College Consulting FAQ
WHY ARE JUNIOR YEAR GRADES SO IMPORTANT? ARE THEY REALLY AS BIG A DEAL AS PEOPLE MAKE THEM OUT TO BE?
Foremost, colleges place the greatest emphasis on students’ junior year academic performances. For students who struggled in the first two years of high school, 11th grade provides an opportunity to show intellectual growth and increased maturity. For students who have done well in the first two years, it is equally important to avoid a drop in performance as the academic rigor increases.
Equally important, junior year is when students tend to take ACT® or SAT® exams. Many schools value these scores as much as a high school transcript, so students will devote much of their extracurricular time to studying.
HOW MANY COLLEGES DO MOST STUDENTS APPLY TO?
Most students apply to between 9 and 13 colleges: 3-4 safeties, 4-5 targets, and 2-4 reaches.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EARLY DECISION (ED) AND EARLY ACTION (EA)?
An Early Decision (ED) plan asks the student to apply months before the Regular Decision deadline, generally in the first two weeks of November. This is a binding decision: if accepted under an ED plan, the student must attend the school. As a result, a student may only apply to one school under an ED plan. However, unless otherwise stated, a student can apply Early Decision to one school and Early Action or Rolling to others. Admissions decisions are normally made by the end of December. If accepted, the student is required to withdraw his/her applications from all other colleges or decline any acceptances already received.
An Early Action (EA) plan also asks students to submit their applications before the Regular Decision deadline. The distinction is that EA is non-binding, so if a student is accepted to a school under an EA plan, he/she is not obligated to attend. Unless otherwise stated, a student may apply to more than one school, and may also participate in ED/Rolling plans. This is not the case, however, for Single Choice or Restricted Early Action, which prohibit simultaneous applications.
WHAT IS THE STUDENT RESPONSIBLE FOR SUBMITTING? WHAT ABOUT THE HIGH SCHOOL?
Students are responsible for submitting their applications (including any supplements), the application fees, as well as official reports of their standardized test scores. Students may also choose to submit an art portfolio or athletic supplement. Early Decision applicants must also sign the ED Agreement online (along with their parents and guidance counselor).
High schools are responsible for sending a student’s transcript, secondary school report, midyear report, and teacher/counselor recommendations. When applicable, guidance counselors must also send a signed ED agreement.
It is also incumbent upon students to keep an up-to-date Naviance page and ensure their guidance counselors have access to their full college application lists.
WHAT IS THE COMMON APPLICATION?
The Common Application is an online portal that allows students to submit applications to over 400 member institutions. Through the Common Application, students will enter their background information once, as well write an essay in response to one of seven prompts (this is what’s often called the “college essay”). Individual supplements for all member schools are accessible through the Common Application as well.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON APPLICATION ESSAY PROMPTS?
You can view the 2018-2019 questions here.
WHAT KINDS OF SUPPLEMENTAL ESSAYS CAN I EXPECT TO WRITE?
Most often, colleges will ask you to write about why you’re interested in attending the school. This is your opportunity to show off – you want to demonstrate that you did your research and that you understand why the school would be a good fit intellectually and socially. Think beyond the generic reasons a school is appealing (the beautiful campus, school spirit, etc.) and really hone in on how you can take advantage of its academic and extracurricular offerings.
WHAT OTHER KINDS OF ESSAY QUESTIONS CAN A COLLEGE ASK ME?
Schools also commonly ask you to write a short personal essay that shows off your ability to think critically and creatively. These essays range from the more straightforward (e.g. “tell us something about yourself that has not otherwise been conveyed in your application,” or “what books have you read in the past year?”) to the more open-ended and unconventional (e.g. “find x,” or “what fictional or historical character would you choose to be your roommate?”).
DO COLLEGES OFFER INTERVIEWS? IF SO, WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS CAN I ANTICIPATE?
Some schools offer on-campus interviews, and others will arrange for you to interview with local members of the alumni community. It’s your responsibility to check each school’s policy: most often, an interviewer will contact you application has been submitted, but occasionally, it will be your responsibility to schedule a meeting. Some schools also require you submit your application by a certain date in order to be eligible for an interview.
In any college interview, you should be prepared to talk about your interests, why you want to attend the school, and how you feel you can take advantage of the opportunities it offers. Interviews are also great opportunities to ask any questions you might have about the school.
WHERE CAN I SEARCH FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT COLLEGES?
Check out the CollegeBoard’s college search feature to discover schools by location, size, selectivity, athletics, and more.
Click here to see US News and World Report’s 2018 college rankings.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS?
AcademicInfo provides links to free academic resources and offers insight into the college process. It also aggregates information about distance-learning, online education, and links to several education blogs.
The New York Times College Blog, though no longer updated, also features pertinent articles and commentary about the college application and financial aid process.
HOW CAN I GET STARTED ON MY COLLEGE APPLICATIONS?
Visit The Common Application to see the latest updates on college essay prompts, create a college list, and check out your colleges’ supplement essays. If any of your colleges do not that the Common App (UC Schools, Georgetown, and MIT, to name a few) visit their admissions websites and follow the links to their proprietary applications.