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Anna Batie, Program Associate for Outreach September 2014

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1 Anna Batie, Program Associate for Outreach September 2014
Applying to College Anna Batie, Program Associate for Outreach September 2014

2 About Us The Washington Student Achievement Council is a cabinet-level state agency that provides strategic planning, oversight, and advocacy to support increased student success and higher levels of educational attainment in Washington. The 12th Year Campaign is an agency initiative that combines the national College Application Campaign and College Goal Washington. The campaign’s goal is to raise the number of students, particularly those from low-income or underrepresented populations, who successfully complete college applications and apply for financial aid.

3 Agenda Parts of a College Application
What Admissions Officers Look For College Application Timeline Resources I’ll begin today by talking about the parts of a college application. Then I’ll talk about what admissions representatives look for. I will give you a month-by-month college application timeline so you understand what’s expected of you in the process. Finally, I’ll talk about some resources that could help with the application process. Students should start doing these things before senior year.

4 Two-Year vs. Four-Year Applications
Two-Year College (Open Admissions) Four-Year College (Selective Admissions) Personal Information Transcript Financial Aid Information COMPASS/Accuplacer placement test Program-specific prerequisites Personal Information Transcript Letter of Recommendation Standardized Test Scores Financial Aid Information Resume of Activities Essay and Short Answer Questions Two year colleges are open admission, meaning that they do not have a selective application process. As a result, you likely won’t have to provide an essay or personal statement, or letters of recommendation. Also, you won’t need to provide your SAT or ACT test scores for admission. However, you will have to do a placement test to determine which level of English and Math you should be enrolled in prior to matriculating. Some programs do have prerequisites – classes or requirements that you need to do before enrollment – so make sure you check with a program advisor for specifics. With that in mind, these are the parts of a college application. We’ll go over a few of these in more detail. You’ll fill out some basic personal information. Generally this consists of your name, birthdate, ethnicity, and information about your parents’ educational background. You will need to provide the colleges with either an official high school transcript or a copy of your transcript. You’ll provide 2-3 letters of recommendation. You’ll need to take standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. You’ll provide information for financial aid. You’ll submit a resume of activities, write an essay making your case for admission, and answer a few short answer questions.

5 Letters of Recommendation
Ask someone who knows you well. Ex. Teacher, counselor, pastor, employer How long has this person known you? In what capacity? Don’t ask a family member Ask the writer at least one month before your application is due. Provide them with your essay and student activities list or resume. Ask one academic and one character recommendation (say, a teacher and a coach or employer). Provide them with the required forms and a stamped and addressed envelope. Don’t forget to send a thank you card! Letters of recommendation provide evidence that you are a good candidate for admission from the perspective of someone who knows you well. Letters of recommendation play an important role in your college application. Think of the essay and other parts of the application as being in your own words – your case for college admissions. Letters of recommendation provide further evidence that you are a good candidate for admission from the perspective of someone who knows you well. Here are some tips. First, ask someone who knows you well. For example, a teacher you’ve had multiple years, your counselor, your pastor, or your employer. Think about how long the person has known you and in what capacity. One recommender likely won’t be able to write about all of your amazing qualities. For example, your favorite teacher may be able to talk about your academics, in-school involvement, and personal growth, but she may not know about your community service and leadership. Your pastor may be the best person to write about your community service and leadership abilities. Think about asking people who know you from academic and non-academic contexts in order to give colleges a more well-rounded view of you as an individual. Make sure you give your recommender a heads up that you will be asking for several letters throughout the year. This will help them budget time to write your letter. Don’t ask a family member. It’s better to have a more professional recommendation. Ask at least one month before the application is due. Some teachers get dozens of requests to write letters of recommendation. You want to make sure that the individuals you ask have enough time to write you a good letter. It’s okay to follow up with the person you ask too – follow up with your recommender a week before your letter is due. This gives you a little bit of a time buffer in case you have to find someone else. Give the writer your essay and student activities list. And let your recommenders know if you want something about your highlighted. One of the biggest mistakes students make is assuming that their recommenders know everything about them. Get one academic and one character recommendation, in order to give colleges a full picture of your individuality and potential to excel at their college. Make sure you provide everything the recommender needs to complete his or her letter. Some colleges will require the recommender to complete it online. Others want the recommender to mail their letter directly. Read the instructions so you know how the college wants their letters submitted. Send a thank you card – especially if you may be asking for a future recommendation from that person!

6 Resume of Activities Possible activities include: Describe: Clubs
Sports Jobs Student government Community service Religious involvement (youth groups, etc.) Arts or music Describe: The impact the activity had on you. Any leadership roles. Length of time you participated. Most colleges will ask you to include a resume of activities as part of the application. Some colleges and universities will ask you to write about every activity you took part in, while others will ask you to write about 3-5 significant activities. If you have to pick activities to write about, make sure to pick activities that have had a significant impact on you. Did you take on leadership in the activity? For example, were you elected student body president or team captain? How long did you participate in the activity? Admissions representatives will look for commitment to and quality of activities (depth) over participating in a wide variety of activities (breadth). Some things you could choose to include on this resume include your involvement in student clubs (like the Recycling Club or the literary magazine), sports, jobs, student government, community service, church involvement, and arts and music.

7 Application Essay Discuss how your family’s experience or cultural history enriched you or presented you with opportunities or challenges in pursuing your educational goals. Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. Why do you feel that Seattle University is a good match with your educational goals? The goal of the essay is to demonstrate your fit with the college or university, and to address things that maybe were unable to be addressed in other parts of the application. You will have to write an application essay for most four-year colleges and universities. The goal of the essay is to demonstrate your fit with the college or university, and to address things that maybe were unable to be addressed in other parts of the application. These are some sample essay prompts, taken from actual college applications. As you can see, the questions asked are quite broad. Often students struggle with starting their personal statements. In the student materials provided, page 22 of the Dream Project workbook has a great list of brainstorming questions that can help you get started. Make sure that you’re answering the question. Also, make sure that you’re within the word limit, as some online applications will cut you off if you go over. Last, draft and redraft your personal statement. Have someone else read it and offer some suggestions before you turn it in.

8 Agenda Parts of a College Application
What Admissions Officers Look For College Application Timeline Resources Now we’ll move to what admissions officers are looking for in your college application.

9 What Admissions Officers Look For
Comprehensive Application Review Academic rigor, quality of senior year courses, and grade trends. Extracurricular activities. Ability to enhance the diversity of the university. Academic performance relative to opportunity. Did you take advantage opportunities available to you? Many colleges and universities are moving to something called a “comprehensive review.” It used to be that if you met minimum GPA and test score requirements, you were all but assured admission at some schools. Today, most colleges and universities do not have enough room to accommodate every person who applies to their college. The comprehensive review helps admissions officers ensure that you are the right fit for their school. Keep in mind that more selective colleges will have more stringent requirements. In addition to meeting minimum GPA and test score requirements, colleges and universities are now also looking at the following factors in their comprehensive review process.

10 Show What You’ve Learned
Diversity Interest Community involvement Evidence of past and future academic performance Fit Ability to grow and learn from challenges Evidence of critical thinking Reflection Tone Use of appropriate examples Organization and focus Ability to follow directions Writing When admissions officers read your application, they are looking for how well that student can fit with the school, reflect on experiences and write. To determine fit, admissions officers may look for evidence of diverse experiences, expressed interest in the school or an expression of shared values. They may also look for evidence of who you have been in the past and who you will be in the future so they can determine what you have to contribute to the school. Admissions officers will also want to see that you can think critically about the experiences you’ve had. Your ability to reflect, learn and grow from experiences is more important than the experience itself. Of course, the essay portion is a writing activity, so the quality of your writing will also be taken into consideration. Admissions officers will look for appropriate tone and examples. They will want your writing to be focused and organized around a clear theme that answers the prompt and meets word-length requirements.

11 Agenda Parts of a College Application What Admissions Officers Look For College Application Timeline Resources In this section, we’ll give you a month by month timeline for your college admissions applications.

12 September Figure out which colleges are the “right fit” for you.
October November December January February March April May June Figure out which colleges are the “right fit” for you. Make your reach/target/safety list. Plan on applying to 3-6 colleges. Identify references for letters of recommendation. Create a calendar of application deadlines. You really should start researching colleges prior to your senior year. It’s helpful to go into the summer with your initial list identified of colleges that are the “right fit” for you, and I’ll talk about how to figure that out in a minute. But if you have not yet started the process, this is where you should begin. You’ll make your reach, target, and safety list. You’ll identify and approach references for your letters of recommendation, and you’ll create a calendar with applications deadlines. As for the number of colleges to apply to, we recommend that you apply to 3-6 colleges. How many colleges and universities will you actually be attending in the year after you graduate? One. It’s better to spend more time researching and identifying the schools that are the right fit for you and fill out applications for those schools than to spend hours and hours applying to 20 colleges. Remember that each college application could take several hours to complete. The workload is like having an additional class on top of your senior year.

13 Finding the Right Fit Size Location Type of College Program of Study
Student Services Student Life Personal Values The biggest consideration in where to apply to college is figuring out which college fits you best. There are a number of things to consider in finding the right fit. The first is size. The size of a college affects how you experience that college. Smaller colleges may have smaller class sizes, allowing you to get to know your professors better. You may be able to take on leadership in a campus club as a freshmen. However, smaller colleges may be limited in terms of class offerings and activities/clubs offered. Larger colleges and universities may have huge classes. Some classes at big universities are held in cavernous lecture halls. You may feel like a number, rather than like an individual. There may be more activities and clubs at a big college, but you might have to wait a while to take on leadership in them. Location is another thing to consider. Some may want to go to college in a larger city like Seattle or New York, while others may be more comfortable in a more rural community like Ellensburg or Walla Walla. There are multiple types of colleges. This category includes four-year public colleges, four-year private colleges, two-year colleges, and vocational and technical colleges. Your experience will be different at each type of college. Four year public colleges tend to be larger than four year private colleges. Think about degree outcomes too. It’s a good idea to research what type of degree you need for the kind of job you want. If it requires specific technical training, you may want to consider vocational and technical colleges. There are additional considerations in the broad category “type of college.” This includes the schedule the college is on. If the college is on a quarter, semester, or trimester system, that will affect the number of classes you take. Some colleges offer classes on a semester basis that allows more time for classes but requires you to take more hours per term. Colleges on a quarter or trimester system allow less time for class, but you’ll take fewer classes during a term. Additionally, you may also want to consider whether the school is co-ed or gender specific and whether the college is faith-based. Your own preferences here will affect which colleges you want to apply to. Program of study is also important. For example, if your lifelong dream is to be a veterinarian, you’d better look at colleges that have pre-veterinary programs. Not all colleges offer this. If you’d like to be involved in the music program, but maybe not necessarily be a music major, check to see if non-music majors are allowed to audition for all musical groups at the college. You don’t want to get there and disappointed. Student services is another thing to consider. Student services include support services such as a health center, counseling center, and childcare. Make student life a consideration too. What kind of clubs are on campus? How does one get involved? Make note of any interesting clubs you want to try. Lastly, your own personal values are also something to consider. Some students want to go to colleges where others share their personal values – like social justice or religion. If this is something that is important to you, make sure you include it when thinking about the type of college that is the right fit for you.

14 Reach, Target, Safety Reach Academically challenging--you may not quite fit the college’s academic profile. Selective admissions. Potentially high cost of attendance. Target You are likely to be admitted based on your academic profile. You would be happy attending that college. Would not be financially overwhelming to attend. Safety You are almost certain to be admitted. You would be happy and get a good education there. Affordable with reasonable effort. After you’ve made an initial list of colleges you’re thinking about applying to, narrow it down further by putting them in the categories of Reach, Target, and Safety. This categorization involves considering two questions: how likely am I to get in? How likely will I be able to afford it? Each individual will have different reach, target, and safety schools based on their academic and personal profiles. What is one person’s safety college may be another’s target college. Reach schools: These are academically challenging schools. You may not quite fit the college’s high academic standards. These are colleges and universities that have a selective admissions process. In addition, these schools have a high cost of attendance. If admitted, you may not be able to afford it. A reach school is not necessarily your “dream school.” These are schools that will be a reach for you to get into because you don’t meet the academic profile of the typical incoming student or the cost of attendance is prohibitive. Target schools: These are colleges and universities in which you are likely to be admitted based on your academic profile. You’d be pretty happy attending that college – it has the factors you’ve identified as being important in finding the right fit for you. Also, these colleges and universities would not be financially overwhelming for you to attend. Safety schools: These are colleges and universities where you are almost certain to be admitted. You feel like this school would be a pretty good fit for you, and that you’d be happy at this college. You know you could get a good education there. A safety school would be affordable for you with reasonable effort. A “safety” school is not a “back up school that you don’t actually want to go to.” It’s a school where you can be reasonably certain of being admitted, where you would be happy, and one that you can afford.

15 October Draft your admissions essays.
November December January February March April May June Draft your admissions essays. Talk with your English teacher or counselor about your essays. Request your official high school transcripts. Take the SAT or ACT and have test scores sent to colleges. In October, you will draft your admissions essays. Make an appointment to talk with your English teacher and/or your college counselor about your essays. Get feedback from at least one other person before making final revisions and submitting them. Order official high school transcripts. Check with your high school counselor or registrar to figure out how to do this. Also, take the SAT or ACT and have your scores sent to the colleges to which you are applying. To register for the SAT, go to If you want to take the ACT, go to

16 November Finish application essays.
December January February March April May June Finish application essays. Visit campuses of the colleges you’re interested in. Attend a College Application Campaign event. NACAC College Fair Seattle Oct 31 and Nov 1 Portland Nov 2 and 3 Spokane Nov 5 Be aware of your application deadlines, because some colleges have regular decision deadlines in November. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to turn in your admissions application, because you run the risk of running into technical issues from so many people submitting at the same time!

17 December December January February March April May June Be aware of admissions deadlines for your schools of choice—December brings early admission application deadlines and some regular admissions deadlines, too. Attend financial aid workshops and begin preparing the documents you’ll need to file your FAFSA or WASFA. December brings early admission application deadlines. Students should be aware of the admissions deadlines for their schools of choice – some early admissions applications are due in November! There are two types of early admission – early decision and early action. Both involve an earlier deadline than regular admissions decisions. With both, you’ll be notified of the college’s decision earlier than had you applied at the regular deadline. Each college handles early decision and early action differently. Most colleges and universities do a binding early decision, in which you agree to attend that specific university if offered admission in exchange for early consideration. The advantage to applying via early decision is that, traditionally, highly selective colleges and universities admit a greater proportion of their early decision applicants than their regular decision applicants. If you go back on this agreement, it is unlikely that another highly selective college or university will admit you. You can seek release from an early decision obligation on the grounds of financial hardship. The major drawback to early decision is that it leaves you with little room to negotiate a better financial aid package from the college or university. Early action programs allow you to apply to a college or university early and get the early notification without being obligated to attend that college or university. You get earlier notification without being obligated to go that college or university. You can apply to several colleges and universities via early action, but only one via early decision. Early action gives you a later deadline for committing as well. There are pros and cons to early decision and early action. If you’re 100% certain that, for example, Stanford University is your dream school, go ahead and apply early decision. Keep in mind that the financial aid package you may be offered may not meet your needs, and that it will be difficult to renege on your contract if admitted. However, if you are admitted early decision, you’ll avoid the anxiety of choosing a college during the second semester of your senior year, when you’re also taking AP exams and getting ready to graduate. Also, there may be scholarships that only early decision candidates are eligible for. If you do make the decision to apply early, make sure you’re weighing the pros and cons of that decision accordingly. If you apply early decision to a school, make sure that you’re also applying to other schools via regular decision. Early decision notification from a school may not occur before regular decision deadlines, and you want to make sure you have options. Also, you can decline an early decision offer for financial aid reasons – and you’ll want other offers to compare the early decision offer with should you be admitted. Attend a financial aid workshop at your high school. These generally occur in December and January. Also, some regular decision application deadlines will occur as early as December 1st. Keep an eye on your application calendar and make sure you send everything in to each school by the deadline!

18 January and February Complete the FAFSA or WASFA.
March April May June Complete the FAFSA or WASFA. Attend a College Goal Washington event. Complete college and scholarship applications. Keep your grades up! In January and February you’ll complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA determines your expected family contribution to college, and also determines your eligibility for different types of financial aid. And it’s completely free to fill out! If you are ineligible to file the FAFSA due to immigration status, you may be eligible for the Washington Application for State Financial Aid or WASFA. WASFA eligible students have graduated from a WA high school or obtained a GED, have lived in WA for three years prior to, and continuously since, earning a high school diploma, and sign an affidavit to file an application to become a permanent resident of the United States when eligible. One of the best places to fill out a FAFSA or WASFA is at a College Goal Washington event. Check for more information on events in your area. At College Goal Washington, trained volunteers will help you fill out the FAFSA or WASFA. These volunteers can help you negotiate special situations – for example, if you are an independent student. Continue applying to colleges and scholarships. One of the best sources for scholarships is This is a scholarship clearinghouse for Washington state residents. It acts like an eHarmony or for WA residents and scholarships – you fill out a profile, and The Washboard matches you with scholarships that you may be eligible for. It’s up to you to apply. Also, keep those grades up! It is a myth that your senior spring is easy. Keep taking tough academic courses. If you slack off too much, colleges and universities can rescind your offer of admission. Don’t let that happen to you.

19 March and April Update your FAFSA after your parents file their taxes.
May June Update your FAFSA after your parents file their taxes. Review acceptance letters and financial aid awards. Decide which college you will be attending. Send in any required materials to the college you’ve chosen. As soon as you and your parents file taxes, you need to log back into the FAFSA and update it with your tax information and make any corrections. Remember that you want to file the FAFSA early, in January or February using estimated income, in order to be eligible for the widest amount of financial aid possible. Once you do file your taxes, it’s important to go back into the FAFSA and update it using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. In March and April, you’ll start receiving letters from the colleges and universities to which you applied letting you know of their decision. Congratulations! This will be an exciting time for you. Start reviewing your acceptance letters and financial aid awards. Make your choice, keeping in mind that your dream school may not be the one that offers the most aid. Make sure that you are making the choice that is the most affordable and best fit for YOU. After you make your decision about where to go, send in any required deposits or housing decisions. Housing and enrollment deposits can vary from $200-$400 depending on the school. If the deposit is a hardship for you, call the college admissions office and the financial aid office. It may be possible to defer the deposit, and pay it in the fall out of your financial aid package. It never hurts to ask. Make sure you send any required deposits and housing decisions by the deadline the college sets.

20 May and June May 1: National Candidates Reply Date
Send thank you notes to teachers, counselors, and references who helped you. Request that your final transcript be sent to your college of choice. Be aware of college deadlines for housing, deposits, orientation, and registration. Congratulations on your graduation! May 1st is the National Candidates Reply Date. You must make your decision about where to attend college by this date. Most colleges and universities will have you make your decisions online. Don’t delay this until 11:59 PM on May 1st, though. It’s a good idea to let the colleges know as early as you can. While most colleges and universities do participate in the National Candidates Reply Date, some do not. If your college has an earlier deadline, make sure that you send your required deposits and housing decisions by the deadline set by the college. Double-check the reply date against the college’s information. Send thank you letters to teachers, counselors, and references who helped. It’s a nice gesture, and makes them more likely to help you again in the future. Request for your final transcript to be sent to the college you plan on attending. If you have not yet sent in your required deposits and housing decisions, make sure you do so. Finalize your housing, deposits, orientation date and classes. And lastly, enjoy graduation! Congratulations!

21 Agenda The last thing we’ll talk about today are resources.
Parts of a College Application What Admissions Officers Look For College Application Timeline Resources The last thing we’ll talk about today are resources.

22 Test and Application Fee Waivers
ACT: SAT (the College Board): National Association for College Admission Counseling: High school guidance counselors Each college and university will charge a fee for you to apply. These range between $35-$75, depending on the college. So applying to six colleges could cost upwards of $300 – which can be a financial burden on many students. NACAC has a fee waiver form you can send to colleges with your application. Your high school counselor will verify income information on this form. The College Board has a form on their website that you can use to apply for an application fee waiver based on financial hardship. If you are granted a fee waiver for the SAT, you will receive up to four fee waivers at colleges and universities that participate in this program. The ACT also has a fee waiver program for students who are eligible for an ACT fee waiver. A school counselor will need to sign off on your eligibility. Also, some colleges and universities have their own forms you can fill out to request a fee waiver. Contact the college admissions office to find out how to apply for one. Make sure you’re being proactive about this – just because you apply for a waiver doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be granted one. Call the admissions office to follow up. You wouldn’t want to put time and energy into applying to college only to be told that your application wasn’t processed because your fee waiver didn’t go through. Should the college not have a fee waiver, or if you have exhausted your four fee waivers from the College Board, get your high school counselor to write a letter on your behalf. Have the counselor include information about your financial situation. You’ll have to turn in a hard copy of your application when you apply.

23 Web Resources Ready Set Grad:
College Cost Navigator: Big Future: Community and Technical Colleges of Washington State: Here are some resources that could help you with the college application process. Be sure to check out materials for seniors on! And, try to talk to current college students and college counselors.

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