When applying to certain schools, please double check the testing requirements. Some may allow you to self-report your scores (the score is inputted in the Common App OR you may have to email a screen shot of the scores) while others will required the testing agency to send the scores. You will need to plan ahead to insure you meeting the deadlines.
For most applications, colleges will ask for an essay, a list of activities and awards, and give you an option of including additional information.
Personal Statement - 650 Words
The main college application essay is commonly known as the "Personal Statement" or the "Common App Essay." Using the Common App, students select 1 of 7 prompts. The essay topic is your chance to be creative. During the college application process, most students will write a few essays on different topics. The ideal recommended writing style is personal, creative, authentic, and narrative with the student's voice and personality shining through. Writing samples should indicate the character of an applicant, as if you were speaking to them in person or getting a chance to know how they really think, believe, and act. This is the chance to show who you are outside of your grades, accomplishments, and awards.
Supplemental Essay Questions - Word Count Varies
Some colleges will ask questions in addition to the personal statement. Examples include "Why Do You Want to Attend This School" "Describe a Person You Admire," or "What Extracurricular Activity is the Most Meaningful to You?" Colleges release these questions between June-August 15th each summer.
UC Personal Interest Questions (PIQs) - 350 Words
The UC application does not require for a personal statement or main essay. Instead, they ask students to answer four shorter questions and give eight options to choose from. The preferred writing style is very direct and students should give complete answers to the questions without using "creativity" that other applications reward. The PIQs are designed to mimic an interview experience. They look for detailed information, impact you had on other people or an organization, lessons learned, and how the experience will shape your university goals. This is a great opportunity to "brag" and let the reader know what you have accomplished and learned.
Activities & Awards
The Common App allows you list 10 activities (150 characters) and 5 awards (100 characters) while the UC application allows 20 total activities/awards (500 characters). You should list them in the order that are the most meaningful to you.
This optional section can be used to explain information that may not be found on the application that you feel is important for the reader to know. Examples include a semester of low grades (reason why), an injury or illness, IB extended essay, details surrounding an unusual extracurricular, an obstacle, learning challenge, moving schools, etc. It is not a place to include an extra essay or another list of activities. Talk with your SM counselor about ideas.
It is highly recommended that ALL families apply for financial aid regardless of qualification predictions. College financial aid is reviewed based on tax statements covering the student's spring sophomore and fall junior semesters. Families can use prior year tax statements to get an estimate of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) using the net price calculator found on college websites. Some schools will also factor in the student's academic record to predict merit awards.
If you are interested in playing sports in college as a recruited athlete, speak with your SM or club coach to help determine your skill level and the reality of playing sports at the college level. Keep your SM counselor informed to ensure that you have a well-rounded college list with a wide range of college options.
It is important to understand that the lifestyle of a college athlete can be very different from a typical college student which also depends on the athletic division of your sport. Make sure you are aware of the expectations placed by specific colleges on recruited athletes.
Long list of resources to use for exploring the college preparation and admissions process.
College Themes: Preparation and Insight
Where You Go is Not Who You'll Be by Frank Bruni
The Truth About College Admission: A Family Guide by Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark
The Years That Matter Most by Paul Tough
The Enlightened College Applicant by Andrew Belasco and Dave Bergman
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
Countdown to College by Monique Rinere
The Happiest Kid on Campus by Harlan Cohen
Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz
The Gatekeepers by Jacques Steinberg
Creating a Class by Mitchell L. Stevens
The Neurotic Parent's Guide to College Admissions by J.D. Rothman
CrazyU: One Dad's Crash Course Into Getting His Kid Into College by Andrew Ferguson
College Research: Guidebooks (Many, but not all, are updated annually/periodically)
Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges by Barron’s Educational Series
The College Handbook by The College Board
Peterson’s Four Year Colleges by Fern Oram
The Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward Fiske
The College Finder by Steven R. Antonoff, Ph.D.
Ruggs’s Recommendations on the Colleges by Frederick Rugg
Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges by Loren Pope
The Best 368 Colleges by The Princeton Review
College Search Guidebooks for Students with Learning Disabilities
Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADHD by Peterson’s
K&W Guide to College for Students with Learning Disabilities by The Princeton Review
Peterson’s Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders by Charles T. Mangrum and Stephen S. Strichart
Georgia Tech Admissions Blog - Known for its honest, authentic, and humorous look at the college admissions process. Great perspective and insight for parents and students with very timely and relevant posts throughout the cycle.
Tulane Admissions Blog - Posts give insight into the selective school process, what to do while in high school as well as Tulane specific information.
College Kickstart - If you like data, you will like this site! Posts outline acceptance rates, waitlist information, and offers lists based on a variety of topics.
College Essay Guy Blog - Posts that give you detailed strategies, organizational tools and "how to" ideas for all aspects of college admissions.
Grown and Flown Blog - Advice ranges from parenting teens, packing for college, mental health for families, and surviving the college application process successfully!
The University of Pennsylvania offers a free 4 week course called "How to Apply to College." It is offered every 4 weeks. Experts in the field walk you through the application process through coursework, exercises, videos and the ability to engage in Q&A.