Charting the College Application Process

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Charting the College Application Process

  • OCTOBER 26, 2016
  • 631-269-3345

Tonight’s Agenda

  • The college application process
  • Application timeline
  • Two vs Four year institutions
  • The “college list”
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Early Action vs Early Decision
  • Brief overview of scholarships & financial aid
  • What do you have for me?

Applying to College Can Be a 2 Part Process

  • August- December: College Applications
      • Paper applications
      • Online applications/Naviance
      • On-site admissions
  • January-March: Financial Aid
      • FAFSA
      • CSS
      • Scholarships

So You Want to Go to College

  • Apply to more than one school
    • Safety
    • Reach
  • Be aware of Application Options
    • Early Decision-Early decision plans are binding. You get accepted around December.
    • Early Action-Early action plans are similar to early decision plans, but are not binding. You get accepted around December
    • Regular Decision- Apply to multiple colleges and then select by May 1st.
  • Due dates for early action or early decision differ from regular admissions

Organization is Important

  • Establish a list of colleges you plan to apply to
    • The longer the list, the better your chances
    • I applied to eleven and was accepted to ten
  • Create a calendar or buy a planner just for college planning
    • Applications
      • Research target application due dates (preferred by colleges)
      • Absolute deadlines
    • Financial Aid
      • FAFSA/CSS
      • Scholarships

Where to Begin

  • The earlier you start, the easier the year.
  • Compile a list of the colleges/programs you are interested in
  • Make a list of achievements and accolades
  • Know testing deadlines and the latest you can take an exam for each school
  • Draft an academic resume)
    • Include sports, clubs, leadership positions, and volunteer hours

My Testing Deadlines

  • August-September: began apps
  • October - ACT
  • November - SAT
  • December - ACT
  • December- SAT II
  • December - submitted all apps?
  • January - SAT
    • I highly recommend you to take SAT II’s immediately after an AP exam corresponding to that subject


  • SAT - Coming in March 2016
  • Important:
  • Hey, Seniors
  • You’ll probably take the test before March 2016, which means you’ll take the current SAT.
  • Your first chance to take the new SAT is March 5.
  • You Changed What?
  • You might be surprised by everything that’s new about the new SAT:
  • All-new essay — and it’s optional
  • No penalty for guessing
  • No vocab that you’ll never use again
  • Know what to expect:
  • Quick Facts
  • 4 parts: Reading, Writing and Language, Math, and the optional SAT Essay
  • 400–1600 score scale
  • 3 hours and 50 minutes with the SAT Essay — or 3 hours without it
  • 4 answer choices
  • 4 college application fee waivers for every student who uses an SAT fee waiver

Student Resume

  • Definitely an integral part of the application
    • Makes the Common App easier (section on activities)
  • Make yourself stand out
    • Find internships
    • Special programs
    • Quality vs. Quantity
  • Name and contact information
  • Objective or summary statement
  • Work experience
  • Volunteer and extracurricular experience
  • Education
  • Skills

The College List-Who makes the Cut?

  • Applications are EXPENSIVE—choose wisely
  • Common App/Reach Schools
      • Brown- $75
      • Columbia- $80
      • Princeton- $65
      • NYU- $70
      • Yale- $75
  • Other Schools
      • Siena - $50
      • FSU- $30
      • Rutgers- $65
      • Tulane- FREE
      • LIU - $50

Other Fees

  • SAT Scores- 4 free per test, additional $10 per school
    • Score Choice- choose your best sitting
    • SAT= $47
    • Includes SAT IIs- ($21** may include an extra $10 charge)
  • Advanced Placement Scores- $15 per college
    • Sends all scores from school year
  • ACT Scores- $10 per test date per school
    • Always take ACT + Writing; many colleges only accept this score
    • Costs more ($48 instead of $33)

My Pre-College “Investment”

  • $975

The Common App

  • What it is- a streamlined website to make applying easier
  • Advantages-finish all work and save it to the same location
  • Expedites payment process
  • Only way to apply for some schools
  • Not every school uses the Common App

Know Your Chances

  • Out-of-state schools may be harder to get into
  • Be aware of admissions rates but don’t be deterred

Working on the Application

  • Longest part of the process
  • Take your time
  • Proofread—get third party opinions
  • Sell Yourself
  • Be Original
  • Consider the reader- young demographic

Components of the Common Application

  • Consists of general application
    • Future Plans
    • Applicant Data
    • Demographics
    • Family Education
    • Academics
    • Activities
    • Writing- 1 short answer, 150 words or fewer, about an extracurricular and THE PERSOANL ESSAY (250 minimum)
    • Specific Supplements for each college

Components of the Common App

  • Future Plans- admissions route (early or regular)
  • Applicant Info-name, address, telephone
  • *Demographics- You can opt out of this
  • Family Info-profession, sibling info
  • Education-input CEEB code (there is a search box)
  • Academics-rank, AP scores, SAT scores, current year courses
  • Activities-report extracurricular activities
  • Writing-essay
  • Supplement- varies

Personal Essay

  • Trip Gabriel’s article, “The Almighty Essay,” discusses the importance of this essay
    • “The personal essay, they (admissions counselors) all said, growing soft and fuzzy, is the one element where a student’s own voice can be heard through the fog of quantitative data.”
  • Essay can be like a tie-breaker

How To Write an Effective Personal Essay

  • Think positively—You can do this!
  • Discuss something you feel strongly about or an experience that changed you
  • Vary your writing style and make your topic sound interesting
  • Be yourself and use your voice
  • Don’t repeat something already stated in your application
  • Grab the reader’s attention right away
  • Sleep with a notebook next to your nightstand—sometimes creativity strikes at the strangest times

Personal Essay Topics

  • The Common App’s questions were the following:


  • There really are no wrong answers
  • But there are poorly written essays
  • The staff of Stevenson University in Maryland was moved by a student’s memories of being a Big Brother, even though he repeatedly spelled it “Big Bother.” Barnard College was puzzled by an applicant who kept referring to her enthusiasm for the “Peace Core.”
  • --The Choice


  • Each school will ask for different components
  • Some require extended essays (Brown and Princeton)
  • Some require short answers (NYU, Columbia, Yale)
  • Spend an equal amount of time on supplements as on the personal essay
  • Research the school thoroughly if the question calls for it

Additional Requirements

  • Send OFFICIAL (sealed) transcripts to each school
    • Provide Guidance with enough time – ask for a 2-week processing window
    • Naviance is your best friend!
    • Be aware of schools that do not accept electronic doc’s
    • Counselor must fill out Secondary, Midyear, and Final Report on class ranking, etc.
      • Forms available at
  • Two letters of Recommendation from teachers, 1 from Counselor
    • Choose teachers who know you and can write an excellent letter about your awesome traits

When the Application is Complete…

  • You are halfway there.
  • Submit apps before winter break
  • Create domains on school websites to track your application and documentation received
  • Call undergraduate offices if necessary; it’s their job to help you
  • Make copies of all receipts and of your Applications
  • Keep all correspondence with schools
  • Take a short break because…

Financial Aid is Intimidating but “do-able”

  • Two types: need-based and merit based
    • Need-based
      • under $60,000 household= lots of aid (hopefully!)
      • Everyone else usually has to contribute something
    • Merit based
      • Academic standing
      • National Merit Scholar-PSAT results
  • If you need to apply for financial aid, have your parents file their taxes AS SOON AS THEY CAN
    • FAFSA operates on first come, first serve as it is federal student aid
    • You may not qualify for anything but loans—this happened to me
    • Research qualifications for Pell grants
  • Out-of-State schools may still be in reach!
    • The Ivies, especially, have their own system of awarding financial aid

Be Proactive

  • Look for scholarships on your own
  • (need-based)
  • **Non-need based
  • **

Helpful Sites and Links

  • The Times education blog “The Choice” provides insight into the entire process and has interviews with students in the process of applying **
  • Common App’s FAQ section
  • NACAC Guide to the College Process
  • **
    • Helpful discussion boards on almost every college topic

Talking About College is the Easy Part

  • Senior year was my most stressful year
  • Choosing a college is one of the single most important decisions in your life
  • Easy to lose sight of goal
  • Incredible amounts of stress require allocated breaks
  • Remember that after Mid-March, everything else is cake

The Ideal Junior Timeline: College Applications

  • Sophomore Fall- PSAT
  • Summer-Visit Prospective Colleges
  • Junior Fall- PSAT (NMSQT)
    • August:
      • Begin Common App
      • Work on CV (academic résumé)
      • Find clubs and activities
    • September:
      • Practice for SAT
      • Refine College List
      • Research College Requirements/Deadlines
      • Consider Letters of Recommendation
      • Take ACT+Writing
    • October:
      • Take SAT or SAT II
      • PSAT
      • Continue Common App
    • November:
      • Refine Essays
      • Ask for Letters of Rec.
      • Research scholarships
    • December:
      • Request transcripts
      • Send app
      • Prep for interviews
      • Continue with scholarship search
      • Organize for FAFSA/CSS
      • Take ACT/SAT for the last time the college allows

The Ideal Timeline Cont.: Financial Aid

    • January:
      • Submit FAFSA
      • Submit CSS
      • Continue Scholarship search
    • February:
      • CSS due for some colleges
      • Scholarships
    • March:
      • Decisions
      • School Visits
    • May:
      • Choose a college by 05.01


  • Admissions officers are basing their selection on 9-11th grade progress.
  • Only the first semester of the senior year is sent before decisions.
  • Shine early on; don’t try to have a “miracle comeback”
  • If offered, do an interview!

In Case of Emergency or Just to Say, “Hello.”

  • 631-269-3394
  • To receive message updates and important reminders via text,
  • text @kpguidance to 81010.
  • You can opt-out of messages at anytime by replying,
  • 'unsubscribe @kpguidance'

Insiders Guide to Admission


How to Write a Letter of Recommendation


What is my Childs Digital Profile?


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