1 M A R Y L A N D H I G H E R E D U C A T I O N C O M M I S S I O N
2 What s This? Most people in high school have questions about their future. This brochure includes common questions and some suggested resources for answering them. If you are a relative or a mentor, we hope this information can help you guide the students you influence. If you re a student, remember this brochure is just a start. Although it has a lot of information about applying for college admission and financial aid, it also has information that can help people looking for technical training and keep in mind that community colleges offer career training programs. What are the options after high school? Work, college, or military? Career training at a community college or a private career school? College at a two-year or a four-year or plan on both? Work for a year and then attend college? Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. R E S O U R C E S The Internet has lots of free information, not all of it accurate. Here are some trustworthy sites: Career Information and College Choice Information Find academic programs & colleges in Maryland at Protect yourself choose an ACCREDITED program: (search the newsletter) Other College Information The Maryland College Student Transfer Guide is online at For community to 4-year college transfer equivalents, go to For student athletes: For international students: If you want to train for a craft or trade career, check community college programs, as well as private career schools. Program lists and related information can be found at Financial Aid Information Look here for Student Financial Assistance pages to learn about State student financial aid programs. Questions? Contact The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) Office of Student Financial Assistance at (410) or, outside 410, and TTY: The gateway to State & Federal student aid is the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA) at If you have never completed a web-based FAFSA visit the FAFSA demo site. Remember that the FAFSA is FREE! Some sites charge you to file it this is unnecessary. Help for the FAFSA is also available through College Goal Sunday. Visit for a list of sites and dates. The FAFSA4Caster can help students estimate their federal aid; look for it at Many colleges and scholarship programs require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE: https://profileonline.collegeboard.com See the scholarship search at Many of the following sites have information for both students and their parents or guardians: (for much of Maryland) (and has a parent newsletter) (Hispanic Scholarship Fund) (Native American Fund) Fee waivers: counseling & testing websites My major not offered in MD? The Academic Common Market or Legislative Scholarships programs might help with out-of-state costs; for details, check Check with the financial aid office of every college to which you apply each has its own forms and deadlines!
3 Some education or technical training after high school is necessary to land most jobs that pay enough to support a single person living alone, let alone a family. What type of training and education best suits each person now and later requires some research, thought, and discussion with school counselors, teachers, employers, faith counselors, mentors, and others who care about the person making these decisions. See the Resources list to explore options. What are the types of postsecondary training? Private career schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges offer varied options for people. For more information, see both Maryland Colleges and Choosing a School. To compare programs by degree, use the listings on the Maryland Higher Education Commission Web site (www.mdgo4it.org). You can also check The Student Guide to Higher Education & Financial Aid in Maryland, available in pdf format on the Web and in print at your local library or school counseling office. Finding a Mentor / Being a Mentor Mentors help shape decision-making, and decisions shape a life. Many successful people have had mentors at every stage of their lives. Students can find mentors in their school, family, community, faith community, and place of employment. For tips on finding a mentor, go to the Maryland Mentoring Partnership Web site, Live to Work... People are happier if they like the work they do. Finding work that s a good match for a person isn t always easy, though. It can take time to learn what we like and where our skills are a good fit. Identifying longterm goals can help keep short-term challenges in perspective.... Work to Live Most of us have to work to support ourselves financially. Many students have never seen a full household budget, including rent or mortgage, groceries, clothing, laundry, health care, utilities (electricity, heat, phone, water, cable), transportation (public transit or automobile costs), entertainment, and savings for retirement, emergencies, vacation, and long-term goals like buying a car or house. A sample budget can be found at the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education site Try making your own budget. You can check salaries for different careers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
4 Choosing a College FITAcollege should match a student s needs. Colleges offer different types of degrees, majors, social and physical environments, and support services. The student should feel challenged but also comfortable. Ask questions and compare! Find the best fit. (See the Maryland Colleges section for more information about types of colleges). The topics below pertain to most colleges, including community colleges. Do the degrees offered by the school meet my career goals? Some jobs require specialized degrees. To become an architect, a person must have a degree in architecture however only some colleges offer architecture programs. To be a nurse, a person may need an associate degree, a bachelor s degree, or a graduate degree. Not all colleges offer nursing programs, and those that do offer different kinds of programs. Students should work with their school counselors and research so they find the colleges that have the academic programs that interest them. Students can search for academic programs available at Maryland colleges at utilities/search_ major.asp What if I don t know what to major in or do for a career? All students should be encouraged to speak with school counselors, academic advisors, and career services staff about possible careers and which academic programs lead to jobs in those fields. They should also talk to people who work in fields that seem interesting to them. For a start, check out and What high school grades are required for college? This depends on the college. The high school counselor can make some recommendations, and college admissions staff will offer advice about their own colleges. Some people become much better students in college and transfer to more competitive colleges after a year or two. Always keep in mind that college is possible. (See also Steps for Applying. ) Make sure the college is properly accredited! Colleges can be accredited in different ways, but they should at least be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Type in the school name at the department s accreditation/search.asp site. What do students say about the college? To learn what a college is like in and out of the classroom, it s best to visit and talk to students and staff. (See Visiting Colleges. ) Are students happy with their college choice? What do they like best? What do they wish they could change? Will I feel comfortable on this campus? Research the college online and visit it, whether it s a two-year or fouryear college.
5 Check out Studying There & Living There for questions to help guide your decision. Don t feel that all questions have to be answered discuss which ones seem most important to your success. If the college offers interviews, the student should take advantage of this opportunity to learn about the college and to have the college staff learn about the student. Some colleges offer or require interviews. Admissions information will explain if an interview is required for admission. Some colleges offer informational interviews that are not part of the admissions process. The college website may have information about interviews. Contact the college admissions office if you have questions about interviews with college staff or about alumni interviews. What are college interviews like? Interviews help students learn about colleges and college staff to learn about prospective students. Both the student and the college are looking for a good fit. Students should research the college before the interview. Interviews are usually held in the admissions office with members of their staff. Here are a few quick interview pointers for students: Be on time. Try to arrive about 15 minutes early. Be honest. The student and the college want to find the right fit. Speak, dress, and act professionally. Don t be overly formal, but don t use slang. Business casual dress is appropriate (conservative skirts or pants and blouses or sweaters for girls and slacks with a polo shirt, sweater, or jacket for boys). Offer a firm handshake, make eye contact, show interest in the conversation by responding appropriately and asking questions, and speak with confidence (but not arrogance). Be prepared to ask questions. Students may take a list of questions to the interview to help them remember what they want to learn about the college. It s not a good idea to take notes during the interview, but the student should make notes just after the interview to remember important points. Be prepared to answer questions. Some questions may be specific ( What do you want to major in? ) and some may be general ( Tell me about yourself ). Students may be asked why they want to attend the college, what majors interest them, and what their long-term goals are. They may also be asked about their academic record, strengths and weaknesses, and what they can contribute to the life of the college. Students should be familiar with admission requirements before the interview. Send a thank-you note after the interview. Ask for the interviewer s name or business card so you can address the note to the right person. Can the college put you in touch with one of their local graduates? Some colleges offer alumni interviews. These may not officially be part of an application process, but students should take them seriously and use them to learn about the college. Keep in mind that these interviewers are volunteers and will be positive about the college. C H O O S I N G A C O L L E G E
6 Maryland Colleges Maryland has many colleges for a state of its size. There are community colleges, a few independent two-year institutions for specialized technical programs, public colleges and universities, and numerous private or independent institutions. Maryland colleges are listed on the back of this page. Two-year degree or four-year degree or both? Depending on a student s career and educational goals, a two-year degree or a fouryear degree or more education may be appropriate. Every college has academic and career counseling services of some kind to help students reach their goals. COMMUNITY COLLEGES Relatively inexpensive Offer associate degrees and certificates Students can transfer to a four-year college or university from a c.c. May require students to take placement tests Do not require the ACT or SAT for admission Some academic programs fill faster than others don t wait until the last minute to apply LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES Offer baccalaureate degrees (B.A., or Bachelor of Arts; B.S., Bachelor of Science, sometimes others) Degrees granted in a major (B.A. History, B.S. Physics) Can be public or independent Usually smaller than universities, even if they offer some graduate degrees Usually require the ACT or SAT for admission; may require SAT subject tests UNIVERSITIES Offer bachelor s degrees like those in liberal arts colleges and also technical degrees (B.S., Electrical Engineering; B.S.N., Bachelor of Science in Nursing.) and graduate degrees (M.F.A., Master of Fine Arts; Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy, etc.) Can be public or independent Have divisions often called schools or colleges a university could have a division called a School of Engineering or a College of Liberal Arts. Some universities ask applicants to select which school of the university they wish to enter. Once there, it may not be possible to transfer easily from one school to another. Types of Community College Degrees Community colleges offer different degrees, only some of which are oriented toward transfer to a four-year college. Some courses will transfer into a four-year degree and some won t. Students can apply for transfer to a four-year college before or after earning an associate degree. Community colleges have transfer counselors who help students with this process. In addition consult ARTSYS, to find out what courses from MD community colleges will transfer to MD 4-year colleges. TRANSFER-ORIENTED A.S. (Associate of Science) A.A. (Associate of Arts) A.A.T. (Associate of Arts in Teaching, available in MD) Prepare students for transfer and may be focused toward a particular major to be completed after transfer These degrees include introductory courses in various fields (that is, general education courses ) that are usually taken in the first two years at a four-year institution. NOT TRANSFER-ORIENTED A.A.S. (Applied Associate of Science) Some credits from this degree might transfer into certain technical colleges. Consult a transfer counselor before entry. Prepare students for technical careers or trades and may include an apprenticeship Courses in these degrees cannot be transferred to many four-year colleges and universities.
7 Four-Year Public Colleges and Universities Institutions within the University System of Maryland Bowie State University Coppin State University Frostburg State University Salisbury University Towson University University of Baltimore University of Maryland, Baltimore University of Maryland, Baltimore County University of Maryland, College Park University of Maryland Eastern Shore University of Maryland University College Morgan State University St. Mary's College of Maryland United States Naval Academy Community Colleges Allegany College of Maryland Anne Arundel Community College Baltimore City Community College Carroll Community College Community College of Baltimore County Cecil College College of Southern Maryland Chesapeake College Frederick Community College Garrett College Hagerstown Community College Harford Community College Howard Community College Montgomery College School of Art and Design at Montgomery College Prince George s Community College Wor-Wic Community College Independent Colleges and Universities Baltimore Hebrew University Baltimore International College Binah Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies for Women Capitol College College of Notre Dame of Maryland Columbia Union College Goucher College Hood College ITT Technical Institute The Johns Hopkins University Kaplan University Loyola College in Maryland Maryland Institute College of Art McDaniel College Mount Saint Mary s University National Labor College Ner Israel Rabbinical College Peabody Institute St. John's College Saint Mary s Seminary and University SANS Institute Sojourner-Douglass College Tai Sophia Institute Talmudical Academy of Baltimore The Women s Institute of Torah Seminary / Maalot of Baltimore Villa Julie College Washington Bible College Capital Bible Seminary Washington College Yeshiva College of the Nation s Capital Two-Year Independent Colleges Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship TESST College of Technology M A R Y L A N D C O L L E G E S
8 Studying There Some fields of study are found at many colleges, others at only a few. Even when colleges offer the same academic programs, they present that education differently. Course requirements, class offerings, and academic support services can vary from college to college. Students have to figure out which academic program and which college works best for them. The topics here apply to students who attend community colleges or four-year colleges. Community colleges offer many of the same academic services as four-year colleges. Community college students who plan to transfer to a four-year college should start thinking about where they want to go and what they want to study. Transfer requirements depend on the college and the major (that is, the academic program at the four-year college). Some transfer-oriented associate degree programs prepare students for specific majors. Does this college have all the courses and programs that interest your son or daughter? Look at the college web site and catalog. The catalog lists all the courses that might be taught, but actual course offerings vary from year to year. Look for a course directory and review current offerings. Incoming students to a college should research course and academic program requirements. It would help to make a list of possible courses to take and have some back-up plans. Classes fill up, and not all courses are offered every semester or even every year. Ask what accommodations are available to new students if classes fill before they can register. (Current students pre-register in the spring for fall classes.) Will my son or daughter be able to gain admission to the major s/he wants? Students apply for entry into a major during or just after the second year of college. To be admitted, students are required to have already passed certain courses ( prerequisites ). Some majors have more prerequisites than others or require more courses. If a major has many requirements, there may not be much room for a student to take electives (that is, courses in other fields). Waiting too long to decide on a major or changing majors may mean staying in college longer to meet requirements. Does the college have the right stuff? Check out what the science laboratories are like what equipment is in them? How big is the library collection? Can
9 students easily access journals and books? Is there a large studio area for art students? Are there practice rooms for music students? What are the classes like? Some colleges require more introductory courses than others. Depending on the college and the course, there could be 12 people in a classroom or 400 in a lecture hall. Big lecture courses may require smaller class meetings called sections (10-30 people) that supplement the lecture. Upper-level courses are usually smaller. Classes may be faculty lectures or students may have to speak regularly in class. Do many classes have waiting lists? Which ones? How large are most courses for first-year students? Graduating Some colleges do a better job than others of making sure that capable students graduate. Compare graduation rates. Colleges also track retention rates (the percentage of students who stay at that college). If the retention rate is low, try to find out why students leave. If a student plans to earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor s degree in four years, then s/he will have to earn a certain number of credits each semester. Students should find out how many course credits are required to graduate on schedule. Student Academic Services Colleges use academic support services to help with retention. What services are available on campus? Is free tutoring available? In what subjects? Do all first-year students have access to study skills classes or workshops? How about exam preparation workshops? How are academic advisors selected for students? What if the advisor does not seem helpful can a student change advisors easily and quickly? Career Services Does the college have an office that manages internships and externships? Does the office have the names of companies that have hired its students? Does the career services office sponsor on-campus job fairs? What companies and organizations attend? Where were recent graduates hired? What were their majors? Libraries Many students have never used a college or research library before they arrive in college but some have. Ask if the library offers mini-classes in how to use the library to do research. All research cannot be done on the Internet! Information Technology Assignments may have to be turned in electronically. Is there a computer lab on campus for students to use to do assignments? What are the hours of operation? Is it crowded? Is there an office for students to call if they have problems with their computers? Is there a place on campus where students can receive free lessons to increase their computer skills? (software program training, use, Internet use) S T U D Y I N G T H E R E
10 Living There Whether a student plans to live on campus or to commute to college, the student needs to consider what his or her daily life will be like. Here are some questions to ask related to life at a college (again, talk with your son or daughter to decide which are most important): Health and Fitness Colleges have staff dedicated to the physical and mental health of students. The types of services available will depend on the college. Staying healthy is a first step to college success! Many colleges offer free classes in sports or other exercise, in study skills and testtaking, and in managing stress. Is there a gym? Is there a pool students can swim in even if they re not on the swim team? What intramural sports are offered? Can students always participate for free? Transportation Is there a college bus service for students? Is bus service provided on campus as well as off campus? What are the hours of operation? Is bus service free? Can students have cars on campus? (Some four-year colleges do not allow first-year students to have cars.) Are there places outside the classroom to lock bicycles? How much does a parking permit cost? Safety How safe is the campus? Where can I find crime statistics for the campus and area? Are the first-year residence halls ( dorms ) locked at all times? Who has access to them? Is there a student escort service to accompany students home from the library or other locations at night? What hours does it operate? Employment Are there many jobs for students on campus? How much do campus jobs usually pay? What kinds of jobs are locally available for students? Does the college help students find paid internships or externships? Social Life What clubs, volunteer groups, and other extracurricular activities are available? Where do students socialize on campus? Off campus? What are weekends like on campus? Food What kinds of dining facilities and meal plans are available? How are special diets accommodated? (for example, food allergies or diabetes) How close is the nearest grocery store?
11 Housing What percentage of undergraduate students live off campus? Is there a service that helps commuters find housing? Are students guaranteed housing on campus the first year? Is housing also guaranteed after the first year? What is the average size of a first-year student s residence hall room? What is the maximum number of students who might share a first-year dorm room? How many people share a bathroom in the typical first-year residence hall? How much storage space is in a first-year room? Is there a desk in the room? Do student rooms have Internet access? Telephones? Religion If a student practices a religion, there may be a place on or near campus where people of the same religion gather for services/ meetings. A student may attend a college that is affiliated with a religion even if s/he does not share the beliefs. Depending on the campus and on the student, this may or may not be comfortable for the student. And Before College Classes Begin... Students who live on campus need to have bed linens and easily portable toiletries. Check out living arrangements and room and bed size before shopping. Watch for tax-free sales days sometimes you can save a bundle on school supplies. Who will the student s roommate or roommates be? Students should contact each other before school begins to get acquainted. Orientation will be offered, probably during the summer or just before classes start. This is a great opportunity to meet other students and for receiving valuable advice from college staff and other students. Students might also be registering for classes during orientation. L I V I N G T H E R E
12 Steps forapplying Investing time to learn about colleges and to prepare a strong application can pay off in a happier, more successful college experience. Along the way, never hesitate to ask questions of school counselors, financial aid officers, and admissions staff they are all there to help you! WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR COLLEGE ADMISSION? Colleges, even community colleges, have different admission requirements. Check out the college websites, catalogs, and applications for each college of interest. School counselors may have additional information. Before the application: High school course requirements may vary by college and sometimes the intended major. Most four-year colleges require students to take a standardized test such as the ACT or SAT. For the application: The application may have more than one part. The application may require one or more essays. (See Tips for Applying. ) At least one letter of recommendation is usually required, often a school counselor letter. Students might also have to submit a teacher s recommendation. Recommendations should reflect a good knowledge of the student. Students can make a list of their accomplishments, activities in and out of school, and goals to help school counselors remember them well. Counselors often write well over a hundred letters. A transcript. This is the student s official record showing all high school courses and grades. Students should review their transcripts before applying to college. It may be necessary to request high school credits earned in middle school be added to the high school transcript. Colleges require guidance offices to send a transcript as part of the college application. High schools have their own procedures for transcript requests; students need to find out what they are and allow at least two weeks to have a transcript mailed. The school counselor may need to complete a form that indicates the applicant s class rank and high school grade point average. Students need to make sure counselors receive all forms early so they can be completed before the deadlines. Meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not guarantee admission. Some colleges receive many more applications than the number of students they can admit.
13 1. Think about the reasons for selecting a college. What career does your son or daughter want to pursue? What colleges will pave the way? Do people working in that field recommend any particular school? What is there about a college education that your son or daughter most values? 2. Start early. Students should collect information about colleges and scholarships as soon as possible. Libraries, the Internet, and school counselors have information. Many applications and college catalogs are available free at college web sites. Students can also call or write admissions offices to request applications, catalogs, or other information. It helps to have applications on hand by early or mid- September. Some deadlines are in November. Applying early might also improve chances of admission or financial aid at some colleges. Register early for standardized tests to avoid late fees. Students should draft application essays weeks before they will be sent. 3. Get organized. Organize college information and applications. Have your son or daughter make a list of colleges of interest. Keep a calendar with ACT, SAT, admission, financial aid, and scholarship deadlines. Admission, FAFSA, and HERE S A LIST OF GENERAL STEPS TO FOLLOW WHEN APPLYING TO COLLEGES As your family goes through this process, if you receive conflicting advice or hear something that doesn t sound accurate, check the information with more than one source. scholarship application deadlines vary by school. Check out a calendar designed to help you organize your career and educational planning at 4. Students should meet with a school counselor as soon as possible and: Bring a list of extracurricular activities and accomplishments from in and out of school. Discuss career goals, academic interests, and what colleges might be a good fit. Discuss who besides the counselor might also write a letter of recommendation. Review the various standardized tests that are required for the colleges of interest. Give the counselor any forms the colleges require. 5. Compare colleges. Which colleges seem like the best fit? (See Choosing a College. ) Prepare questions to ask of college representatives if they visit the area. See for a calendar of college fairs and preparation tips for the fairs. 6. Visit colleges. Try to visit all the colleges that your son or daughter may want to apply to. Schedule college or alumni interviews, if they re available. (See Choosing a College. ) 7. Finalize the list of colleges. Make sure to have all required application forms, including financial aid forms. These may have to be requested from the colleges separately from admissions material. 8. Request recommendation letter(s) a MONTH before they are due. 9. Comply with all application deadlines. Applications may have two or more parts with different deadlines. Students should keep copies of all applications and other forms they submit. Admission and financial aid applications often have different deadlines and forms. 10. Apply for financial aid by the appropriate deadlines. Obtain any necessary financial aid forms from the colleges applied to. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 1 st. File a College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile if necessary. (See Paying for College. ) Financial aid application deadlines, including the FAFSA deadline, vary by college. 11. In the spring, discuss college options with counselors & family and make a decision! Admission decisions and financial aid offers arrive by mid-april. If a student is put on a waiting list for admission, ask college staff and counselors any questions you have before making a final decision about the college choice. S T E P S F O R A P P L Y I N G
14 Tips for Applying How many colleges should a student apply to? Check with the school counselor. The recommendation will vary by student and the colleges selected, but 4 to 8 applications is a common range. The student should try to include a stretch school (one that might be difficult to be admitted to) and a safety school (one that might be easier to be admitted to). Each application usually requires a fee (about $25 to $100+). If a student qualified for an ACT or SAT fee waiver, application fees may be waived. If your family has some means to pay for college, then it might be advisable to apply to a few more colleges to compare financial aid packages consult the school counselor. How is the application submitted? Most colleges have an online application process but also allow mail applications. Always proofread! Typos can be hard to see on a computer screen, so students should try printing and proofreading a hard copy before submitting the application online. It s a good idea to cut and paste the application essays from a word processing program. Follow all directions carefully. Type the application if you can. Students should make and keep a copy of every application they submit. When are admissions applications due? Applications often have more than one part, with the first due around November 1. Early options (see Tips for Applying ) may require earlier submission. Dates vary by college. Applying early may improve chances for admission or financial assistance. Waiting until the last minute with online applications can be a problem because if too many people submit applications at once, the web server may be jammed. Even if a two- or four-year college has rolling admissions (no specific deadlines), students should not wait to apply because slots for the first-year classes or for particular academic programs can fill up. What s the Common Application? Over 200 private (or independent ) colleges accept the same application, the Common Application (see Colleges, however, often require a supplement of their own. Historically Black institutions (HBI or HBCU for historically Black colleges and universities ) also share an application, which is available at What about starting at a community college and transferring to a four-year college or university later? Many community college students transfer to four-year colleges. For some students, a community college is a cost-effective way of starting college. Prospective transfer students must often complete certain courses before they can transfer into a particular college. Community college transfer counselors can assist students in selecting courses that are transferable to the colleges they want to attend. There are usually limits on how many credits will transfer into a college. Courses for a major may not transfer at all or the number of credits in the major may be very limited.
15 Standardized Tests (ACT, SAT) Some colleges prefer one test or the other; check admission requirements. Both the ACT and SAT are offered several times a year. SAT Subject Tests evaluate subject-specific knowledge. Some colleges require these. Register early for standardized tests to avoid late fees. Students from low-income families may qualify for a fee waiver for standardized tests. Check with a school counselor and the ACT and SAT websites for details. Standardized test results will be sent to up to four colleges for no additional fee. ACT tests are administered by ACT, Inc., a nonprofit organization. Information about its tests and about career and college planning can be found at The College Board, also a nonprofit organization, administers the SAT tests and provides information about its tests and college planning at Writing the Application Essay(s) Many four-year colleges and universities have applications that require one or more essays. The essay makes an important impression about the student s thinking, personality, and work ethic. Here are a few pointers for students: Don t panic about these but don t leave them to the last minute. Follow the directions, and try to discuss something you care about and understand. Students must write and edit their own essays, but they can discuss them with people who have read them. The best essays are the product of careful thinking and careful revising. They are honest. Be specific. Avoid generalities. Essays should demonstrate students values and character through examples, explanation, and tone. If comfortable, students can be creative or be funny but not sarcastic. Read the essay aloud to make sure it sounds clear. Check spelling and grammar. (Watch out: grammar-checking software is not foolproof, and spell-checkers won t catch errors like their for there. ) What if a student is absolutely certain about where to attend college? There are some early options for students who are certain of their first-choice college: early decision, early action, and single-choice early action. Not all colleges offer these options, and colleges handle early options differently, so students should ask college admissions officers and a school counselor about these options before any applications are submitted. If a student is not accepted for an early option, it s unlikely the student will be accepted under regular admission unless something in the application changes. Early decision allows students to apply early and find out their admissions decision early in exchange for a promise to attend that college if accepted and offered enough financial aid. Although students can usually apply to only one college early decision, they can still apply to other colleges for regular admission. Early decision is binding, so it is not a good option for a student with any doubts about the first-choice college. Early action is similar to early decision but may allow students more time to reply. Single-choice early action forbids application to other colleges. T I P S F O R A P P L Y I N G
16 Visiting Colleges It s hard to figure out if a college is a good fit without spending time there and talking to students who have been there a year or more. If your son or daughter is really interested in a college, then visit it. Even if the college is local or a community college, visit the campus. If your family can t travel to a college, then your son or daughter should at least try to schedule an interview with a local graduate of the college. (See Choosing a College. ) Plan ahead! A campus visit goes quickly, so your family should have a plan for the visit. Here are some things to look into ahead of time: Your son or daughter should find information about tours and contact the admissions office as needed. Print a campus map from the Internet or ask how to get a campus map before you arrive. Admissions offices generally provide campus tours. Find out how many tours there are per day. Do the tours leave from admissions or elsewhere? Are reservations required? How long does a tour last? Ask about visiting a class or two. Ask which ones are open to visitors, when they are open, and how to go about getting into the class for a visit. If the college suggests or requires an interview, schedule it before the visit. Parents may also be able to schedule an interview with a financial aid officer to take place while the student meets with admissions staff for an interview. (See Choosing a College. ) Find out if parking is readily available and if you will have to pay. Inquire if parking lots /garages are far from the building where your meeting will take place, and if there is a place where you can drop off people who can t walk far? Look at the college website and catalog. Think about what you want to learn on campus and try to figure out where you can find that information while on campus. Your son or daughter should consider attending an extracurricular activity that he or she would like to participate in as a student. Find out where and when activities take place. Schedule enough time to see and do all you want to do on campus and in the area. What to Bring: Comfortable shoes. campuses can be spread out, and you may be walking a long time. Layered clothing. some buildings may be well air-conditioned and some may not. Pen, paper, and a list of questions to ask. (See the back side of this page!) A lightweight bag for carrying your pen, paper, and information you pick up on campus. A camera, if you have one. Anything the college may have asked you to bring. Money for lunch, parking, and other incidental expenses. Remember, the Tour is an Introduction, Not the Whole Visit Eat the food in the cafeteria. Talk to people. Poke around the library. Where do people study? Where do people relax? Visit a class. Walk through an academic building. Are professors in their offices with their doors open? Do you see faculty talking to students other than in class? (Professors hold office hours to meet with students.) Pick up a copy of the student newspaper. What does the paper say about student concerns?
17 QUESTIONS TO ASK DURING A CAMPUS VISIT A college tour guide will tell you some things students need to know. Talking to students there will provide more information. And then there are some questions that may not come up that can give you a clearer picture of life on the campus. Look over the other sections of this brochure for questions. Here are a few more students and parents could ask of guides and students: 1. Have you been happy here? What do you like best? What would you change if you could? 2. What are your favorite courses? Why? 3. What are the most popular majors? 4. Who are your favorite professors, what do they teach, and why do you like them? 5. What percentage of first-year students return to this college for their second year of college? 6. What is the graduation rate for students here? How much does that rate vary if students are low-income? African American? Latino? from rural high schools? from inner-city schools? 7. What is the average amount of time it takes students to graduate? 8. If a student is having trouble in a course, what kind of free help is available? Can you get that help without a faculty referral? 9. What is the average size of a general education course here? (Ask about individual fields an introductory English course is likely to be smaller than an introductory science course.) 10. Do classes often fill before first-year students are allowed to register for classes? If so, what accommodations are made for first-year students having a hard time being admitted into classes? 11. What is the average size of a lower level course (first- or second-year course) in? [name the major that interests the student] 12. What is the average amount of time it takes a student in to graduate? 13. What type of support services are available for students having problems? (This could be physical, mental, academic, roommaterelated etc.) 14. Is this dorm room we re seeing typical for a first-year dorm room? How big is the typical first-year dorm room? What s the maximum number of people in a first-year dorm room? 15. For how many years are students guaranteed campus housing? 16. What kind of extracurricular activities are available to students? V I S I T I N G C O L L E G E S
18 Paying for College HOW MUCH DOES COLLEGE COST? The annual cost of attendance (COA) is usually listed on the college website and in admission materials. Community college tuition charges are usually the least expensive option; public colleges and universities usually charge less tuition than independent colleges. Independent colleges sometimes offer more financial aid directly from the school than public colleges do, though the amount can vary widely from one college to the next. The cost of attendance (COA) means tuition, room and board, books, and other expenses. This figure is listed as an average because some students may have slightly different expenses. No matter what kind of college a student attends, financial assistance is available from many sources. These are the three largest sources of financial aid: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STATE GOVERNMENT/MHEC COLLEGES Federal aid is administered through the U.S. Department of Education PELL Grants are available for families with relatively low income for family size ($400- $4310 per year per full-time student) Offers low-interest loans Federal Work-Study funds (provided to colleges for students) The FAFSA is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. State aid is administered through Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), Office of Student Financial Assistance Offers over $109 million annually or TTY Need-based grants (EA, GA) Scholarships Most aid from MHEC is for Maryland residents who attend college in Maryland Offer their own financial aid Coordinate federal, state, and college aid in the student s financial aid package Contact individual websites and financial aid offices for more information
19 College admission acceptance letters either enclose or are followed by a letter from the financial aid office providing the student s financial aid package. This is an itemized list of the aid the student will receive from federal, state, and college sources if the student accepts the offer of admission and the financial aid package. To qualify for most financial aid, families must complete a FAFSA (at Some independent colleges and scholarship funds require families to complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile (see https://profileonline.collegeboard.com/index.jsp). This service is administered by the College Board, a nonprofit organization that also administers the SAT. There are four main types of financial assistance: scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study. 4 MAIN TYPES OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE Scholarships are usually based on a student s academic performance, involvement in extracurricular activity/ies or sport/s and may require continued participation. Some scholarships are based on financial need. Grants are awards that may be based on financial need or other eligibility criteria. P A Y I N G F O R C O L L E G E Loans, unlike grants and scholarships, must be repaid. Federal loans have the lowest interest rates for educational loans. Federal and other educational loans may be made to students or parents or both. It is best to exhaust all federal options before turning to private loan sources. Subsidized loans do not require borrowers to pay interest while in school (the federal government pays the interest for these loans). Unsubsidized loans require borrowers to pay interest while in school or have it capitalized (i.e., added to the total loan amount). Work-Study is a federal program that provides funds to students through jobs arranged by the college. Students work and earn money, but these earnings do not cause the Expected Family Contribution to increase on the following year s FAFSA.
20 Paying for College CONTINUED Here are a few important sources of financial assistance: The Howard P. Rawlings Guaranteed Access (GA) Grant Students apply to MHEC during the senior year of high school Guidance counselor signature is required Applications available through guidance counselors, by calling MHEC, or by downloading the form from Provides at least $14,800 per year for four years of full-time study at a Maryland college MHEC makes this grant to students with the greatest financial need Families must list at least one Maryland college on the FAFSA The Howard P. Rawlings Educational Assistance (EA) Grant Need-based grant (based on FAFSA information) Provides up to $3,000 per year for four years of fulltime study at a Maryland college No application other than a completed FAFSA by March 1 that lists at least one Maryland college Check out for other scholarship opportunities and applications. Many applications are due March 1. All Maryland residents enrolled in a degree program may apply for the two Legislative Scholarships (Delegate Scholarship and Senatorial Scholarship). There are many FREE scholarship search services, too. For a start, try and School counselors and public librarians can also direct you to other sources of information. Most financial aid requires students to make satisfactory academic progress toward a degree.