Timeline and Process
Registering for Classes
- Pursue academic challenge (honor classes) as much as possible.
- Explore each of the disciplines fully. (For example, stay in foreign language!)
- Take the electives (especially in the arts) that interest you.
- Self-assessment: What sort of student are you, and what are your academic interests?
Explore your Extracurricular Interests:
- READ: Establish a habit of reading for pleasure. It will help you develop your vocabulary, writing, critical thinking, reasoning, and intellectual curiosity, all of which help you do well in school, and all of which help you get into college.
- Join clubs.
- Play team sports where appropriate.
- Contribute to the school community.
- Start a resume of extracurricular interests/involvement, including athletics, clubs, leadership positions, and honors or awards you have won. You will need this information later on.
- Self-assessment: What are your extracurricular interests? Have you made a lasting commitment to any of them? What sort of citizen are you?
Attend ALL Class Meetings
- Be sure you are taking appropriate courses. Discuss with your College Counselor if you are uncertain.
- Join a club or organization if you are not already involved.
- Monitor grades carefully beginning with 1st marking period.
- Self-assessment: How are you doing?
- Take PSAT/NMSQT.
- If possible, have family members participate in Parents’ Weekend College Counseling programs.
- Self-assessment: What kind of academic program are you looking for?
- Self-assessment: What sort of campus community (including size) are you looking for?
- Self-assessment: What kind of location and setting do you want?
- Take SAT Reasoning Test.
- Register for NCAA Clearinghouse if appropriate (eligibility center).
- Self-assessment: What role will extracurricular involvement play in your college selection?
- Meet with Counselor for initial interview.
- Establish an account on Naviance.
- Visit colleges (set objectives of visit – size, location offerings) over the break.
- Meet with Counselor for review of initial list and sharing of spring visits.
- Self-assessment: What kind of student are you?
- Attend Hartford Area Consortium College Fair.
- With family, attend College Planning Seminar.
- Consider taking ACT standardize test (offered at Avon Old Farms School).
- Take SAT Reasoning Test.
- Consider asking a junior year classroom teacher to write a college recommendation for you.
- Ace exams; year-end grades are critical.
- Take SAT Subject Tests if appropriate.
- Review suggested college list with family.
- Visit as many colleges/universities as possible. If appropriate, schedule interview, visit with financial aid offices, and meet with special interest persons/coaches.
- Complete college essay; review with English teacher in the fall.
- Register and complete Common Application (found online August 1st).
- Best time for SAT/ACT Prep Classes.
Attend ALL Class Meetings
- Meet with Counselor to discuss summer visits, list, etc.
- Update college list in Scoir.
- Ask a classroom teacher (two if necessary) for recommendations and submit the proper form.
- Review college essay with English instructor.
- If appropriate, research scholarship opportunities.
- If interested in specific schools, visit with college representatives who come to campus.
- Meet with Counselor to discuss list, applications, essay, etc.
- Make chart indicating each school, its deadlines, its testing requirements, and other attributes.
- Make final revisions to Common Application.
- Complete Early Decision/Early Action applications.
- Make edits/corrections to college essay.
- Take SAT Reasoning Test/Subject Tests/ACT.
- Review your transcript with Mrs. Delnicki.
- Continue meeting with college representatives from your interest schools.
- If appropriate, have parents begin the CSS Profile (available online October 15)
- Meet with Counselor to finalize college list and discuss remaining applications.
- Take SAT Reasoning Test or Subject Tests if needed. Send scores to college/universities to which you know you will be applying.
- Submit Early Decision/Early Action application(s).
- Complete Regular Decision applications.
- Submit all State university applications by December 1.
- If appropriate/needed, take the December SAT Reasoning Test/SAT Subject Tests/ACT.
- Submit all applications prior to January 1.
- If appropriate, have parents submit FAFSA after January 2.
- Notify Counselor of all ED/EA/Rolling results.
- Between January 10 and January 20, submit first choice letter/”one of my top choice letters” to your colleges (if needed).
- Ace first semester exams.
- Send update email to the colleges to which you have applied showing continued interest.
- Lurk near mailbox.
- Check email daily.
- Attend College Transition Workshop.
- Make Choice by May 1.
- SEND ONLY ONE DEPOSIT.
- Send notes declining offers or decisions to stay on wait list to the others.
- Finish up strong!
- Enjoy the summer!
- Remember lessons of Transition Workshop.
- The Process of Applying: Who does what?
- Student's Profile
- The College Search: Making the List
- Financial Aid
- Early Decision and Early Action Programs
- Learning Differences
- Athletic Recruiting
- International Students
- Additional Information
AVON OLD FARMS’ APPROACH TO COLLEGE COUNSELING STEMS FROM THREE FUNDAMENTAL BELIEFS:
- Our role is to find and facilitate good matches between our students and institutions of higher learning. We want graduates of our boys college prep high school in Connecticut to matriculate to colleges and universities where they will be challenged and successful academically, and where they will find the setting, the extracurricular offerings, and the campus culture both welcoming and broadening.
- The college admission process itself offers students a very positive growth experience. To be successful, a student must engage in serious self-assessment; he must come to understand his own strengths and weaknesses, his own values, and his own likes and dislikes.
- It is essential that the student himself play the principal role in the college selection and admission process. Parents provide guidance, emotional support, and the physical and financial means to visit and apply to colleges. Counselors provide guidance, information, and support in the actual process of applying (counselors also act as advocates for our students, making sure college admission officers understand our school and read our students accurately). It is the student, however, who must take the lead in most aspects of the process: researching and visiting colleges, deciding where to apply, completing applications, requesting teacher recommendations, establishing and maintaining contact with athletic coaches or other inside advocates, and, finally, deciding where to enroll.
For the reasons outlined above, this information is addressed primarily to the student. Our hope is that this information will also prove useful to families during this anxiety-ridden process.
The information is not intended to replace the essential contact between a student, his counselor, and his family; we still insist on frequent meetings with the student, and encourage his family to contact us with any questions or concerns they may have.
We believe it is essential that the student himself be the principal actor in the selection/admission process.
WHAT THE STUDENT DOES
- Works hard to present the best possible profile.
- Contacts and/or visits colleges in which he has interest; attends these colleges’ formal visits to our campus.
- Writes Essay(s) and reviews them with his English teacher and his counselor.
- Formally requests two teacher recommendations.
- Completes actual applications which includes knowing deadlines and application requirements, i.e. SATs, Subject Tests, ACTs, graded papers, and supplements etc.
- Establishes contact with the appropriate coaches, professors, faculty and advisors.
- Sends official scores to colleges/universities that require testing by contacting the College Board/ACT.
WHAT THE SCHOOL DOES
- Provides assistance and guidance with all of the above.
- Coordinates and submits completed “Secondary School Report” packet to each college or university to which a student applies.
This packet will include:
- Student’s transcript(s)
- Counselor recommendation
- First quarter/first semester grades of senior year
- Teacher recommendations (2)
- School Profile
- Phones/emails/faxes new information to colleges and universities as it becomes available late in the process.
WHAT THE FAMILY DOES
- Provides encouragement and emotional support to the student.
- Completes and files any necessary financial aid applications including the CSS Profile, FAFSA, and any institutional forms required.
- Consults with the counselor and student about disclosure of any learning differences, and if necessary provides documentation directly to colleges/universities.
Regardless of other factors, the single most important element in college admissions decisions is the student’s transcript. Admission officers look for students who have embraced academic challenge and have succeeded in a diverse and demanding curriculum.
In reviewing a transcript, they are likely to ask:
- How many Honors and Advanced Placement course has he taken?
- What is the breadth of his curriculum?
- How many lab sciences?
- How many years of (the same) foreign language?
- What level of math has he reached?
- What other areas has he explored, such as art, music, computer programming?
- What grades did he earn?
One of the most Frequently Asked Questions is whether it is better for a student to take honors and A.P. courses and earn lower grades or to take regular level courses and earn higher grades. Quite frankly, to compete for the most selective colleges and universities, a student really must take honors and A.P. courses and earn higher grades! Beyond that, students should keep in mind that colleges are looking for students who push themselves, within reason. If you have questions about whether an honors or A.P. course is appropriate for you, speak to the teachers in that discipline, to the Academic Dean, or to one of the college counselors about it.
At most colleges and universities, another aspect of your academic profile is standardized test scores. See “Testing” for more information on tests, test preparation, and the impact of test scores on the college admission process.
Citizenship and Extracurricular
Another important aspect of your profile is your record in citizenship and extracurricular commitments. Admission officers will ask themselves, “What will this candidate bring to our campus community?” They are looking for students who will get involved, who will take advantage of the many extracurricular opportunities offered on college and university campuses, and who will contribute as citizens, leaders, athletes, musicians, actors, writers, etc. Remember that colleges and universities are trying to put together a well-rounded class, and students with a particular talent – or who have made a long-standing commitment to a particular activity – can help them do it.
Therefore, it is very important that you list all significant extracurricular activities on college applications and that you make certain your counselor is aware of your involvement. This is especially true of activities which take place at home. Scouting, church youth group activities, volunteer work, and serious hobbies all can be important elements in your profile, and all may escape the attention of your counselor if you do not make sure he or she knows about them.
In some cases, it is appropriate to contact the people associated with your activity at the college (this is certainly true for student-athletes; see “Athletic Recruiting”), to submit an example of your work (a poem, an audition tape, the student newspaper, etc.), or to ask for a personal recommendation from someone associated with the activity.
In every case, admission officers will want to know what sort of contribution a student has made here at school. Inasmuch as our campus community is similar to theirs in many ways (though obviously much smaller and more structured), they see citizenship and contribution here as a valid predictor of what a student will do in college, and they know that we know our students well. It is greatly beneficial, therefore, for students to pursue the extracurricular activities that genuinely interest them, and to make an active effort to be good citizens at school.
The ultimate goal of the college selection and admission process is to enroll in a college or university that is a good match. Before one can begin to identify good matches, he must do two things: learn about himself and learn about colleges.
The process begins with self-assessment. What kind of student are you? What are your academic interests and preliminary career goals? What sort of environment are you looking for? Would you be more comfortable studying engineering at a large urban research university, or would you rather study philosophy in a quiet rural setting? Is it important to you that you play a particular sport in college, or that you have opportunities to pursue special interests? What kind of campus community are you looking for? Students should attempt to begin the process with at least preliminary answers to these questions (and others like them), and should discuss them in the initial interview with a college counselor. However, many of a student’s answers to these questions will become clear only after he has visited a few campuses and discovered some of the possibilities colleges and universities offer.
The College Search
With close to 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States, narrowing the field can be a daunting task.
In the spring of your junior year, your counselor will help you develop a list of a dozen or more colleges and universities he or she feels might make good matches for you. The list is based on your academic profile, on your initial standardized testing results, and on the answers to questions such as those listed above. While there are a number of avenues for learning more about these colleges (and others in which you may develop an interest), visiting campuses is the best way to develop a better sense of the options available. Ideally, you will visit many campuses during the summer preceding your senior year. We cannot overstate the importance of visiting campuses. Seniors who have visited extensively tend to be more focused and able to work more effectively through the application process.
Some things to keep in mind about campus visits:
Make it formal
Colleges will gauge your interest in part by whether or not you have visited, so do not just walk around and leave; make sure the admission office knows you were there. Take the formal tour, schedule an interview if they are available (more about interviews below), and do not be bashful about asking questions.
Things to see. Most should be on the standard tour.
- The Student Center, including dining facilities, mail room, etc.; this is often the campus hub. If school is in session, watch how students interact with each other. If possible, return later for a meal. Read the bulletin boards to find out what is going on on-campus. See “What goes on?” below.
- The Library offers insight into academic life on campus. Is it centrally located? What are the hours? Lots of resources? A helpful staff?
- The dormitories. Doubles? Triples? Theme dorms? Housing policy – does the College guarantee housing for all four years?
- Athletic facilities. If you plan to play an intercollegiate sport, see the facilities the teams use. If you do not plan to participate in intercollegiate sports, see the facilities for general use. Often they are very different.
- Facilities of special interest to you. Music, art, theater facilities, language, or science labs.
Things to Learn. Make sure the tour guide covers these topics.
- Is there an Honor Code? How does it work?
- Where do students go when they graduate? Career placement services. What is the average number of years it takes to earn a degree?
- What goes on? What are the social options on campus? Are there fraternities? What if you are not in one? Do they sponsor concerts, dances, etc? How often? Do people go? Do people stay on campus on weekends?
- College policies. What is the College policy regarding drinking and drug use among students (you may be surprised – many colleges are far more stringent than most students believe). Do not necessarily pay much attention to party school designations; there are partiers and serious scholars at every school, but try to discern the campus culture. Do weekends last four or five days, or are most students there for the education?
There are two types of personal interviews: informational interviews and evaluative interviews. An informational interview is almost entirely an exchange of information and generally lasts only as long as the student has questions. The admission officer may record some notes, but the interview is not formally a part of the evaluation of the candidate. An evaluative interview, by contrast, does become a part of the candidate’s record, and you should be ready to answer, as well as ask, questions. Scheduling interviews is virtually always a good idea (though not all colleges and universities offer interviews), but you must be conscious of which type of interview is involved, and must – regardless of the type of interview – do your homework beforehand.
Tips for Interviews
- Know the School. Do not ask questions whose answers you should already know (How large is the student body? Do you have an engineering department or a hockey team?)
- Be Yourself. Never try to figure out what the interviewer is looking for; just be honest, sincere, and open with the interviewer. While you do not need to highlight your weaknesses as a candidate, do not go out of your way to hide them, either. Remember, the admission officer is as interested in finding good matches as you are.
- Remember that clothes and body language can speak volumes! We recommend smart casual dress. Leave insignia wear at home. Wearing your Trinity hat to the Wesleyan interview will not impress the interviewer. If you cross your arms, slouch in your chair, or otherwise appear bored, the interviewer will draw the obvious conclusion. Sit up straight, look him/her in the eye, and do all that you can to express enthusiasm and genuine interest in the college. (Even if you are fast losing interest, be polite!)
- Do not fake it. Remember it is fine to say “I don’t know” or “I’ve never thought of it that way before.”
- Remember who interviewed you (get his/her card), and follow up with an email thanking him or her.
Other Ways to Learn About Colleges
- Call, write or e-mail a college, and they will flood your mailbox with messages, viewbooks, pamphlets, and catalogues.
- All colleges have a web site. Investigate.
- In the fall, roughly 150 college and universities will send representatives to our campus to meet with interested seniors. Often, these people are the admission officers who will be the first to read applications from Avon students. Be sure to know who is coming and when they are coming, and to sign up to visit with representatives of colleges in which you have a genuine interest. There is an updated calendar of this visitation schedule on our web site. Note: Seniors may miss class to attend these sessions. However, they may not miss a test or a lab.
The most important aspect of the list is that each college or university should be one you would like to attend. If you do not feel enthusiastic about attending a particular college or university, you should not apply.
The list should have appropriate balance among “reaches,” “possibles,” and “likelies.”
- “Reaches” are colleges and universities at which you fall just below the general admission requirements; you are not expected to be admitted, but you might be. (Less than 40% chance of being admitted.)
- “Possibles” are colleges and universities at which the student’s profile appears to meet at least the minimum admissions standards; he has reason to be optimistic. (Approximately 50% chance of being admitted.)
- “Likelies” are the colleges students often call their safe schools or back-ups; these are pejorative terms, however, and mask the reality that “likelies,” too, must be matches. (Greater than 60% chance of being admitted.) A likely school is a college or university where you are likely to be admitted, but it must also be an institution you would like to attend. If you say, “I am just applying there because I’ll get in; I would never go there,” you have failed in your mission to create a balanced list. Choosing a “likely” is one of the most important, and often most difficult element of making the list.
Generally, we recommend that you apply to one or two “reaches,” four or five “possibles,” and one or two “likelies.” The precise number is not important; it is important that you, your counselor, and your family all agree that the list has balance, and that each college or university on it constitutes a good match.
Once you have made the decision to apply to a particular college or university, you have several options as to how to fill out and submit the application.
- The Common Application is an application accepted by a growing array of colleges and universities. These institutions pledge to give candidates who use the Common Application the same consideration they give those who submit their institutional application. We recommend completing the Common Application if you have two or more colleges and universities that accept it. If you are using the Common Application, complete it online. If you use the CommonApp, you should be conscious of any supplement the college may require. www.commonapp.org
- The Colleges’ Web Sites – Colleges and universities often have institutional applications on their web sites. In some cases – although it is becoming rarer and rarer – you may be asked to complete the application, print it out, and mail it; in most cases, you will complete the application online and submit it online.
- Institutional (Paper) Applications – these still exist, though their days are numbered. Colleges and universities will often send you an application upon request.
The essay is at once the most feared and the most important element of the application. It constitutes your best opportunity to tell the admission committee who you are and what you believe in. A good essay begins with self-assessment and a commitment to writing multiple drafts. We often suggest that students begin by telling a story about their lives.
Ideally, you will complete the essay during the summer preceding your senior year. Outline an answer, do a freewrite, or write a first draft. Your fall will be much more enjoyable if you return from summer vacation with a draft of your essay.
Some other things to consider are:
- It is almost never appropriate to write about “the big game,” whether you won or lost; in fact, sports in general can be a very dangerous area for essay-writing.
- Seek several outside opinions about an early draft; often an essay does not read exactly as you intended.
- Review your essay with your English teacher and one other meticulous proofreader. There is no place for spelling or grammatical errors in a college admission essay.
- We STRONGLY recommend that you review your essay with your counselor (and not the day prior to the deadline)!
A Graded Paper
A number of colleges and universities now ask candidates to submit a graded writing sample – generally a paper you have written for English or history. Keep a supply – at least three – of these available; do not discard any paper on which you earn a grade of which you are proud. Check with your counselor before submitting a paper, as he or she will have insights about its potential impact on your profile.
You should ask teachers who have worked with you in either your junior or senior year, and who can – given your performance in their classes – recommend you with enthusiasm. You should be sure to procure an English or History recommendation. The other recommendation may be in a discipline of your choice, but we suggest that it be from a teacher who has taught you in a quantitative field (mathematics or science). The teachers will submit their recommendations directly to our office, and we will include them in the supportive packets that are sent to your colleges.
You may be wondering about submitting recommendations other than those the college or university has specifically requested. Approach this idea with caution. Remember the college admission adage: “The thicker the folder, the thicker the applicant!” At times, though, it is appropriate to submit an additional recommendation, especially when the recommender can address an aspect of your performance, character, or talent that is not explored elsewhere in the application. Please see us about any additional material you might plan to include with the application.
Incomplete/Missing Materials Notices
Every year, colleges and universities send reminder notices to students whose files are incomplete. Typically, these notices come in the form of an e-mail or card. They list the item(s) missing from the file, and include some ominous language to the effect that the college or university will not be able to render a decision until the file is complete. DO NOT PANIC. The file is probably not incomplete. Computers generate many of these notices automatically, and some are sent even as the missing information is being downloaded or sits in the mail room awaiting processing. If you receive such a notice, do not worry. Check your Naviance account which will record when the supportive materials have been sent and when the college downloaded them. Give the admission office time to process the information, then call. If you cannot resolve the problem, please contact us.
First Quarter Grades
Our first quarter ends just as most college and university admission committees get down to the serious business of making decisions in the early rounds (ED1 and EA). Your grades can take on a special significance in your profile. If you improve your standing markedly, or maintain a strong performance, you can help yourself substantially, especially if you are on the bubble at a particular college or university. Conversely, if you let your grades slide, or suffer a disaster in one or more courses, you can inadvertently damage your chance of admission beyond repair. The school automatically sends first quarter grades to every college or university to which you have applied.
First Semester Grades
Our first semester ends in January, in time for January and later deadlines. We will automatically send your semester grades to every school to which you have applied and which has not yet accepted you. Please note that many colleges and universities are requesting semester grades for students who have already been accepted in one of the early rounds. If they ask, we will send.
Paying for a college education is often among the most overwhelming aspects of the admission and selection process. If cost will be a major factor in choosing a college, please speak to your son. Then speak to his counselor. For students and families looking for assistance in meeting college costs, there are four different avenues worth exploring:
- Financial Aid generally refers to need-based grants, loans, and work-study opportunities made available through the college or university financial aid office. Often these are federally based funds. The FAFSA is required.
- Merit Money refers to grants (“scholarships”), which are offered by the college or university but are not based on need. Frequently, “merit money” is also made available through the financial aid office. Coaches award athletic scholarships and usually the athletic department administers them.
- Scholarships offered by sources outside of the college/university community: foundations, civic organizations, large companies, local school districts, etc.
- Loans offered by sources both inside and outside of the college/university community.
Need-Based Financial Aid
Most of the financial assistance colleges and universities award is based on the student’s (and his family’s) ability to pay. The family submits the necessary financial data, and the college or university determines what it expects the family to pay and tries to make up the difference in grants, loans, and work-study. To apply for need-based financial aid, families will be required to fill out one or more of the following:
- FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid www.fafsa.gov
When to file: January of the year the student plans to enter college.
Any college or university that administers any federal money within its financial aid department (which is virtually all of them) will require families to submit the FAFSA. You will have to know the list of colleges to which you are applying, and the federal code number for each school (listed on the college/university’s websites). Families should complete and submit the FAFSA no earlier than January 2 but ideally by January 31. Please resist the temptation to wait for tax information, because filing financial aid applications late can be devastating. Online help is available at www.fafsa.gov. Please note that in order to receive federal aid, you must register for the selective service: www.sss.gov.
- CSS Profile - College Scholarship Service www.collegeboard.org
When to file: As early as possible after October 15th of the student’s senior year.
Because there is a distinction between the method by which the federal government calculates a family’s need (federal methodology) and the method individual institutions use (institutional methodology), many colleges and universities ALSO require the PROFILE, which is produced by the College Scholarship Service, a branch of the College Board. The PROFILE contains a number of questions not asked on the FAFSA, and may contain questions specific to some of the schools to which you are applying. Because there is a cost per college selected, and that cost increases with “late” changes to the list, it is essential that you know which of your colleges requires this form.
- Institutional Forms – Some colleges and universities elect to use their own forms for financial aid applications. You can obtain these forms directly from – and submit them directly to – the college or university financial aid office.
An increasing number of colleges and universities offer a number of scholarships that are not based on financial need. Most are based on outstanding performance using the same academic criteria as admission (courses, grades, scores, etc.), but some are for students with specific attributes or a specific purpose in mind (leadership, engineering, etc.). Often, there is no separate application for institutional “merit money” scholarships, but in some cases you will be asked to write an additional essay or fill out an additional form. In doing college research, you/families should ascertain whether or not “merit money” is available (ask if it is not clear in admission material), what the standards/criteria are for “merit money” awards, and what the process is for applying.
This is the money that you often hear “goes begging” every year: scholarships (merit-based) from corporations, foundations, civic organizations, and so on. Because there are so many of them and their attributes and application deadlines vary so widely, you should begin your research as early as possible. The source www.fastweb.org is an excellent place to start your search. The public school systems, local and state education departments have numerous scholarships for which you – if your family’s permanent residence is in the town or state – may qualify. Please contact these agencies and your local high school guidance office for further information.
Please remember that colleges may reduce a student’s need-based award by the amount of “outside” scholarships received. Often the college will allow a student to reduce or eliminate loans first, but it is wise to check on the policies as they differ.
Both you and your parents often qualify for loans (often at compelling interest rates) beyond those that are part of a college or university financial aid “package.” These loans are available through banks, and federal educational agencies. The website, www.finaid.org , offers a great deal of information on “outside” loans.
Questions Worth Asking
As you (and your family) visit campuses, you should consider contacting a financial aid officer. Ask him or her:
- Does the college or university meet the full need of all students? (Rare)
- What is the college’s policy on loans.
- Does the college or university meet the full need of all returning students? (More likely)
- What is the college or university’s policy toward outside grants? Does the college or university reduce the student’s grant if he wins an outside scholarship, or can he use that money to reduce the self-help (loan and work-study) part of his package?
- Does financial need ever play a role in the admission process? If so, when and what role?
Note: Financial aid officers can be important and helpful contacts throughout this process. Some outside organizations will present them to you as adversaries whose joy in life comes from denying families access to funds for which they are clearly qualified. This is NOT the case; though often frustrated by the gap between the need they can identify and the funds available to meet that need, financial aid officers as a group are honest and caring individuals who want very much to make it possible for you to attend their institutions.
Often the amount of financial aid awarded is decisive in a student’s choice of colleges, but financial aid packages can differ in many ways and be difficult to compare. Going directly to the bottom line can be deceptive. In reviewing financial aid offers, you will need to keep the following in mind:
- Although they use similar need-analysis methods with the same financial data, colleges and universities will reach very different conclusions about a family’s ability to pay.
- Make sure the college or university starts with the total cost of attendance (COA): tuition, room-and-board, comprehensive fees, books, travel?
- What is the percentage of each component of the package – how much in grant money, how much in loans, how much in work-study?
- What does the college or university present as financial aid? Some institutions list outside sources – such as parent PLUS loans – in a financial aid award letter; others list only the assistance coming from (or through) the financial aid office.
- What if the offer is low because the process seems to have ignored an important part of your family’s situation? This is the time to contact the financial aid office and speak to an officer who can discuss your file.
WARNING – IMPORTANT CAVEAT: a number of private organizations and services offer to assist families in obtaining financial aid and/or scholarship money. While some are on the level and quite helpful, many are scams designed to take advantage of the anxiety this process creates. Proceed with caution; an organization that guarantees a certain level of funding, or that asks the family to pay a fee for services, probably does not have your best interests at heart. If you have any questions or doubts about an organization, call the college office.
Early Decision vs. Early Action
Early Decision and Early Action both refer to admission programs under which you will apply early (generally during the late fall) to a particular college or university and you will receive an early (December 15- January 1) answer.
Generally speaking, the difference between Early Decision and Early Action is as follows:
Early Decision is binding. In applying ED, you are making a commitment to attend that institution if accepted. If you are accepted ED, you must withdraw any other applications you may have filed. Early Action is not binding; if you are accepted EA, you are not required to attend that institution, and you have until May 1 to make up your mind.
A number of colleges have added a second round to their Early Decision program. The later rounds have later deadline and decision dates, but resemble the first round in that you are making a commitment to attend the college if you apply ED, and again, you are expected to withdraw your other applications if you are accepted.
Reasons for Early Decision (students)
The primary reason for you to apply Early Decision has always been and must remain that you have discovered an excellent match and you very much want to attend that particular college or university. Secondary reasons to apply Early Decision are: first, colleges and universities are increasingly considering your perceived interest in the institution as part of the admission equation. Certainly, your enthusiasm for attending a particular college or university – as expressed with an ED application – could be helpful.
Frankly, secondary reasons for applying ED can also lead to misuses of the program. As counselors, we have actually had students say to us, “I have decided to apply Early Decision; I just don’t know where yet.” This is clearly putting the cart before the horse. We feel that no student should apply ED unless he feels strongly that the college or university involved is an excellent match. In reality, if you are not in the middle 50% of the accepted student profile or above it, ED is unlikely to help you. Colleges will wait to know where the lowest part of the accepted pool will be.
Reasons For Early Decision (College)
Early Decision programs have benefits for the college or university as well as you. Because Early Decision applicants commit themselves to attend, the practical yield from the pool (number of admits who choose to enroll) is 100 percent. Since guidebooks and magazine rankings consider both the selectivity of a college or university and its yield, a sizeable E.D. class can make a college look better in two ways: by making the regular decision pool more competitive (by reducing the number of places available), and by increasing the overall yield (with a large group at 100 percent).
Frequently, coaches (and other inside advocates) use Early Decision programs for recruits. It is easier to convince the admissions staff to take a chance on a candidate if that candidate has made a commitment to attend. If a coach tells you it will be easier to get you in if you apply E.D., he is probably being sincere, but this alone is NOT a reason to apply E.D. The only litmus test for an E.D. application should be: Is this college or university a great match; would I be thrilled to attend?
Financial Aid and Early Decision
While some counselors and college admission officers will tell you that Early Decision applicants are at a disadvantage when it comes to financial aid (because they have made a commitment to attend), others will tell you they have an advantage (because they are first in line and they have made a commitment to attend.) If you are concerned about the relationship between Early Decision and financial aid, contact the financial aid office at the college or university and ask them directly. You will probably receive a straightforward and helpful answer.
Standardized test scores continue to play a role in the admission process at most American colleges and universities. While there is a growing list of colleges that do not require standardized test scores, and the role the scores play at colleges that do require them is often exaggerated by test preparation companies, you should approach the college selection and admission process assuming you will need the best standardized test scores you are capable of achieving. Note: It is your responsibility to know the testing requirements (SAT Reasoning Test? SAT Subject Tests? Both? ACT in lieu of either? None required?) of the colleges and universities to which you are applying and you are responsible for submitting official scores to the colleges/universities that require testing by contacting the College Board or the ACT.
Among colleges and universities in the United States, virtually all accept either the SAT or the ACT from their applicants.
We recommend that you pursue a standardized testing program according to the following schedule:
PSAT/NMSQT in October of the sophomore and junior year
SAT Reasoning Test
- January and May of junior year
- October and November of senior year
SAT Subject Tests
- June of junior year (off campus)
- December of senior year
- April of junior year
- October and December (off campus) of senior year
We administer all of these test dates except as noted. The June SAT Subject Test occurs when we are finished with school; we will remind you to register for that test, but you will actually take the test at home.
We recommend that if you are interested in a “full” test-prep course that you pursue that course during the summer between your junior and senior years. The Summit Education Group has agreed to work within our academic schedule to offer test preparation for both SAT and ACT. Please contact them directly at www.mytutor.com for information about the cost of the courses and to register for the classes.
The ACTThe ACT is a curriculum-based test (in that regard it is closer to the SAT Subject Test than the Reasoning Test) with sections in English, mathematics, reading, science reasoning and writing. If you are frustrated that your SAT scores do not reflect the ability you consistently demonstrate in the classroom, you might want to consider taking the ACT. Many colleges and universities will permit you to substitute ACT scores for SAT (both Reasoning and Subject Test) scores.
The presence of a learning difference can have a significant (and not necessarily a negative) impact on your college admission process.
How can I arrange for extended time for standardized testing (SAT, Subject and Advanced Placement Tests and the ACT)?
Students with a diagnosed learning disability may qualify for the non-standard administration of each of these tests. A number of students take advantage of these accommodations on a regular basis. The College Board (SAT, Subject Tests and Advanced Placement Tests) and the American College Testing are two organizations with different procedures for requesting services. It is essential that you apply to each of the testing companies if you wish to sit for these standardized tests. The approved accommodations will be effective throughout your high school career. Before we can administer extended time standardized testing to you, we must have on file a current (within the past three years) and comprehensive diagnosis of the learning difference which stipulates your required accommodations as outlined below.
Guidelines for Documentation
Documentation must be written by the diagnosing professional and must meet ALL of these guidelines:
- State the specific learning difference as diagnosed.
- The diagnosis is current (diagnosed or reconfirmed within three academic years).
- Describes presenting problem(s) and developmental history, including relevant educational or medical history.
- Describes the substantial limitations (e.g. adverse effects on learning, academic, achievement, or other life activities) resulting from the differences as supported by the test results.
- Describes specific recommended accommodations.
- Indicates the professional; credentials of the evaluator, including information about licensure or certification, education and area of specialization.
While this list seems daunting, in our experience, most reports produced by those who provide this sort of testing meet each of these requirements.
Confidentiality of Documentation
All documentation provided to the testing services will be kept confidential, will be used solely to determine eligibility for accommodations, and will not become part of your score record.
Should you disclose your learning difference to the colleges in which you are interested?
First of all, you should know that only you and your family may report a learning difference. However, we believe it is usually in your best interest to disclose the learning difference. Even if a college has no program for students with learning differences, it is often still to your advantage to disclose. It may help to explain low inconsistent grades, and it provides a context for your overall performance.
In the case of a college or university with an established program for students with learning differences, you should make contact with the staff of that program, just as you would an athletic coach or art or music department head. Very often, the admissions staff, having judged that a student is a good “fit” for the college in other ways, will defer to the learning center’s professional staff on the question of academic “fit.” Therefore, it is imperative that you learn whether or not a college has a program for students with learning differences, get a sense of how the program works, the extent of the support offered, and how the offerings will assist you in being successful at that particular institution. Remember, not all learning centers are equal!
Further information may be found at the following websites:
Please contact Marie Delnicki, Registrar and Test Coordinator, or Samantha Jensen, Director of our Learning Center if you have additional questions.
The Role of Athletics in College Admission
The role that athletic ability plays in the selection and admission process varies widely from institution to institution and even from sport to sport.
- If you are being aggressively recruited by the coach of a marquee sport at a Division I college or university (football at Northwestern, hockey at Boston College, lacrosse at Duke), you may find that athletics dominates the process.
- If you are on the short list of the coach of an important sport at the Division II or III level, you will find athletics helpful – though NOT always decisive – in the process.
- If you have played well at Avon and hope to continue in college, but have had little contact or encouragement from collegiate coaches, you will find that athletics plays very little role in the process beyond being an important extracurricular commitment.
Contact and Enthusiasm
Student/athletes who want to continue with their sport in college should work to establish and maintain contact with the appropriate coaches at the colleges and universities in which one has an interest. The coach may find you in the normal course of recruiting; do not make him do that. Write or call or visit to tell him of your interest; make an appointment with him during your visit to campus. Give him the name and number of your coach at Avon (and a game schedule for your team when one becomes available). As long as you maintain an active interest in the college or university, make sure the coach is aware of your interest; coaches may give up on recruits whose interest is suspect.
Resources at Avon Old Farms School
You must remember – regardless of what recruiting coaches tell you – to keep both the Avon coach and your counselor apprised of the situation. Avon’s coaches often know the college coaches personally; the college counselors generally have contacts in the college or university admission offices. Between us, we can help clear up any questions or misconceptions. If a coach tells you, “You are in,” let your counselor know immediately.
The Perils of Athletic Recruiting
A coach can be a powerful ally in the admission process; however the student/athlete can misunderstand both the level of a coach’s interest and the extent of the coach’s influence with the admission office. When these situations do not work out, it is you, not the coach, who suffers devastating consequences. Therefore:
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Has this coach ever seen my transcript and test scores?
- How important is my sport on this college’s campus?
- How many players is he recruiting at my position, and how many does he really need?
Some questions to ask the coach:
- What are your primary recruiting goals (in terms of position) this year?
- How many players are you recruiting at my position and where do I fall on your list?
- How do you assist your players during the season? Training?
The NCAA Eligibility Center
In order to play intercollegiate athletics at the Division I or II level, you must be certified by the NCAA’s Eligibility Center. If you believe there is any chance you will be interested in or recruited at a Division I or II program, you should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center by January of your junior year. You must complete the following:
- You may only register online; www.ncaa.org. Remember your username and four-digit PIN number; if lost, you will have to re-register
- Print out your ID number. Make three copies of this form: 2 to be given to the school registrar so that your initial and final transcripts can be sent, 1 to your college counselor
- Send official SAT Reasoning Test scores or ACT scores to the NCAA by putting “9999” on the appropriate blanks on the SAT/ACT registration form, or by going to your account at the testing service and requesting they send your scores.
The college selection and admission process can differ significantly for international students. Some of the significant differences are:
The TOEFL Exam
Most American colleges and universities require applicants who are not U.S. citizens and whose first language is not English to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and have established a minimum score for admission. The TOEFL is designed to measure a student’s capacity to listen, read, and write in English – all skills crucial for success in an American college or university.
Students take internet based TOEFL on a computer both at Avon and other locations. Avon students use the (IBT), and generally speaking, we register and administer this test two to three times per academic year. We recommend that international students take the TOEFL at least once in their junior year, and that, pending those results, they attempt to take it again during the fall of their senior year. Students who are still unhappy with their TOEFL score will have additional opportunities to take the test again.
As the school does not have a formal TOEFL preparation program in place, we recommend that students who wish to take a preparation course do so during the summer prior to their senior year.
In addition to all the other application materials, all American colleges and universities require international applicants to provide documentation of the family’s ability to pay that institution’s costs. Most colleges and universities have specific forms that are part of the International Application – the International Student’s Certification of Finances - and they will also require an official and original statement from the family’s banker or other financial officer. This is an important aspect of the application process; many institutions will NOT process a candidate’s file until they have received this information. Therefore, it is essential that students collect this information as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there is very little financial aid available to international students who need assistance in meeting college costs. Most colleges and universities offer financial aid to only a handful of international students, and the competition for that money is exceptionally keen. Therefore, international students who wish to apply for financial aid should begin their search with the (somewhat limited) list of colleges and universities that offer financial aid to substantial numbers of international students. This list of institutions can be found on the College Board website (www.collegeboard.com); your counselor will be able to assist you as well.
Many colleges and universities have separate applications for international students, separate requirements for international applicants, and separate admissions officers to handle international applications. Therefore, it is imperative that if you are an international student, you review each college or university’s application and requirements carefully. In visiting campuses, you should make an effort to identify – and if possible meet – the admission officer who handles international applicants; he or she will be best-suited to answer your questions, and could become a valuable contact later in the process.
Advantage/DisadvantageInternational students constitute a distinct pool within a college or university’s larger group of applicants. As such, international applicants are generally competing primarily with each other for available places. Because these students can contribute to the diversity of a college or university’s student body, international students may have an advantage when applying to institutions that are seeking to increase diversity (generally smaller and more rural colleges); conversely, international students may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when applying to institutions where diversity is not an issue (generally larger, more urban institutions). These realities should not dictate which colleges or universities you choose to put on your list, but they do affect the category (reach, etc.) into which the institution will fall.
The school does not discuss disciplinary action with the colleges and universities. However, the Common Application – and many institutional supplements – have begun to ask questions regarding disciplinary action – pending and finalized. If you answer “yes” to these questions, please see your counselor about how to address your situation in the required explanation.
If you must leave the school – for any reason – you should immediately notify the colleges to which you have applied. In the normal course of the admissions cycle, these colleges will be in contact with the school, and at this point, we must reveal that you are no longer enrolled at Avon Old Farms School. It is you, however, who must give the college or university an explanation as to why you are no longer enrolled. Very often, we find that although you may no longer be a student at Old Farms, that we can still recommend you with enthusiasm.
Double Depositing and the Final Transcript
The common reply date for accepted students is May 1. Virtually all colleges require that an accepted student return a deposit by May 1st in order to reserve your place for the fall term. On occasion, a student who is having trouble deciding among two or more offers of admission will decide to send deposits to two or more schools in order to put off making the decision. In the college admission community, this is known as double depositing, and is considered highly unethical. If colleges learn that you have sent deposits to multiple schools they may rescind their offers of admission.
Accordingly, we counsel you and your family in the strongest possible terms not to engage in double depositing, and therefore to make your decision by May 1st. Please know that only ONE final transcript will be mailed to your enrolled college or university. Possible exceptions to this practice would include Wait List students accepted during the summer.
When the Decisions Arrive
If it is…
Admission: Congratulations! If you are admitted to a clear first choice and know definitely which college or university you will attend, notify that institution by returning the form they sent with your acceptance letter and including the required deposit. You should also notify the other institutions that offered you acceptance. They will be holding a place for you until May 1, and will be grateful for an early notice of your intent to go elsewhere; you may even make it possible for them to offer a Wait Listed student – perhaps a classmate – a place in their class. If you are loath to decide between two or more colleges, visit them again, if possible. Otherwise, consult with everyone available – your family, your counselor, classmates, other people associated with the institutions you are considering – and be ready to make a decision in time for the May 1 deadline.
Denial: It is never easy to accept rejection, but resist with all your will power the impulse to take it personally. Selective colleges and universities simply do not have enough space to accommodate all of their qualified applicants – that is what makes them selective. The college is NOT saying they do not think you could do well there; they are NOT saying they find your record – or you personally – inadequate. They are only saying that they are unable to offer you a spot in the class they will enroll the following fall.
Wait List: The first thing to do is decide whether or not you wish to remain on the Wait List; either way, notify the college or university as soon as possible. They need to know who from the Wait List really wants to attend. If you choose to remain on the Wait List, consult with your counselor about what to do next; she or he may have some specific insights passed along by the college’s admissions officer. As you remain on a Wait List, you still must choose from among the colleges and universities that offered you acceptance, and you must be prepared to make a commitment (and a deposit) by May 1.