDGE SCHOOL COLLEGE PLANNING HANDBOOK Elisabeth Mooney Jane Zisa Director of College Counseling Secretary (516) (Phone) (516) (516) (Fax) Eric Mathieu College Counselor (516)

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION Introduction 4 The College Calendar 5 Junior Year 5 Senior Year 6 The College Counseling Office 8 What You Need to Do 8 Teacher Recommendations, Test Scores and Naviance 8 CHAPTER 2 - SELF-ASSESSMENT 9 CHAPTER 3 - COLLEGE RESEARCH 10 College Research 10 College Representative Meetings 11 College Catalogs, Viewbooks and Videos 12 Internet 12 College Visits 13 College Interviews 14 CHAPTER 4 - APPLICATIONS WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW MANY 17 Types of Applications 17 The Common Application 17 SUNY Applications 17 Number of Applications 17 When to Apply Early Decision I and II, Early Action, 18 Regular Decision, Rolling Admissions Self-Reporting Schools 19 The Essay 19 CHAPTER 5 SCHOOL MATERIALS 21 Counselor s Recommendation 21 Portledge School Profile 21 Teacher Recommendations 21 The Transcript 21 Extracurricular Activities 23 2

3 CHAPTER 6 STANDARDIZED TESTING 23 Standardized Test Scores 23 SAT Reasoning Test 24 SAT Subject Tests 24 ACT 24 TOEFL 25 Advanced Placement Tests 25 CHAPTER 7 STUDENT ATHLETES AND THE NCAA 25 CHAPTER 8 A WORD ON THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE PERSPECTIVE 27 CHAPTER 9 FINANCIAL AID 27 CHPATER 10 A WORD ON SUSPENSION 29 CHAPTER 11 DO S & DON TS; MYTHS & FACTS 29 CHAPTER 12 QUESTIONS 32 Questions for the Tour Guide 32 Possible Interview Questions 33 CHAPTER 13 FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM 34 NOTES 35 3

4 Introduction The purpose of this handbook is to answer the most frequently asked questions about the college admissions process. Please know that it is impossible to cover all aspects of the process in a brief publication. You should make note of any additional questions and concerns and discuss them with the College Counselor. Although supplementary materials will be used, it is important that students and parents carefully read the handbook. During the winter and spring of the junior year, I will meet with students and parents formally to initiate the search. Through individual and class meetings, students will become aware of a process to identify schools appropriate for their interests and capabilities; they also will become familiar with the standardized testing process. This handbook should serve as a handy reference throughout the college search and application process. As a student at Portledge School, you should realize that a full commitment to the process of college preparation is the best way to enhance your opportunities for acceptance at the colleges you choose. For most of you, this will be the first truly important decision of your lives. Consider your options very carefully; be realistic about what those options are and be honest both with admissions people and with those of us here who will assist you. In addition to academic promise, inferred largely from the record of your performance since the 9 th grade, colleges will assess your potential as a member of their community. They seek mature, responsible, low-maintenance individuals who will, on their own, understand what is expected of them as members of a community, fulfill all requirements, and conduct themselves in a manner that is both civil and ethical. Therefore, it is YOU, the applicant, who must direct the admissions process for yourself and indeed, who must be seen to be in charge of the process. In other words, you must be the person who contacts colleges and universities; you must schedule your interviews and campus visits; you must arrange for teacher recommendations; you must make sure that SAT test scores are sent out to each institution to which you have applied. Most of all, you must complete and submit your own applications. To permit anyone else to do this for you will lead admissions officers and others to conclude that you may not be ready to take on the challenges of undergraduate life. Entrance to the more selective institutions is dependent upon the successful completion of a number of variables. No two students are viewed the same, nor will they have the same credentials. College admissions is a human process subject to a number of considerations. Your best possible admissions profile would include four years of top grades in challenging courses, strong standardized test scores, solid letters of recommendation, and committed involvement (and leadership) in meaningful activities and significant commitment to some form of community service. Please remember that the goal of this process is to find a good match between you and a college or university. It is tempting to compare yourself with classmates, but a place where one person will thrive might be unpleasant or otherwise inappropriate for another. Your job throughout this process is to complete a careful self-analysis, to recognize both your strengths and weaknesses, and to approach, thoughtfully and seriously, the task that lies ahead of you. 4

5 The College Calendar - Junior and Senior Years Junior Year January February March April May June College Night for Juniors and Parents (Required) Log-in to Naviance: complete information and Junior Questionnaire Schedule individual student and parent meeting with Mrs. Mooney Weekly college counseling classes begin Register for March SAT Reasoning Test. (Subject Tests are not offered on this date.) Register for April ACT with writing test Presidents Weekend: Plan to visit colleges during this break (Make sure the admissions offices are open!) Meet with college representatives who visit Portledge. SAT Reasoning Test Spring Break - This is a crucial vacation in the college selection process because schools are in session. Most schools offer tours and information sessions; make sure to schedule an interview if it is suggested. Go to the websites for specific information regarding times and procedures for visiting. Register for May SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests Meet with college representatives who visit Portledge. ACT NACAC College Fair - Jacob Javits Convention Center NYC Nassau Counselors Assoc. College Fair-Hofstra Univ., Hempstead Western Suffolk Counselors Assoc. College Fair Register for June SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests and/or ACT with writing test. Meet with college representatives who visit Portledge. SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests Take AP exams Determine Teacher Recommendations - Ask teachers if they will write recommendations for you before the end of school so that they have time over the summer to write for you. If you are planning to ask teachers you will have senior year, it is fine to ask ahead of time. Give them a copy of the resume that we worked on during the spring. SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests ACT 5

6 July August Finish visiting colleges Start organizing and reviewing applications Work on personal statement and supplemental essays Work on portfolio, audition or sports CD if applicable Research scholarship opportunities; check Fastweb and specific colleges Review need to take SAT or ACT in the fall and prepare Register with CommonApp and begin filling it out Update Naviance Register for October SAT and/or ACT if needed Prepare copies of essays which are due the first day of school. Senior Year September October November College Night for Seniors and Parents (Required) Essays and supplements are due the first day of school. Weekly College Counseling classes resume Work on college applications Meet with college representatives who visit Portledge (see Naviance) Finalize Naviance application list Post on Naviance which applications are being filed ED/EA Submit official test scores to ED/EA and Rolling schools. Applications are not complete until official scores have been sent. They must be sent directly from College Board or ACT!!! Make sure the application list in Naviance is accurate; all school forms are sent electronically and without a complete and accurate list, we will not be able to send materials. If schools do not accept electronic submission, make sure to get the paper forms to Mrs. Mooney ASAP! CSS financial aid PROFILE form usually available. Finish essays and required interviews Identify possible scholarship opportunities; let Mrs. Mooney know so that she can complete necessary school forms Register for November SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests if needed for regular decision applications Finalize essays and supplements Complete the Common App SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests ACT ED/EA and Rolling applications should be submitted in advance of the November 1st deadline. University of California and Rutgers applications due Nov. 1 st 1st Trimester grades are sent out. Register for December ACT SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests Complete all ED II and Regular Decision applications SUNY applications should be submitted by December 1 st 6

7 December January March May 1 st June Deadline for submitting all ED II and Regular Decision applications is December 15th. EDI/EA notification period is December If you are accepted ED: you must withdraw all applications filed at other institutions as per your ED agreement. Please cc: Mrs. Mooney when you send the . FAFSA, the Federal Financial Aid forms available. These should be completed ASAP after January 1. SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests ACT Register for January SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests. Complete FAFSA, Federal Financial Aid form and CSS PROFILE SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests Mid-Year Reports sent out 2nd Trimester grades sent out Usual Regular Decision notification period begins March 15 th. Deadline to accept offer of admission. Deposit required to reserve place in next matriculating class. AP exams Senior Project Period Senior Project Presentations Senior Dinner Prom Awards Ceremony Graduation Day - you made it!! Final Transcripts will be submitted to matriculated college. (Make sure all accounts with Portledge are settled.) 7

8 The College Counseling Office Our job is to assist students navigate the college application process. If there are questions or problems, we are ready to help. However, the key to success is communication. It is vital for students to attend college counseling classes, complete the exercises and assignments discussed, meet all deadlines in a timely manner (see the calendar) and update their Naviance accounts. The latter item is critical because, in most cases, Portledge School materials such as transcripts, recommendations and the counselor letter can be submitted electronically. However, we can only do so if the list in Naviance is accurate. In cases where colleges only accept hard-copy, we will mail Portledge School materials. However, in order to do so in a timely manner, students will need to make sure that teachers have the necessary recommendation forms and Mrs. Mooney has the necessary counselor form well in advance. Documents from other schools or outside sources, such as other school transcripts, summer program transcripts, and outside letters of recommendations must be submitted directly from the source. Test Scores must be sent directly from College Board or ACT. They are not part of your transcript and applications will not be complete until you submit your official test scores Teacher Recommendations - You need to ensure you ask two teachers for recommendations well in advance of any deadlines. Ask them in the spring of junior year even if it is a teacher you will have in senior year. Give them a copy of the resume that you created in our college counseling classes. They might give you a sheet to complete. Once you have asked, it is our job to make sure they have been uploaded to Naviance in time for the submission deadlines. (You can also track submission on Naviance!) It is also a good idea to write a thank you note. Naviance is used in the college counseling office to assist in planning and processing college applications. It is critical for students to make sure that their accounts are current. Parents also find it a helpful tool because it allows them to see what is happening. On Junior College Night, all families receive the registration codes to get started on the Naviance system. Before scheduling a meeting with the College Counselor, it is important to log into Naviance, fill out all the pertinent family information and complete the Gameplan Survey. 8

9 Self- Assessment There are over 3000 accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Developing a list of colleges that is right for you is an involved process. The first step is self-assessment, or evaluation of your educational values, interests, and aspirations. You will use this assessment when you discuss schools with the College Counselor and when you write your college applications. The following questions may help you in your assessment: A. Goals and Values What kind of a student am I? What kind of a student would I like to become? What aspects of Portledge have I enjoyed most? What have I enjoyed least? How do I define success? B. Academic What are my favorite and least favorite courses? What do I choose to learn when I am on my own? Do my grades reflect my ability and potential? How well am I prepared for college? Are my SAT scores an accurate measure of my ability? What is the average number of hours I study each night? C. Activities, Interests and Aspirations What activities do I enjoy most outside of the classroom? What activities do I plan to pursue in college? What do my parents expect of me? Who has influenced me the most? What kinds of surroundings are essential to my well being? D. Personality and Relationships What adjectives do I use to describe myself? How would my best friend describe me? Which relationships are most important to me? Why? How free do I feel to make my own decisions? How do I feel about going to a college where the other students are quite different from me? How do I feel about going to a college very different from Portledge School? 9

10 College Research Once you have completed a self-assessment, you can start to investigate different colleges intelligently. You should start with basic questions first then move to more complex issues. Some of the basic questions you must ask are: What size school do I want? (small and personal, big and diverse, etc.) What type of school do I want? (Catholic, SUNY, liberal arts, etc.) Where do I want to go to college? (northeast, big city, suburb, etc.) Then you can move to more specific questions like: What type of students do I want around me? (Conservative, liberal, etc.) What type of social life do I want? (Big sports, sororities, intramurals, etc.) What academic programs do I want? (Business, pre-med., music, etc.) What type of financial aid is available? (Scholarships, need based, etc.) Any other questions you think are important to ask about a college. Research skills are essential for answering these questions and making a good college decision. That means collecting data from a broad range of sources and looking at this while not being judgmental before you learn for yourself about the college. You are urged to investigate a college fully and not rely on hearsay alone. Too frequently stereotypes are misleading and may prevent further exploration of an appropriate institution. ( Someone told me that Colby is too small; someone told me that Penn State is too big; someone told me that Miami is too far away, etc. ) Every college has something for someone. There are many colleges where you will be happy (fit in with other students, find the level of education you need and want, be productive, feel good on campus). Researching colleges means finding several schools where you really want to go. It does not make sense to have colleges on your list just because you can get accepted. Search for a list of colleges where you DO wish to go, even though you will prefer some colleges more than you do others. How can you learn about colleges? guidebooks college reps at Portledge college fairs catalogs internet viewbooks alumni college visits 10

11 College Representative Meetings Every year almost 50 college representatives visit Portledge. College representatives come to talk about their colleges and talk to you. COME TO THESE MEETINGS! Many of these people will be the first readers of your application: think of them as the Long Island advocates on the admissions committee at their colleges. Your attendance at these visits can be very productive encounters, and on occasion, in the past, have been very important components of students success in the admissions process. A dialogue can begin easily between you and the admissions office with this encounter. Should you be unable to attend because of a conflict in your schedule, take a few minutes to introduce yourself to the visiting admissions officer. Ask for his or her business card, or take a moment to fill out one of the cards that most of these individuals bring back to campus with them to put you on the mailing list of that college or university. There isn t a single admissions professional who would not appreciate your decision to miss that meeting to attend an important class session or to take a test. In short, make contact. Begin a dialogue with each admissions representative who visits from colleges in which you have an interest. Most representatives tend to correspond with applicants by . Parents should neither initiate this dialogue nor participate in it. Admissions officers want to hear from candidates NOT from their mothers or fathers. The schedule of college meetings will be posted on Naviance and reported in the daily announcements. A particular college might also contact you about a visit if you are already on its mailing list. Take a chance. Even if you have not heard of a specific college, or you do not know much about it, this is a great way to learn more. If you have a class at the time of the visit, and it is a school you are considering, ask your teacher if you may be excused in order to see the representative. You must have your teachers permission in advance to miss classes to attend meetings; it will be up to each teacher to decide how much advance notice he or she may require, but in no event should you make the request on the day of the meeting itself. Even if you have had an interview at the college, you can (and should) say hello to the representative and convey your enthusiasm. A good impression, a contact at the college, and a meeting informally on your own territory are helpful in your process for college admission. The mailings you receive from colleges themselves can be very informative. Almost all colleges have viewbooks that tell about their campuses. Catalogs are usually very dry to read, yet they are an excellent source of information, especially on specific academic programs. Obviously, much of this information is geared to sell a particular college, and only the strong points of a university are accented. Still, you should have all of this type of information on any college that you are considering. 11

12 College Catalogs, Viewbooks and Videos The Fiske Guide to Colleges (Time Books-Random House) This essay-style guide provides excellent information and evaluations for 300 competitive colleges. Highly recommended for students with good academic records. The 311 Best Colleges (Princeton Review). Another good guide with many interesting statistics and facts presented in an easy to read format. Colleges that Change Lives (Penguin Books) 40 Colleges you should know about if you are not a straight A student. The College Handbook (The College Board) The College Board collects the data each year from their own membership. Every college in the country is in this guide. Very useful to get the facts. Rugg s Recommendations on the Colleges (Fallbrook, CA) This guide will be able to tell you which colleges have strong academic programs. (i.e., you might ask, I wonder what schools are good for zoology? This book can help.) Barron s Best Buys (Barron s Education Series) The name explains it. The College Board Guide to 150 Popular College Majors (College Board Publications) This guide is helpful for explaining what is involved in a particular program. (What courses are typically taught; what careers are suited for particular majors; what background you need to be successful in a certain major, etc.) You might want to purchase your own copy of these books. Additionally, check at bookstores for special guides for Catholic colleges, Jewish students, gay and lesbian students, African- American students, women s colleges, athletics, and guides for students with learning disabilities, increasingly referred to as learning differences. Internet The Internet has become an invaluable resource for doing college research. There are two ways the Internet is valuable: Connecting directly to an individual college s home page. Today, colleges maintain excellent home pages where you can find all types of information, including admissions material, professors names, sports schedules, online campus tours, and much more. Visiting the website of colleges that interest you is highly recommended. Utilizing websites to do college searches, learn about financial aid, and do comparisons between different institutions. A few important websites are listed below. Also very helpful is Web Resources for the College-Bound compiled by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. These are also links which are posted on Naviance. 12

13 The College Board administers the SAT and maintains all records of scores. You can register for all SAT testing online (unless you require special accommodations). In addition, it has a useful search component where you can enter criteria (size, location, type, etc.) of colleges that you seek, and it will respond with a list of matches. It also contains valuable information regarding financial aid and scholarship opportunities. This is another useful site that performs searches for you. It also has video/audio clips of many schools. This site permits you to take campus tours of hundreds of colleges and universities online. It works by connecting you directly to the colleges that have online tours or photos on their websites. This is the official US Department of Education s website for completing the FAFSA online. (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) All students must complete and submit this in early winter if they seek financial assistance toward college expenses. You can also link to other official USDE financial aid information regarding Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, for example. (Do not confuse this with another site "www.fafsa.com which connects you to a company that will complete the FAFSA for you online, for a fee.) Most college counselors agree this is the best site for financial aid and scholarship questions. It also has an excellent financial aid calculator to help you determine how much aid you might receive. Another site that can help you investigate sources of financial aid. College Visits Campus visits are the most important part of the college search process. Think about it: this is where you will spend the next four years of your life. You must visit; see the campus; ask questions; observe the students (your future schoolmates ;) get a feel for the dorms (where you will live,) etc. Plan now for possible visits. A great time to visit is over spring break. Most colleges will be in session during part of our spring break because their own vacations tend to come earlier in the month of March. It is very important to see colleges if you can when classes are in session. You might not be able to have an interview in the spring, but taking a tour and seeing the campus will make a huge difference. You may ask the receptionist at each admissions office which classes you may attend. Many schools have a schedule of classes for prospective applicants and other visitors. If you conclude that you truly love the school, you should return in the summer or early fall for an interview if on-campus interviews are available. Summer is the most popular time to visit a college and an important project for July and August. Fall visits should be scheduled on days we are closed. However, if you must miss a day of school, make sure you fill out a College Trip Planning Form and have it signed by your teachers and the College Counselor. Please remember that while it is possible to miss some school to look at colleges, it is crucial that you get good grades in the fall, your first priority has to be your schoolwork. 13

14 Most schools have information sessions and tours. Take advantage of both, if possible. When on the campus tour, be sure to ask the student guide many questions. Students are the best sources of information about a college. Ask questions you really want answered (What do you like best; what do you like least? Why?, etc.) Talk to him/her as a peer. Chances are that the tour guide is only a year or two older than you. (See Questions for the Tour Guide on Page 32.) Plan to visit overnight at the schools in which you are most interested. Almost all admissions offices will arrange a campus host for you, if need be, and if you make your request early. You stay with this person in his or her dorm and accompany that individual to classes. Always introduce yourself to the professor of each class you attend and thank him or her in person (and again via ) for the privilege. This is the best way you can really get to know a college. If you plan to apply somewhere Early Decision, you must spend some time on the campus. NOTE: Undergraduates who volunteer to host prospective applicants cannot receive visitors during exam periods or just prior to exams. These include both mid-term and final exam periods. College Interviews Interviews during the senior year must be scheduled well in advance at competitive schools. Call in August after clearing possible dates in the fall with your family. The most competitive schools that offer on-campus interviews will almost certainly be booked by the end of the first week in September. Other ways to maximize your visit include attending a class and having a meal on campus. A great way to find out about a campus is to read the student newspaper and the bulletin boards. Ask questions. Do not be bashful. Each college has its own interview policy. You will need to inquire about the interviewing procedures of each school The policy may be one of the following: 1) On campus interviews -. If the college does offer an on-campus interview, you should, by all means, take advantage of the opportunity. It may be very helpful to you, even if the admissions office insists that the encounter is non-evaluative. 2) Alumni interviews only - off-campus 3) Interviews are encouraged Translation: Your chances for admission are diminished by your failure to schedule an on-campus or other form of interview. These are always evaluative and are important components of the overall assessment of a candidate s suitability. 4) Informational or otherwise Non-evaluative interviews only. 5) No interviews - group information sessions only Making the most of each interview: (Parts of this section adapted from College Handbook, Hampton Roads Academy.) 14

15 Schedule a practice interview with the College Counselor. Be confident and assertive, but never overbearing or overly familiar. Shake hands firmly; maintain eye contact. Do not hide behind your parents when talking to the admissions counselor before and after the interview. You are there to represent yourself, just as you would at a job interview. Often parents are excluded from the interview. Increasingly, the interviewer may ask to meet your parents afterwards. But even if parents are welcome to participate, it is generally not to the student s advantage. Parents: This is a time to leave it entirely to your son or daughter. Dress well, in school attire or better. It is always preferable to be overdressed than to discover that your attire is too casual. Good grooming is essential. Treat every interview as if it were for your school of first choice. Be prepared to respond to something along the lines of tell me about yourself. Be familiar with the college before you interview. Read the most important section of its catalog thoroughly and check out the school s website ahead of time. Most admissions counselors will ask if you have any questions. This is perhaps the most important part of the interview because the questions you ask demonstrate how interested you are and your level of maturity and confidence. Carefully prepare a short list of questions and take it with you. If you need to refer to your written questions, the interviewer will note that you ve come prepared. Should you not need to refer to your list, it won t matter. You cannot go wrong either way. Some pertinent suggestions: Do not ask anything answered in the catalog. Do use the catalog as a springboard for questions, I noticed in the catalog that International Business is listed as a major in the School of Management. Can you tell me if many International Business majors usually have a minor in Economics even though it is listed in the School of Liberal Arts? Do ask questions that suggest your interests: I understand that you have a debate team. Can you tell me against what other colleges it competes? Has it won any awards? Do not ask what departments are the strongest. The answer is always All of them or We have many strong departments. What is important to you? Do ask for specific descriptive information about your particular department of interest. What percentage of your graduates applied to medical school? What percentage was accepted after their first try? Do you support all medical school applicants or only the top 10% of the pre-med. class? 15

16 Be expected to offer your reasons for interest in the particular college or university. Do not employ any form of the word prestige or any of its synonyms: you may not be taken seriously if you suggest that prestige or status are considerations in your search for an appropriate undergraduate institution. Avoid obsequiousness. Do not offer as fact what you do not know for certain. Do not tell admissions officials what they already know about their schools. You are not the expert on their institution. What interests you about it or attracts you to it is what matters. And the more familiar you are with the school and with your reasons for wanting to apply for admission to its next entering class, the more impressive will be your presentation. In interviews and on applications, you should relegate location to the very last consideration. Do not refer to institutional rankings of any sort. These are at best subjective. Any mention of them may suggest that your interest is more superficial than you would want anyone to believe it is. Be aware of current national, state, and local affairs. These are historic times, and you are approaching the age at which you will vote in national, state and local elections. Avoid posturing, however, as well as insensitivity, toward opinions that conflict with yours. Do not engage in political rhetoric of any sort as it is tantamount to striding across a mine field without a map. Never criticize your current high school. It is simply not good form. Regardless of your feelings toward Portledge or whatever school you may have attended recently, you won t come across well if you are negative about it. If you are visiting an institution with a large number of undergraduates, it would be better to say, After four years at a very small school, I feel that it is the right time for me to become part of a much larger community, rather than, I have had enough of everyone knowing my business and whereabouts at any given moment. Do not be afraid to mention your strengths, both academic and/or non-academic. How and when to do this depends more upon the interviewer and on the progression of the interview than on any particular suggestion of how to go about it. If you are thoroughly engaged in the discussion, you will know when the opportunity arises. If it does not, try to create the opportunity by steering the conversation toward this important topic. Remember that the most useful interviews for both parties are genuine dialogues -- not merely a series of questions and answers. Choose ahead of time at least one subject or interest that you know well and try to bring it up. Be prepared to discuss it at length. Be prepared to answer questions about your secondary school record, your SAT scores, your interests, current events, your career plans, and what you can contribute to the college. (A list of sample questions can be found at the end.) Ask for and write down the name of your interviewer. Most will give you their business cards. After the visit, always write a thank you note. Don t forget to end the interview 16

17 by thanking him or her AND addressing the individual by name: For example, Thank you very much, Mrs. Mooney. Applications There are a number of different questions you may have regarding college applications. Which application do I use (the Common Application or the college s own application?) Should I apply online? When should I apply? To how many colleges should I apply? What are the deadlines? What size school do I want? All these issues and more will be addressed in this section. The Common Application (www.commonapp.org) is exactly what it sounds like - a common application that is accepted by over 350 private and public colleges and universities across the country. Keep in mind that not every college accepts the Common Application. And those that do usually have a supplement, and the application is not considered complete until the supplement has been submitted. Some universities, such as Rutgers and UC schools, (and some SUNY schools) use a selfreporting system in which you will enter all your information, personal and academic, which will not be verified until after you have been accepted and matriculated. No additional materials are accepted. SUNY has a general application which allows you to apply to up to four SUNY colleges. Once completed, it is sent to a processing office in Albany where the information is then distributed to the colleges you selected. Some of the individual SUNY colleges will send you their own supplement which usually requires, among other things, an essay. You cannot get this until you complete the general SUNY application first. SUNY s suggested deadline is December 1 st. Since many SUNY colleges have rolling admissions, you should complete it earlier. The College Counseling Office recommends by October 15 th. On average, students should apply to eight colleges. You should research somewhere in the range of institutions, then select from that longer list of schools those eight or so that you like most and are consistent with the type of college you want. The schools on your list should differ in selectivity for admissions. Most students should not apply to more than ten schools. This is more than most will need if realistic about their prospects, and application fees can make it very expensive. You can divide your college choices into three categories: likely, reasonable, and reach relative to your chances for admission. Most of your choices should be in the reasonable category. You should have at least one institution at which your admission is likely : some call this a safety school, although experience has shown that no college or university is truly a safety, other than those which statistically do not reject applicants. (There probably are not many of those so-called non-selective schools that you would find desirable.) You can also have at least one reach school. Indeed, don t forget that dreams sometimes come true. Now, without denying the value of hopes and dreams, be realistic in your choices. My senior grades are going to be better, is not what the colleges want to hear. Students with a B-minus average and 2000 combined SAT scores will not have a reasonable chance at the extremely competitive colleges. Remember, however, that there can be perfect matches for everyone, 17

18 and that many of those may not occur to you without research. That you have heard of a college s name does not mean that you will feel at home on its campus; that its football team s games are televised nationally does not mean you necessarily will like the school s atmosphere. Without ignoring the fact that no student, parent, teacher, administrator or counselor can predict with utter certainty, we want to use our collective wisdom to try to achieve the best possible match for you. But this cannot occur without your serious and sustained input and participation, along with a substantial dose of realistic self-assessment. A word about likely schools: There is no sense in applying to a college if, in fact, you feel all but certain that you will never want to go there. Identify colleges that are consistent with your needs and objectives. You should pick likely schools with the same excitement as your reasonable chance or reach schools. The reason for this is that you would be very enthusiastic about enrolling at your safety school if all else does not go as hoped. There are factors in college admission major factors which are unquantifiable, and thus, tend to inject into the process an enormous element of risk. The acceptance last year of one student with grades less impressive than yours and with even fewer activities and accomplishments does nothing to render your admission this year likely, much less a certainty. Each year s applicant pool differs from the one that preceded it. And in this particular decade, owing mostly to demographics and the fact that students are applying to more schools, admissions have become more challenging each year. There are several basic admissions plans about which you should be aware. It is important that you carefully read the information supplied by the colleges when you begin the application process, because there are differences among various college programs. Early Decision I: (Also called ED I ) Most colleges have adopted plans whereby students can apply early in the fall, usually by November 1 or 15. One of three actions will be taken: acceptance, denial, or deferral to the regular applicant pool for later assessment. Most early decision applicants will hear decisions by December 15th. IF YOU ARE ACCEPTED TO THE COLLEGE OF YOUR CHOICE, YOU AGREE TO WITHDRAW ALL OTHER APPLICATIONS AND ATTEND THAT COLLEGE. This is a binding agreement. Financial Aid is estimated on the basis of information you supply. You may apply to only one college through the early decision process. Obviously, you must be absolutely sure that you want to attend this college. Note, too, that you will be expected to matriculate even if your financial aid package turns out to be less generous than you had hoped. Some colleges will, however, release a student from an ED I obligation because of extreme financial circumstances. Call each school to learn its policy. At many schools there is a slight statistical advantage to being accepted under Early Decision plans. At others, the advantage can be more significant. Any such advantage should be a consideration only if you are CERTAIN that this is where you will want to go if offered admission, because, in fact, that IS where you will go. Do not apply ED just to have what you feel may be a better chance at a school about which you are as yet unsure as to its suitability to your wants and needs. Early Decision II: Acts the same way as Early Decision I, except its deadlines come later in the process. ED II, as it is called, usually requires submission of all application materials by January 1st, depending on the school. The philosophy behind ED II is that it allows the 18

19 student more time to solidify college plans, and still gives him or her access to an early decision process and the binding commitment to the institution if admitted. The other reason is that it affords you a chance to apply under an early decision plan if you are turned down in ED I by your first choice college. Remember: All Early Decision options are tantamount to contracts. Do not even think of changing your mind once an offer has been made. Of course, you are released from the obligation if your candidacy is deferred to the next round. Early Action: Is similar to ED I and II, except that it is not a binding agreement. You may continue to apply elsewhere, and enroll elsewhere, if you wish. Increasingly, more selective institutions require that your request for Early Action be limited to one school; this is known as "Restrictive Early Action" and it is just that - you agree to apply early only to that school and may not submit any early applications to other private colleges or universities. Regular Decision: This is the usual way to apply to college. You can apply to as many schools as you wish. If financial aid is a principal consideration in your college search, it may be best to choose regular decision, even to your college of first choice, then compare the different financial aid packages you may be awarded. You will usually receive a decision on, or around, April 1 and will have until May 1 to reply. The sooner you say yes, however, the better your housing assignment usually will be. Financial Aid decisions are usually subject to appeal if you feel that the package, which usually includes components of grants, subsidized loans, and work-study, is insufficient. More substantial offers from competing institutions will afford you greater leverage for negotiation in the appeals process than you might have as an early decision admit. Rolling Admissions: This means that your application will be evaluated as soon as it is complete, and you will usually hear a decision within a month. Many state colleges utilize Rolling Admissions. Consequently, many popular public universities may have filled their classes as early as January 1st. Sooner is better for rolling admissions. To maximize your chances, applications for universities such as Penn State, Quinnipiac, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Michigan should be completed no later than October 1 st. Self-Reporting Schools: As mentioned previously, applications to the University of California, Rutgers and some SUNY schools must be submitted by November 30 th. They are completely self-reported and no school documents are sent until you are accepted and then matriculate. The Essay: is an extremely important part of your application. Most colleges will require you to write one or two essays, including a statement of academic interest. Think carefully about the questions asked of you and spend a fair amount of time formulating your answers. This is your opportunity to communicate to the admissions committee who the person behind the application is: the real you. It is also the one component of the written application over which you have complete control; it is the one that will be read, reviewed and discussed around the admissions table. A compelling, well prepared statement can keep you in the running. A poorly written statement, or one that is not well considered, will not serve you well in this regard. Indeed, your college essay provides a tremendous opportunity to distinguish yourself among the hundreds and thousands of other qualified applicants. It is a chance to show your ability to think and to write, and also to reveal your character, your beliefs, and your aspirations. Your essay should not be a description of events. Rather, it should express 19

20 how you feel about an event or activity and what you have learned from that experience. In other words, if you write about your trip last summer, do not spend the whole essay writing a travel log. Recount or summarize the events in a short paragraph, and use the rest of the essay to describe what you thought about the experience and how you were challenged and have changed because of it. Write what you learned about yourself, the world, and other people. Some suggestions for the preparation of essays: START WRITING EARLY: Your first opportunity will come before the end of your junior year, but that does not mean that you must or should use that essay when you apply. Ideas and perspectives can change with reflection and with visits to colleges over the summer. Count on writing several drafts before it is finalized. To begin early in the process allows you to put a draft away for a week. You then may feel differently about what you ve written and either modify it or change topics completely. Unless a specific word limit is indicated, your essay should be about two pages, doublespaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins. Enforcement of word limits is strict when you submit applications online. If the assignment is for a statement of words, yours will be edited abruptly at the five-hundredth word, whatever that may be and wherever in your statement it appears. There is no excuse for spelling or grammatical errors. Ask someone to proofread it for you. If you rely entirely upon your own skills as an editor to proof your own work, you may, as most do, tend to see what you THINK you have written rather than what actually appears on the page. Do not end sentences in prepositions. This is an extremely common error that is very annoying to admissions counselors. It reflects poorly on you as a writer. Be concise, be interesting, and use a grabber in the first line or paragraph to catch the attention of the readers. Begin with a brief paragraph: long-winded openings may cause the reader s attention to wander, and that can be fatal to his or her assessment of your work. Do not repeat the essay question in your statement. It is a waste of words and of space not to mention of the reader s attention and, in general, tends to be boring. The reader knows the question (or topic.) Answer it. Do not try to write what you think the committee wants to hear. The readers are not looking for anything in particular; they are looking to learn more about who you are and how you write. Second-guessing in this instance can lead you to misrepresent yourself, especially if teacher and counselor recommendations suggest opposing perspectives. DO NOT EVEN THINK OF HAVING SOMEONE ELSE WRITE IT. Admissions counselors are very skilled at identifying fake essays. Don t borrow ideas of other successful candidates to a particular institution, even if you intend to write your own statement. Portledge is too small a community for that ever to be regarded as mere coincidence. Your classmates can be of tremendous help to you in identifying possible 20

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