Your Checklist for Senior Year

Staying on top of the college process is key to your success. Here is a month by month listing of what you need to do. Please stay current and communicate with me.

AUGUST

❑ Start to fill out your Common App, Coalition App, or Specific College Apps. Make sure that I see your essays before they are added.

❑ Put your college list into Editate so you know what supplemental essays are required by colleges.

❑ Continue working on your activties list and essays.

❑ Can you include an arts/athletic supplement or resume with your application? Work on this.

❑ Finish summer assignments.

❑ If you haven’t done so already, choose which teachers you will ask to write recommendations.

❑ Look at the fall calendar — plan final campus visits/interviews.

❑ Prepare to retake the SAT or ACT if needed.

❑ Take a look at your social media and clean it up!

SEPTEMBER

❑ Check Naviance and sign up for college visits at your school.

❑ Decide if you will apply Early Decision or Early Action to your top choice school;

❑ Tell your counselor and recommenders when you need letters written by. They need at least three weeks’ notice.

❑ Request interviews at colleges that you are interested in, where available.

OCTOBER

❑ Attend local college fairs and college visits at your high school. Connect with the people who will be reading your application.

❑ Check Naviance to follow up with recommenders to make sure that they have written their letters.

❑ Fill out the FAFSA and CSS Profile if you qualify to receive financial aid. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is now available as is the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (required by many private schools and a few flagship state universities).

❑ ED and EA candidates prepare to submit applications by the deadline, Nov. 1st or 15th!

❑ Take advantage of priority deadlines — get your application considered sooner and increase eligibility for merit aid.

❑ Use my tracking form to stay on top of what’s due when. Plan to submit applications before the due dates, preferably before winter vacation!

❑ Confirm that counselor and teacher recommendation letters have been uploaded into the Common Application and request transcripts be sent to the schools you’re applying to (there may be a small fee for each transcript).

❑ Decide which test scores (SAT, ACT) to send and order score reports.

❑ Follow up with colleges to make sure all application materials were received.

NOVEMBER

❑ Continue to “demonstrate interest” in schools — open emails from colleges, call the admission office to request an alumni interview, etc.

❑ Make sure all essays are approved by me before they are sent to colleges.

❑ Finalize your college list and finish all essays.

❑ Follow up with colleges to make sure all application materials were received.

DECEMBER

❑ Note financial aid application deadlines, which may differ from admission application deadlines.

❑ Proof any remaining applications one final time and “submit”!

❑ Let me know about any acceptance you receive.

JANUARY

❑ Make sure mid-year grade reports are sent to all schools you’ve applied to.

FEBRUARY

❑ Beware of Senioritis…stay on track academically!

❑ Begin planning for summer (work, travel, volunteering, etc.).

MARCH

❑ Decisions arrive in the mail and/or online by the end of the month, so get ready to handle and share “the news.”

❑ Celebrate!

APRIL

❑ Attend “admitted student” events on campus and compare/contrast other aspects of the schools where you were accepted (including financial aid awards).

❑ If you were wait listed, express interest to the school.

❑ Send a deposit by May 1st to accept a spot at the college of your choice!

❑ Continue to do your work in class so grades don’t “droop” too much.

❑ Start planning the graduation party!

MAY

❑ Thank teachers, counselors, and coaches who helped you apply to college.

❑ Open and respond promptly to communications from the college — information about housing, orientation, course registration, etc.

❑ Study for finals and AP exams — end the year strong.

❑ Solidify summer plans (work? travel? study? volunteer?).

❑ Connect with future classmates (and perhaps find a roommate) through the college’s official social media sites.

❑ Enjoy time with your friends and family and bask in the glow of your accomplishments at graduation!

AP Facts Worth Knowing About College Credit

AP Test are Important

Once you have taken an AP test and have your score, what should you do with it? While you may have taken an AP class to challenge yourself and demonstrate to colleges that you can handle a rigorous curriculum, colleges also care about the score you received on an AP test.

Once you send a score to a college

When a college receives an AP score, the score will go through articulation. This means the college may use that score to grant you college credit. Scoring a 3 on an AP test may mean that you passed, but it may not necessarily count for credit at a particular college. Most colleges have an AP articulation page on their website that shows score conversions for credit. It’s worth noting that all UC and CSU campuses grant credit for a 3 score. Many other colleges require at least a 4 to grant credit.

Approximately 4,000 colleges accept AP scores, but there are around 51,000 separate policies awarding credit for each subject, so look at each college’s rules.

What AP Credit Does…and doesn’t do

Depending on the academic program you are considering in college, you may have to retake courses even if you have a 4 or 5 on an AP exam. For example, in many STEM programs, a college may require a student to take Physics and Calculus at the collegiate level even if she scored a 5 on these AP exams. You can see how this can be frustrating! However, it is still worth taking these courses (and the corresponding test) as many admissions offices are looking for academically prepared students, and your scores may allow you to receive credit for non-major entry-level courses.

If you are considering a graduate-level program like medical school, this issue deserves further consideration. These students often have to decide between protecting their GPA by retaking these courses (which also reinforces knowledge), and jumping into more advanced coursework. It is recommended to work with the college’s academic advising office early and often to determine an appropriate path, and to see which credits to apply to college courses.

AP Credit and Class Standing

Your class standing in college is determined by the number of credits you have. And, surprise, colleges handle this differently from one another. Class standing is calculated by:

  • Incoming credits before matriculation to the college (AP credit, community college, dual-enrollment) may be added and a student can enter with sophomore standing given he has enough accumulated credit.

OR

  • Incoming credits do not count toward your college standing, only those earned at the college do. In essence, first-year students will always be considered freshmen regardless of the number of units with which they enter.

Why is this important? Well, class standing in college can dictate a lot. From housing assignments, to class registration, to graduation timeline, a student’s class standing can determine his/her priority in these processes.

Entering with a higher class standing can also save students significant time and money. Simply put, finishing in under four years can cost students less. Entering with even four classes worth of AP credit can be significant. Conversely, coming in without credit can delay graduation past four years and end up costing a student more.  

Since the most common way to determine class standing is via AP credits earned, the impact of having access to AP coursework and earning AP credit cannot be overstated.

Bottom Line

Your matriculation to a college is unlikely to be determined solely by how AP credit is applied. If you plan on taking AP courses, your decision should be guided by your interest in the material, your capacity to do well in the course, and how that course will prepare you for college admission and beyond. Do not worry about how AP credit will be applied until it makes sense to do so, but do be aware of how it can be used.

How to Receive More Aid from a College

Congratulations, the hard part is over. Your child has run the gauntlet of high school, filled out college applications, and has been offered admission to a college. Can you afford their top choice colleges?

Many schools – especially private ones – can offer substantial financial and merit aid packages, and may be able to make adjustments after the fact if families simply ask.

It’s worth your time to reach out to admissions and financial aid offices. You may be surprised at just how many colleges will try to incentivize a student to enroll with a few extra thousand dollars if that’s the only barrier to entry for that family.

Schools may award additional aid when families present new information (like updated test scores or current high school grades) or may make adjustments to need-based aid when a family’s income or employment situation changes.

Here are some tips to consider when asking for additional aid.

  1.  Don’t deposit right away. Once you make an enrollment deposit, that school assumes your student is coming for the fall and doesn’t have a lot of motivation to continue to try and “yield” them. The national deposit deadline is May 1, and some schools even have an internal grace period after that date. There’s usually no need to deposit before May 1 and when a college is “short” on deposits, the closer they get to May 1 the more pressure they feel to “make their class.” Use depositing as leverage!
  2.  Get in touch with the right office! Financial aid may have nothing to do with scholarship and only work on need-based aid packages. Similarly, the admissions may have nothing to do with departmental aid and only deal with scholarship. Try to understand that the college is like a hand and the various administrative offices are like fingers – they can move independently of one another or in unison. Get the lay of the land and find out which office you need to contact to discuss the various pieces of your student’s aid package. Admissions may be able to guarantee an additional several thousand dollars per year in scholarship, and if there were circumstances that were not considered when filling out need-based aid paperwork, the financial aid office may be able to offer additional grant funds. It pays to call around.
  3.  You’re not buying a house, you’re investing in an education for your student. Don’t treat it like a negotiation! Ask for a “reassessment” or “reconsideration” of the student’s aid package, but only AFTER acknowledging and appreciating any aid that was previously awarded. Again, be prepared to submit additional information, usually from a third party. Did you have a change in your family’s expenses? Job loss? Medical bills? Pay cut? That may inform the route you take and which office can help.
  4.  Be realistic. If your student didn’t qualify for scholarship or need-based aid at all, the admissions office may not be able to offer any after the fact. Similarly, if they qualified for a lower-tier award, they may not be able to package them at a top-tier scholarship level. Asking for additional aid in the $1,000 – $5,000 range will likely yield better results than asking for an additional $20,000. Most colleges package students with aid expecting families to be able to contribute, even if it’s just a little bit. Asking for a “full ride” when your student hasn’t earned it likely isn’t going to happen.
  5.  Show them another offer. It’s OK to tell colleges that your student has options. Colleges may be able to match the award offer from another institution, but the key here is to present offers from similar institutions. A college likely isn’t going to “match down” to another institution – meaning, a top-tier school probably has no motivation to match an offer from a less-competitive institution. Your student might be a stellar admit at a school with a high admit rate and weak rankings, but middle of the road at a premier institution. They’re different institutions. That’s why they award different aid amounts in the first place.

Ultimately, it’s up to you and your student to reach out and ask for additional aid if you need it. Be prepared and make a strong case when asking for help!

Financial Information and Scholarship Websites

Financial Information

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid portal, provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

FAFSA4caster is a college cost forecasting tool that estimates your eligibility for federal student aid.

StudentAid.gov has resources for learning about federal student aid, how to apply using the FAFSA, and get information on repaying student loans.

A video that talks about what to expect when your federal student loan enters repayment.

FinAid! – The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid is a free resource for information, advice and tools about student financial aid, college scholarships and education loans.

CSS Profile – the financial aid application service of the College Board (required by some colleges in order to apply for financial aid).

The College Board’s Net Price Calculator allows you to estimate your net price to attend a specific college.

 

Scholarships

SchoolSoup scholarship database

FastWEB scholarship database.

Chegg scholarship database.

CollegeXpress offers college search tools, a scholarship database, lists and rankings, and online articles.

Scholly –  an easy way to find scholarships for high school seniors, current undergraduates, and graduate students.

 

Action Items By May 1

Congratulations on all of your success!!

Make sure you take the next steps on or before May 1:

  1. Put down a deposit at the college or university that you will be attending, and if they need a second deposit for housing, send that in as soon as possible.
  2. Sign up for, and go to the college’s orientation. It is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends, get comfortable with the campus, and learn how to navigate your new environment.
  3. Some colleges offer special trips or on-campus activities, in addition to orientation, as bonding experiences. Take advantage of those if you can.
  4. Fill out your roommate forms honestly. If you do not, people won’t know your preferences, and the school cannot effectively pair you. It is okay to like to go to bed early, or dislike rap music. Advocate for yourself so you are happy with your roommate, it will make a big difference in your freshman year.
  5. Let your guidance office know which college you have chosen, and make sure they send your ending transcript to them.
  6. Notify the schools that you will not attend right away, so that they can offer places to students on their waiting list.
  7. Do not let senioritis affect your acceptances. If your grades drop significantly colleges can rescind their offers. Enjoy the last month, but stay focused. Summer is almost here.
  8. Check your e-mail regularly as college may continue to send you information. Submit information before the deadlines.

Best Wishes!!!

How to Make the Best Decision about Which College to Attend

Plan a visit, if you can’t decide which college to go to after being accepted. Tour your student’s top options before May 1, when acceptance deposits are due. Have them sit in on a class, see if they can stay with students in a dorm, sample the dining hall cuisine, and schedule a meeting with the office of admissions and financial aid. Your student will hopefully be spending the next four years of his or her life at that school. Take the time to really assess which is the best fit for them.

Tell your kids the truth about your finances. Decide how much money you can afford to spend for college. Be honest if it will be difficult to allow your kid to attend the most expensive college, because your long term financial stability is important. Weigh the schools, how much you’ll contribute, how much in loans your kid should take out (though I am against loans), what the schools’ graduation rates are, if they are offering work-study money, etc. Once you have all the offers, evaluate your family’s circumstances, do you have another child that will be in college soon? Are there any major expenses that you have not factored in? Does your student want to go to graduate school, and therefore a cheaper undergraduate degree would be fine?

Do the colleges accept your students’ AP and IB courses for college credit? Save tuition by choosing a school that accepts your kid’s college credits. Many of my students get a year’s worth of college credit at the outset. This can obviously save you a year of college tuition and get them out into the working world earlier.

Look at your awards carefully. When you have received your scholarship and financial award letters from your colleges, take the time to look at the school’s net price to you. That is Cost of Attendance: tuition, room, board, fees, books, etc. — minus grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships. Separate any loans that the family would have to pay back and add that into your total cost.

Some colleges say: “renewable.” Some financial and merit aid is meant as a one-time enticement for entering freshman, while other aid is for all four years — but it might be contingent upon your kid’s GPA. Make sure you read the letter very carefully and know the conditions to properly evaluate your choices. If you have any questions call the school’s financial aid office to get the answers. Is it based on your student’s GPA? If your kid earns those grades, is it certain the money will be there each year? If your student is on an athletic scholarship what are the rules for keeping it?

If you accept student loans use the Federal Loans firstFederal loans generally have lower interest rates than private loans, no hidden fees, and better repayment terms. Stafford Loans — direct loans from the government — have the best current interest rate. They are limited to $5,500 for freshmen, $6,500 for sophomores and $7,500 for juniors and seniors.

Never use your retirement savings. If you do, you will be taxed on that money and it will reduce your child’s financial aid eligibility the next year. You need to keep your money in your retirement accounts and even add to them yearly to help reduce your total income.

You can negotiate your offer. As long as you have a good reason, you can ask the college’s financial aid department to give you more money. Sometimes you can mention a better offer from a competing college, or a family circumstance which changes your ability to pay. Definitely call if there is a divorce or a lost job. Have all your financial information ready when you make the call. Be polite and clear, not whiny or pushy. Some financial aid officer make $40,000 a year, so be careful in how you describe your circumstances.

Honors Programs Have Real Benefits

Many colleges and universities throughout the U.S have Honors Colleges or Honors Programs that are worth investigating. Such programs offer advantages to students that are in the top tier of the college’s applicants. Honors programs may have the best professors, smaller classes, early registration, better housing, more school events, and unique classes, and a cohort of like-minded students, all at the same cost of the school’s normal tuition. Actually numerous colleges give significant merit aid to attract these accomplished students to the school and program.

Being one of the top students at a college can be very beneficial not only financially, but also academically and personally, as more opportunities are available to them for field trips, internships, study abroad, research with professors, and mentorships. In many cases it is worth investigating what is offered, and what the criteria is for admission into these selective programs.

In order to be eligible for these advantages, one needs strong grades and test scores. Some schools require a separate and early application to qualify, but many do not. Since these programs are limited in size it is advantageous to apply early.

For instance University of Maryland has an honors college and offers multiple honors programs such as Honors Humanities, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Living-Learning Programs, University Honors, Gemstone, ACES – Cybersecurity, Design Cultures & Creativity, Integrated Life Sciences, and Departmental & College Honors Programs.   (Learn more from the below links). Beyond the academic perks, being a part of a more specialized program makes this very large university feel a bit smaller. Be aware that it does require an early application for consideration.

George Washington University has an Honors Program, but has other alternatives also. They offered one of my students $80,000 in merit scholarship aid as well as the opportunity to participate in a Women’s Leadership Program in which students attend symposiums, special classes, and participate in events during which they meet prominent women in different careers.

As you tour, ask colleges if these programs are available, and about the benefits and criteria for their students. Some schools also schedule Honors College information sessions that students can attend during a campus visit.

You can find valuable information about Public Honors Colleges at public university honors, but also look at private college programs through Google.

 

Maryland 

Salisbury University

Towson University

University of Maryland Baltimore College

University of Maryland

 

Washington, D.C.

American University

Catholic University

Georgetown University

George Washington University

 

Virginia

Christopher Newport University

College of William and Mary

George Mason University

James Madison University

University of Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Tech

 

 

Tune in for My Webinar on Merit Aid

You can now listen to the webinar in the video section of this website.

How to Maximize Your Chances for Merit Aid

Presented by Applerouth Tutoring Services and Annapolis College Consulting

Merit aid can often create game-changing outcomes for students applying to college; yet many families are unsure of how to build merit scholarships into their overall college planning process. Applerouth Tutoring Services invites you to join Cori Dykman, of Annapolis College Consulting, for a free expert webinar that will help families understand the often overlooked and sometimes overwhelming process of applying for merit scholarships. Based on Cori’s first-hand experience helping students afford the colleges of their dreams, this presentation will cover:

  • The basics: what is merit aid, where is it offered and in what amounts?
  • The strategy: a discussion of steps students can take to stand out in the               admissions process and enhance their merit aid potential.
  • The big picture: an understanding of the process and how to approach it.

The optimal merit aid search starts early. High school families in all grades are welcome, especially 9th through 11th grade families.

Wednesday, November 11th at 7:00pm

About the Speaker: Cori Dykman

Cori Dykman is an educational consultant who relates exceptionally well to teens and understands adolescent and parental issues. Her warm, tailored approach seems to consistently make the difference for the students that she partners with. During last year’s admissions cycle, her students received one million dollars in merit aid. Cori is a professional member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) where she stays updated on the constantly changing and nuanced college process.

www.annapoliscollegeconsulting.com  annapoliscollegeconsulting@gmail.com                                                                                          www.applerouth.com

info@applerouth.com

How Many AP’s to Take Next Year?

In today’s competitive college atmosphere many families struggle with how many AP classes are right for their students. Everyone is different, and it is worth assessing who the student is before you decide. Below is an article by a colleague which discusses the issues well.

Consider balance and interests when selecting APs in high school

Published by the Los Altos Town Crier

Written by Hollis Bischoff

…When planning which AP classes to take during the high school years, take the following into consideration.

  • Where do your interests lie? Taking AP classes in relevant areas is one way of showing college readiness and demonstrated interest in your potential major. For example, if interests lie in nursing or engineering, taking AP classes in Physics and Calculus are table stakes for admission. If the intended major is in history or politics, then AP classes in European World History, U.S. History or Government are germane. If business and finance are in the mix, then AP Economics and Calculus make sense.
  • What is offered at the high school? Colleges want to know students have taken advantage of everything a high school offers both academically and socially, hence the focus on APs and extracurriculars. So if a high school offers only three AP classes, then taking one or two is full advantage. However, in our local high schools, where the AP offerings number more than 20, students taking only one or two would not be considered as competitive.
  • What is the college looking for? Each college or university can determine what it is looking for in engaged, academically challenged students. Even less competitive colleges would like to see one to three AP courses as a way of demonstrating college readiness. The more competitive universities are looking for significant engagement in AP classes. UCLA, for example, cites that nearly 60 percent of its admitted students have 10-plus AP and Honors courses, with five or more being AP.

Elite schools like Pomona, Northwestern and Boston College, among others, have been very specific in their AP requirements. (These are not documented anywhere, but they were discovered during meetings with college admissions directors.) They are looking for, at minimum, AP Calculus and 1 AP lab science (either Chemistry, Physics and/or Biology). For these colleges, AP Environmental Science and AP Statistics are not considered academically challenging enough. So the more elite the school, the more challenging and the higher number of AP classes.

  • What about student academic/life balance? Northwestern orientation for admitted students often opens with the administration apologizing for ruining its students’ high school experience with the high expectations for AP classes and extraordinary extracurriculars, leaving little time to enjoy high school.

But high school is not one long college admissions application. It is also a time to discover about oneself academically, socially, physically and spiritually. Not all students can handle three or four AP classes at one time, while others thrive at being challenged. It is not just about the number of AP classes taken, it is also about the quality of the learning and grade-point average earned.

There is the age-old question – Is it better to take the AP and get a B or take the prep class and get an A? Stanford University admissions reps will tell you the AP with the A, and that is at least partially true. For the elite schools, A’s in AP classes are de rigueur; for the selective schools, B’s in APs are better than no AP classes. Everyone agrees, however, that C’s in AP classes are not in the best interest of the student. So each student must determine his or her own work/life balance…

Receiving Merit Aid from Colleges

Many colleges offer “free” merit aid money to students they want to attract to their college. This money is not based on your family’s financial wherewithal. It is a scholarship meant to entice you to accept their offer of admission, which works because everyone likes to feel as though they are getting a special deal. Most offers are four-year scholarships, and almost all are dependent on the student keeping up a high GPA throughout those four years.

What makes a student attractive to a college?

Colleges want students that enhance their school’s profile by having high grades, test scores, strong athletic, musical, or other talents, unique and meaningful extra-curricular activities, and strong interview skills where required. Students that are engaged in meaningful extra-curricular activities usually have higher graduation rates and make the school more vibrant and exciting. Students who actually start an organization, a fund raiser, or have a leadership qualities are very attractive because this shows strong initiative, while students who do not get involved in college activities tend to have a higher attrition rate. I work with students to find unique projects to spearhead within their area of interest and to help implement them. Some examples are a student who started a peer mentoring group at her high school, another who made posters about going to college which were hung in every public high school in his county and translated into Spanish, and a student that started and ran a dance camp for children.

What do you need to do to receive this merit aid?

The beauty of this scholarship money is that at most colleges you do not need to do anything more than have an excellent application, activities list, teacher recommendations, and essay. Your competently completed application will automatically determine whether or not the school considers you a candidate worthy of merit aid. No extra essays or forms are usually requested.

Which schools offer merit aid to a significant number of students?

U.S. News and World Report has compiled this list of competitive 4-year institutions that offer merit aid to 20% or more of undergraduates. This is just the first page, click on the above link for the full list.

Colleges and Universities Offering Generous Merit Aid

School Percent of students receiving non-need based aid
Cooper Union

New York, NY

68%
Webb Institute

Glen Cove, NY

66%
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Needham, MA

51%
Rhodes College

Memphis, TN

50%
Trinity University

San Antonio, TX

47%
Samford University

Birmingham, AL

46%
New England Conservatory of Music 1

Boston, MA

46%
Denison University

Granville, OH

44%
Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, MI

43%
Birmingham-Southern College

Birmingham, AL

43%
DePauw University

Greencastle, IN

42%
University of Puget Sound

Tacoma, WA

42%
Furman University

Greenville, SC

41%
University of Tulsa

Tulsa, OK

41%
Gonzaga University

Spokane, WA

40%
Marquette University

Milwaukee, WI

40%
Westminster College

Fulton, MO

39%
Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Weatherford, OK

38%
University of Denver

Denver, CO

38%
College of Wooster

Wooster, OH

38%
Centre College

Danville, KY

38%
Millsaps College

Jackson, MS

38%
Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, GA

38%
St. Mary’s College

Notre Dame, IN

38%
Hendrix College

Conway, AR

38%

Please be aware that only a percentage of students are given this offer. Just applying without making a strong case for what you can bring to a college will make you far less likely to receive merit aid. Also this table shows the average amount of money, which means many students will receive more or less than these amounts. To be a candidate to receive this money every part of your application should be done well.