College Guidance is a highly individualized team effort to help each student identify the college that will be the best fit for them. This involves building college lists, reviewing the requirements for potential college matches and preparing the student to meet those requirements.
The Guidance Department offers comprehensive workshops on topics such as finding the best-fit college, securing scholarships, applying for financial aid and organizing the college search process. We also offer college essay writing workshops and interview prep as well as weekly meetings for the senior class throughout the first semester to help students successfully complete their college applications.
Attend “College Night” – Each Fall, we plan an evening presentation for Junior families to discuss the college application process.
Consider taking the PSAT. SAT or ACT or none? – As many more schools become test optional (see http://www.fairtest.org), consider whether or not you should take the SAT or ACT. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss your testing plan.
Do you have a special talent? – Athletes planning to compete at the college level need to register with the NCAA during their Junior year; Art/Architecture students need to develop a portfolio during Junior year; Dance/Music/Theater students often need to schedule an audition for Senior year, but preparations may need to start now. Use the school year to work on these items, and let your guidance counselor know about these extras.
Juniors are introduced to Scoir. Create your login information and start exploring and researching colleges.
Complete a College Guidance Questionnaire sharing detailed information with your guidance counselor
Make an appointment with your guidance counselor – Consider making an appointment sometime between November and February to map out a plan and ask any questions you may have. Students and families are welcome to make an appointment together!
Visit open houses at the colleges you are considering – It may seem early, but it’s not. Many colleges consider demonstrated interest when considering an applicant and appreciate students who have taken the time to legitimately research and visit their institutions.
Think about letters of recommendation. You won’t need them this year, but how you interact with and perform for your teachers during Junior year will have an impact on the quality of your letters when you do need them (usually at the start of Senior year). Plan strategically and act accordingly. Most students will need 1 letter from their guidance counselor, and at least 2 letters from teachers they have in their Junior/Senior years.
Begin discussing college plans – While some families have already explored options, others may have yet to begin. If you are in the latter group, you can begin the discussion with some basic questions: Home or away (if away, how far?)? Large or small? Public or private? Competitive or non-competitive? Any idea what you would like to study? From there, you can begin your research of potential schools and programs.
Make a “Top Ten” list – At this early stage, begin by broadly considering schools that you might be interested in, and expect that it might change dramatically as you do your research. Your list will guide your visits and questions over the next year; update it as often as necessary. If your child has academic needs (e.g., testing accommodations) or a specialty (e.g., athletics, music, or art specialties), factor these details into your search criteria.
Learn the admissions requirements for schools – It can be helpful to make a spreadsheet, as schools have varying requirements for admission, but many of the criteria are similar. The real advantage of doing this early is that you will know whether specific exams are required (e.g., SAT/ACT, TOEFL for international students, etc.), which allows you to plan ahead and develop a timetable. Now is the time to get a feel for what the colleges want when you apply.
Develop a Timetable – It would be wise to organize a calendar for the year ahead as it relates to college admissions. There are many variables to consider (e.g., available test dates for the SAT/ACT, prep time, Subject Tests, AP exams, midterms/final exams, college visits, etc.) – it can quickly become overwhelming without an organized plan. Start now though, and it won’t be so bad! Please feel free to contact us, and we can help you develop an adequate plan for your child and make sure you have covered all the necessary bases.
Construct your Resume – Not all colleges require you to submit a resume, but it is a good thing to have. It can also help you organize your achievements and activities lists, which generally will be a part of most college applications. This will also give you an opportunity to objectively consider whether your extracurricular activities are up to par for the type of schools you will apply to, while there is still time to do something about it. Summer and Fall are great times for activities that can be added to the resume!
Make an appointment with your guidance counselor! We are here to help, and will guide you through the entire process. It is a good idea to communicate with your counselor the first week that school resumes to schedule your first appointment. Some students need more help than others with the process, but even if you don’t need much help, keep us posted on your progress so we can perform the behind-the-scenes work that we must do as counselors (e.g., uploading your transcript to the colleges). Keep us in the loop right from the start!
Attend the College Night presentation in the Fall. Early in the Fall, we will hold an evening information session for Senior Families to go over many of the steps described below, and to update you on any new information you may need to know.
Finalize your list – At this point, you should have a list of schools/programs that you plan to apply to. Most students apply to 5 or more schools, so you have some options. Applications can cost $65 or more each, so be judicious and realistic about where you apply, and make sure it fits your budget (if you have financial hardship, you may qualify for a fee waiver – inquire with your guidance counselor). Your list can include some schools that are difficult to get into (e.g., “reach” schools), but should mostly be populated with schools that fit your child’s individual profile and career objectives.
Know the admissions requirements for each school – It can be helpful to make a spreadsheet, as schools have varying requirements for admission. Know whether specific exams are required (e.g., SAT/ACT, Subject Tests, TOEFL for international students, etc.), and if so, know what scores you need on each to be considered for that school.
Know your deadlines – Regular admissions deadlines are generally in January/February; Early Action deadlines are typically November/December; Early Decision (the one where you agree to commit to a single school in advance) is typically October/November. Not everyone applies early, but you should aim to get all your applications in by December anyway, even if you are not applying early. The holidays are hectic enough!
Begin the college essay – Not all schools require one, but most do; some require more than one. Supplement essays are a very important piece of a college application. Check each school’s application so you know what you need to write about. Expect that the essay will take 6-7 drafts, so leave plenty of time – this is often the single-most important criterion that an admissions officer uses to make a final determination; it is also the item that seems to hold most students up from submitting their application!
Visit open houses at the colleges you are considering – The best decisions are based on the best information, and September through November is open house season. Given the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, this particular step may need to be altered a bit from the traditional in-person visit. As of now, most schools are providing “virtual” tours, just in case. Use the summer to find the tentative dates of in-person events, plan your fall weekends as needed, and RSVP a space at those you wish to attend, even if they are virtual.
Request and review an unofficial copy of your transcript.. Make sure there are no incomplete grades, and make sure the transcript accurately reflects the courses your child has taken, as well as the activities your child has participated in. For an activity to be listed on the transcript, the student needs to have attended/participated in at least 80% of the club/team’s organized activities, practices, etc. (This information is normally provided and verified by the moderators/coaches, but please notify us of any discrepancies).
Secure letters of recommendation (not all schools require letters of recommendation). Most students will need 1 letter from their guidance counselor, and at least 2 letters from teachers they have in their Junior/Senior years. Be sure to request from your recommenders with plenty of advanced notice, and provide that person with any information/forms they may need to fill out. Be sure to follow up with those teachers regularly until they have submitted the letter – DO NOT WAIT until the last minute to request. Please note that some teachers put caps on the number of letters they will write, so ask early!
Finish and submit your applications – Go over the college application carefully with your child. Pay attention to minor details (e.g., capitalize your name and address), answer all questions thoroughly and accurately, and remember to pay after pressing submit! Most applications have a series of hoops you have to jump through to actually submit, so you can’t “accidentally” submit the application. Ask questions of us as needed.
Get your finances in order – College is an expensive proposition, but there is help! Most schools offer merit-based scholarships for students with good grades, and financial aid is available to many applicants by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (visit FAFSA.gov). The FAFSA application is required by most schools, even if you aren’t seeking aid, so be prepared. Both the FAFSA and CSS Profile become available early October.
(After applications are submitted)
Seek additional scholarships – Your schools may offer merit scholarships and financial aid, but many additional scholarships are available through private organizations. Websites such as scholarships.com, fastweb.com, or the phone app “Scholly,” are good clearinghouses for information and applications. We also post additional scholarship opportunities to the College Guidance Classroom on Google as they arise. Check the page regularly.
Remember, rejection happens – Even the strongest applicants get rejected from schools, especially the competitive schools, so expect it. It is never easy to receive a rejection, but it is a part of life and a normal part of this process. So, it is best not to get your heart set on any one school; instead focus on several schools that you feel would fit your child’s abilities, personality, and interests. Be supportive of your child, and keep your focus on the schools that do offer a space.
Review your options, especially the financial offers – Offers of admission usually arrive from January forward (unless you apply Early Action/Early Decision), and should come with a financial aid/merit aid summary. Make sure you know the difference between grants and loans, and ask us questions if you are not sure. Think carefully about the best deal – avoid excessive debt, especially since the undergraduate degree is likely only the first degree in a professional career! You can appeal financial aid awards, and use the awards from competing schools as leverage when you appeal. Get the best deal possible before committing to a school!
Visit schools one last time, if necessary (and if possible), before finalizing your decision.
May 1st is generally “National Commitment Day” – the date you need to make a decision and leave a security deposit at your school of choice.
Gap Year considerations – some students choose to take a gap year. If this is you, carefully plan for what you will do to make the time productive. Organized programs, part-time college/work programs, and travel abroad/service programs are a few options. You can defer your acceptance to most colleges for up to one year if you choose to take a gap year. Again, speak to your guidance counselor if this is something you are considering.
CEEB Code for Bay Ridge Prep: 330348