Post-Secondary Planning Guide School Counseling Department

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Post-Secondary Planning Guide

School Counseling Department

Betsy Jones, Director of Counseling
Dr. Jordan Alexander, A & T-Z

Dr. Douglas Stansberry, B-D

Mrs. Gretchen Cleppe, E-J

Mrs. Rachel Reed, K-O

Mrs. Leslie Kersha, P-S
Mrs. Lesley Thalhuber, Outreach Counselor

Phone: 573-214-3111 Fax: 573-214-3124


Vocabulary 3-4

Post-Secondary Options 5
Finding the Best Fit 6
Applying 101 7
Special Considerations 8
The Admissions Process 9
The Application Process 10
Standardized Testing 11
Financial Aid 12
Senior Timeline 13-14
Notes 15

A+ Scholarship Program – Provides scholarship funds to eligible graduates of an A+ designated high school who attend a participating public community college or career/technical school, or certain private two-year career/technical schools in the state of Missouri.
Associate Degree – A degree awarded by community colleges and career/technical colleges upon completion of a course of study typically lasting two years. (Associate of Arts; Associate of Science)
Bachelor’s Degree – After a student satisfactorily completes a full-time program of study or its part-time equivalent at a college or university, they will be awarded with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. There a few other types of bachelor's degrees, but these are the most common.
Coalition Application – A standard application form accepted by members of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. You can use this application to apply to any of the more than 90 colleges and universities that are members of the Coalition.
Common Application – College application service used by over 600 colleges and universities allowing applicants to submit one admission application to multiple schools. (
Deferred Admission – Permission from a college that has accepted a student to postpone enrolling in the college. The postponement is usually for up to one year. **Many students wanting to complete a Gap Year will apply to their college(s) of choice and then defer admission while completing their program.
Early Action (EA) – With Early Action, students can apply to a school early in their senior year (usually between October 30 and January 15), and request an early application review and notification of admission. It usually takes three to four weeks to get a response. If the student is accepted, they are not obligated to attend that school but can "bank" this admission while still applying to other colleges during the regular admission cycle.
Early Decision (ED) – Sometimes confused with Early Action, the Early Decision plan allows students to apply to an institution early in their senior year (usually between October 30 and January 15), and to request an early notification of admission. The students and school counselor will have to sign a contract with the school at the time the student applies to acknowledge that if they are accepted, they are obligated to attend that school. Some colleges and universities offer both ED and EA options, so students should read the college admission requirements carefully to make sure you know what they are applying for.
FAFSA – The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is used by aid providers to determine a student’s Excepted Family Contribution (EFC). EFC varies from student to student and is based on the specific financial situation of the family. (

Liberal Arts College – A four-year college that emphasizes education that provides an overview of the arts, humanities (the study of the human condition), social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences. Some of the more common majors include: anthropology, communication, English, history, language and linguistics, philosophy, political science, math, psychology and sociology.
Open admission – When a school does not review a student’s academic qualifications as part of its college admissions process, then it has an open admission policy. Many public junior or community colleges will admit students under this guideline as long as they have a high school diploma or its equivalent. **MACC has an Open Admission policy
Priority Deadline – The date by which a student’s application — whether it’s for college admission, student housing or financial aid/scholarships — must be received to be given the strongest consideration.
Private College/University – A school that is funded through non-public funds.
Regular Admission – The application policy that requires submission of application materials no later than a specified deadline. Admission decisions are typically received in March.
Rolling Admission - An admission policy of considering each application as soon as all required information (such as high school records and test scores) has been received, rather than setting an application deadline and reviewing applications in a batch. Colleges that use a rolling admission policy usually notify applicants of admission decisions quickly. **MU has a Rolling Admission policy.
Secondary School Reports – Also called Counselor Recommendation Forms, these are the reports submitted from your counselor to schools requiring information beyond your transcript and admission application. Not all schools require this report, but it is your responsibility to contact your counselor if it is a part of your application. ** The Common Application requires a Counselor Recommendation Form.
Transcript – The official record of your high school course work, credits earned, GPA, and admissions test scores. Your high school transcript is usually required for college admission and for some financial aid packages. Rock Bridge students must request their transcript from Mrs. Davis, our Registrar, whose office is located in the School Counseling Office. Transcripts cost $2 each. Students should request their transcript at least 2 weeks prior to the application deadline.
Transcript Release Form – A form giving the school permission to release your transcript to outside agencies such as colleges, scholarship programs, and the NCAA Clearinghouse. Transcript Release Form must be completed before a student’s transcript can be sent. If a student is under the age of 18, the transcript release form must be signed by a parent/guardian. Transcript Release Forms are available in the School Counseling Office or on the Guidance website (

Graduating seniors have a variety of options for their next step after leaving Rock Bridge. These opportunities include:

Four-Year College/University – Options in four-year colleges and universities are great. They offer bachelor’s degrees which are typically completed after four-years of full-time attendance. Colleges and universities can be public or private; in-state or out-of-state.

Two-Year College – The most common type of two-year colleges are community colleges. These programs often result in Associate Degrees. Typically less expensive than four-year colleges, many students decide to attend a two-year school and then transfer to a four-year college.

Career/Technical College – These colleges offer certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. Length of study is determined by program choice, but most are two-years in length. The course of study in the programs are highly specific and may be a good choice for students wanting to enter the workforce quickly.

Military – In addition to service to the country, the military provides many educational and training opportunities. If this is an option that a student would like to pursue, they should speak to a recruiter. Recruiters frequently visit Rock Bridge.

Apprenticeship – This job training option involves following a master of the trade rather than a more formalized school. Many professions, like carpenters, mason, and plumbers utilize apprenticeships.

Employment – Students may choose to enter the workforce directly after high school graduation. Having an updated resume will help with the job hunt.

Gap Year – Choosing a gap year is making the decision to pause admission to college while working on personal and/or professional goals. Some students use this time to volunteer, learn a trade, or travel.

A list of some Gap Year Programs is available on the Guidance  Educational Travel & Study Abroad webpage (

The process of finding programs of study after high school can be overwhelming. There are a lot of choices for students graduating with a high school diploma and finding the option that’s best for you can seem daunting. Fortunately, the best place to start is the same for all students.
Plan with the End in Mind – Students need to start thinking about their career aspirations and then work backwards to determine the best path to achieve their ultimate goal. Many websites, including Missouri Connections, offer self-assessments that can help students find career areas of best fit for their interests, skills, and values.
Program Research – Once a student has an idea of what they want to do, they can research the right college or other postsecondary institution to fit their needs.
Characteristics to consider include:

  • Admission Criteria – Do you have the required GPA and standardized test scores required for admission? What is the percentage of students admitted? What courses are required or strongly recommended for admission?

  • Location – Do you want to be in a rural area, in the heart of a large city, or in a smaller, suburban area with access to a larger city? Do you want to live close to home or live far away? Being close to home can hinder your ability to experience independence, but being far away may make you lonely.

  • Majors and programs – The school you attend should offer a major or program of study related to your career goals.

  • Support Services – Consider the academic support services such as tutoring options, career services, transition programs, services for first-generation students, honors programs, and disability services.

  • Size – Do you learn better in a smaller learning community or would you like to be in a large lecture hall? Small schools will offer you more personal involvement, a community atmosphere, and smaller class sizes, whereas larger schools tend to make it easier to be anonymous and have larger class sizes, but may offer more opportunities for involvement such as a Greek system, intramural sports, study abroad options, etc.

  • Campus Life – Consider the diversity of the campus, residence halls, campus clubs and organizations, fraternities and sororities, athletics, and religious programs and opportunities.

  • Total cost and net price – Do you have the flexibility to consider a more expensive institution or are you limited to a more affordable option? Remember that often times a school’s “sticker price” is not the amount that you will actually have to pay after financial aid and scholarships have been awarded. Often times schools with a higher sticker price offer better financial aid packages making them much more affordable.

There are a variety of web sites that can help find and evaluate colleges based on your criteria. College Board’s Big Future College Search, Missouri Connections School Sort, and are great places to start.

How many colleges should I apply to?There is no universal answer to this question since each student is different. Some students only apply to one or two schools while others apply to several schools. Neither approach is best; however, most counselors recommend students apply to apply to five to eight colleges — more than that usually doesn’t make sense. Here’s how to make your college list manageable.
Narrow Down Your List – If you’re at this point in the process, you’ve probably already looked into things such as location, size and majors offered.

A great way to narrow your list is to start making college visits, if possible. A visit is the single best way to determine if a school is a good fit for you. Through a tour, you can experience the atmosphere of the campus, visit a class, and speak with students about what they like (and dislike) about the school. You can also make virtual campus visits through websites such as: College Week Live ( or You Visit ( or visit with college reps who visit Rock Bridge. See the “College Visit Calendar” on the Guidance website ( to see which schools will have reps at RB this semester.
Use a Comparison Chart – College Comparison Charts are an easy way to organize your college research and help you in narrowing down your list of schools. Comparison Charts are helpful not only through the admission process, but also for scholarship searching, and enrolling in the school of your choice. The Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) College Fit Worksheet and College Cost Worksheet are two great comparison charts that you can use to record information about the schools of interest and record cost and financial aid comparisons. Those comparison charts can be found at the end of this packet.
Sort Your List – Once you have a list of colleges you think you will be satisfied attending, sort it into three categories:

  • Safety Schools: These are colleges that you feel you have a very good chance of getting into and that you think you can afford to attend. They should also be colleges you would be happy to attend.

  • Good match/Target Schools: These are colleges that you feel you have a good chance of getting into and that are good matches for you overall.

  • Reach Schools: These are colleges that you think may be more of a challenge to get into. Getting in is not a sure thing, but it’s realistic enough to be worth the effort of applying.

Balance Your List

From your sorted list, you should choose:

  • One to two safeties - If you have successfully identified one good safety school on your list, you should feel confident that you will receive at least one acceptance letter.

  • Two to four good matches

  • One to two reaches

Think before you apply to more than eight colleges. It’s probably not necessary and could be a waste of effort. With college applications, quality is better than quantity. You must complete each section of an application carefully, and admission officers can tell if you’re not serious about their school. In fact, they look for students who seem to really want to go to their school.

Some students are looking for a specialized educational experience or need to find support for learning differences. Some of these special considerations have specific rules that govern access and application. Below are some special circumstances students may have.
A+ Scholarship – In the State of Missouri, students attending an A+ approved high school have an opportunity to work for the A+ Scholarship funds. The A+ Program pays for tuition at qualifying two-year community colleges and career/technical schools in the state of Missouri. Some four-year colleges/universities in Missouri also award A+ incentive scholarships. See the A+ Coordinator, Dr. Alexander, with any questions about the A+ Program.
Athletics – Students wanting to pursue competitive athletics in post-secondary education must connect with the governing bodies for these activities. These are the: National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). They determine how a student can be recruited and what levels of academic success must be achieved. Your high school coach may also be a good resource.
Fine and Performing Arts – If you plan on studying a fine or performing art or would like to be considered for a scholarship in this area, you will need to be prepared to present an audition and/or portfolio of your work. School counselors as well as instructors in the fine arts department can offer support and guidance in this work.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities – These are colleges with the primary mission of education black Americans. There are over 100 HBCU schools today. For more information and a listing of HBCUs, visit
Military Academies and ROTC – Admission into any of the military service academies is a rigorous and highly competitive process. There are five military academies: United States Military Academy — Army, United States Naval Academy — Navy and Marine Corps, United States Coast Guard Academy, United States Merchant Marine Academy, and the United States Air Force Academy. To be accepted into any service academy except for the Coast Guard Academy (for the Coast Guard Academy, you can submit an application directly), you must first be nominated to the school by either: A U.S. Senator, A U.S. Representative, or The Vice President of the U.S., who can nominate applicants to any academy except the Merchant Marine Academy. Students must begin this early and be in regular communication with the admissions office at the academy as well as their school counselor.

Programs for ROTC are also an option for students interested in pursuing military service and college. ROTC programs are available at over 1,100 colleges and universities nationwide, and offers merit-based scholarships that can pay up to the full cost of tuition and open educational opportunities. 

Special Needs – Student receiving services through Section 504 and IEPs should work with their college/university admissions office to connect with the student services personnel at the school of your choice.

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