ANSWER TO 50+ SENIOR QUESTIONS
1. How do you apply for scholarships through the common app?
You don’t. First, you apply through the college that you are applying to; many will consider you automatically for “merit based” scholarships, those that are based on academic grades, test scores, and community service. For some colleges, you will need to apply separately for merit based scholarships. There are additional scholarships through the individual colleges/schools/majors within the university. (Ex: James Madison school at MSU, or food science majors) See your college website for details.
Financial need based scholarships are based on income. These scholarships are rare at public universities and colleges for middle and upper-class students; however, private colleges are known to address financial need. Use the private college web site net calculator to determine if this is a feasible option. Some private colleges final price tag will be comparable to public universities, depending on family income and additional merit based scholarships. There are also private and local scholarships, smaller amounts of money, but nonetheless help pay for books, tuition, technology, etc. Most students will qualify for student loans, and those that are lower income will likely qualify for grants (some money that is free and does not need to be paid back). Additional state scholarships are available for those that meet financial need.
2. What are the biggest characteristics colleges look for?
First, Fit, fit, fit. Be true to yourself, and present a true picture of yourself to the college that you are applying to. This way, they can evaluate you to determine if you will be a good fit for the college. You want to be happy and comfortable on campus, you want to be able to navigate your way around a campus and city, you want to be stimulated intellectually, connect with people socially, and have opportunities to grow as a student and future professional. You need to consider its size, major areas of study, research and study abroad opportunities, student retention rate, job placement, etc. The other characteristic colleges look for are candidates who are serious in their application. Ask yourself, how serious and committed am I to this college? You will definitely be able to answer this question better when you visit the campus, check their website thoroughly, and when you have had a chance to speak with admissions representatives, professors, and present students. Also, do not be afraid to tell the college that it is your number one choice, if this is the case. If U of M is your number one choice, say so! Just tell them why it is your number one choice based on the above criteria.
3. Which essay is most important?
They are all important. The essay lets the university know if you are a good fit for them, and if they are the best fit for you. It is a mutual decision, and all colleges will tell you the questions/answers are designed for holistic evaluation. They tell me it is less about your literary analysis, unless you are going into writing or English, and more about showing them (not tell them) who you are and what you are about. Your essay definitely needs to show them your ability to think critically and learn, and shows your maturity, personality, curiosity, perseverance and goals. See Mrs. Sietz or Ms. Ray or any English teacher for assistance. We do have an honors fraternity at U of M who will assist you with evaluating your essay. See Mrs Haller for the website and any additional help.
4. How do we upload our transcript to the common app?
- Your counselor will upload your current transcript, along with the school report (Skyline profile) before the due date. Send you counselor a note if you have any early decision/action dates that need to be adhered to. This means giving them adequate time to do so. See the Senior packet for specific timelines. Always allow at least three weeks.
- Parchment.com All students need to set up a parchment account. This third party authorizes Skyline to send your final transcripts to the designated colleges you list. This is really important, so that you do not have to come back to Skyline to obtain your records. (You may need to add colleges to your parchment account should you change your mind, transfer, go onto graduate school, etc.)
5. Do we have to ask our counselor in person to write our recommendation?
I highly recommend you make this request to your counselor via email or in person for two reasons; one, it is courteous, and two, you want to make sure that they are aware that you are in need of the recommendation.
6. Is it too late to ask for letters of recommendation?
No. This depends on your application deadlines and on the teacher, staff member, coach, or employer who will be writing the letters. I prefer to do my letters over the summer, especially for those looking to apply early admission. Some teachers like this option too. Counselors do letters after scheduling. In my opinion, your latest request should allow teachers to have a minimum of three weeks to write the letter. So, it is possible you may be asking for recommendations into the early spring, especially for scholarships.
7. I know that the earliest day to submit financial aid forms is October 1, but can you start working on it before then?
You can set up your FAFSA account ID before October 1, but you will input your financial information on or after October 1. Again, I recommend you do this sooner, rather than later, because money, or lack of it, plays into your decision making process. Also, grant money and scholarships eventually run out, so the sooner your FAFSA is filled out, the better off you are to weigh your college options, and apply for other sources of funding. Last, fill out FAFSA whether you plan to receive any money or not. The form is almost always required for scholarships and even work study opportunities on campus.
8. Do you need to request teacher/counselor for each college?
No; however, your teacher may have a feeling about a “best fit” for you, in which case you will want them to state that case in their letter. This is a “specific college” letter request that can be effective, but it is not common practice. You should only consider this option if you have a very close relationship with the teacher, and if they are in a position to make that kind of assessment with you.
9. What is the latest time you want to submit your application for the November 1 deadline?
I’d personally like to see you have your application done, essays completed and proofed, requests made from parchment and counselor, and College Board/ACT by October 15. That gives you 2 weeks to confirm your letters of rec and counselor report is in by November 1.
10. How do I get a transcript sent?
Set up an account through Parchment.com. List the colleges you want your transcript sent to. You will not be officially admitted until you do so.
11. Did my online course replace the score I got in school?
Yes, the grade is adjusted; however, the first grade will still show up on your transcript. In other words, the college will see both grades. This is a perfect example to share about overcoming adversity and mastering academic content. However; this doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a good idea to check with your counselor to verify if the initial grade has been excluded.
12. About when will I know if I get in or not?
This depends on the size and selectivity of the college you are applying to. Some colleges will let you know within 3 weeks, while others will take several months. The average time frame falls within 8-10 weeks for U of M. Some colleges will defer their decision, which means you are still in the running. They may require higher test scores, future trimester grades, or they may just be waiting on other students decisions.
13. Should I visit a college before or after I apply?
It is best if you can visit the campus before applying, because this will provide you with the specific reasons why you want to attend there. If you haven’t visited, you won’t know if it is the best fit for you. If you find yourself in a time-crunch, and/or early admission is required to increase your chances of being accepted, then go ahead and apply, with the intent of visiting.
14. If there is an optional essay, should I still write it?
You should always give the admissions department ample opportunity to get to know you. An optional essay is another opportunity for you to sell yourself to the college. It also shows perseverance and stamina- skills needed for college success. Keep in mind this is only effective if you have something worthy and new to share. If the prompt is non-applicable, or if you have already covered the prompt elsewhere, skip it.
15. How and when do you do FAFSA?
FAFSA opens for the Fall 2018-2019 college year on October 1st, 2017. Skyline will provide guidance and computers in the Cube for ALL students and parents who need assistance filling out this important document. You will also need your parents financial information, including their income taxes from tax year 2015, so I recommend you fill this form out together with your parents. Even if you think you will not qualify for grants, you will need this form filled out to receive merit-based scholarships, additional financial need scholarships and to qualify for campus job opportunities and student loans. You can even fill-out the free FAFSA prior to applying to colleges.
16. Are there scholarships offered by organizations outside a university?
Yes, but they are generally smaller in cash value; however, the funds can help pay for books, technology, a portion of tuition…every little bit helps. Typically, local scholarships range from $250- $2000, and many of these will be posted in the Cube as they become available. You should also check with your parent’s bank, insurance company, employer, church, and civic organizations. State scholarships and grants are available to students with financial need too. Last, check the search engines listed in the Senior Packet. There are many scholarships out there; you just need to find the one’s that apply to you.
17. What happens if you delete a recommender because you no longer want their recommendation?
Just let the recommender know that their recommendation is no longer necessary- that you have enough. It’s one less letter they have to write, and you certainly don’t want them writing the letter unnecessarily. On the other hand, especially if they have already written the letter, consider using this additional letter for scholarships, internships, jobs, etc.
18. When should you provide thank-you notes to recommenders?
Like other courtesies, you should send or give the thank you note as soon as possible, once they have completed the task and sent in the recommendation. The longer you wait, the harder it is to motivate yourself and remember to do it. The note will also have greater impact if it is given in a timely fashion.
19. How do you gently, but assertively, remind recommenders to upload your letters?
The answer varies based on the recommender; however, there are some universally respectful ways to inquire. First, be honest. Let them know you are anxious/excited about getting your app together, and you just want to inquire if they will have the time to write it. Sometimes it is to your advantage to seek a more enthusiastic party to get it done. Second, offer a resume or data sheet that highlights your accomplishments and/or characteristics. This provides them with information and a framework to write the letter.
20. If I submit my application earlier than November 1, will I get into college earlier than December 24?
This depends on the college as well as your qualifications. It is not unusual to receive a reply within 8 weeks. Most students will know early decision outcomes by mid January.
21. If my school isn’t on the common app, how should I get my letter of rec sent in?
You will need to check your college admissions website for the specific details. If this is not listed on the website, you will want to call or email the admissions office to make sure you do it according to their exact specifications. Following directions speaks volumes to the admissions committee.
22. If I plan on dropping a class that I have already put on the app, what happens?
There is a possibility that they will want to see your first or second trimester grades, and of course, they will require your final transcript. Colleges understand schedules change, so this shouldn’t be a problem. The key is to make sure your schedule doesn’t change dramatically, in comparison to what you shared with them. Transparency is important. Discuss the specifics with your counselor or myself.
23. Scholarship opportunities? Any specific to ADHD?
See # 16. Yes, check with ADHD organizations such as C.H.A.D. and pharma companies that you are familiar with. If you have a 504 plan or IEP, you may want to look for “learning differently” type of scholarships. These may or may not fall under learning disabilities.
24. What do I write about my extra curriculars? How long? Focused on what?
The application will most likely provide you with the prompts to answer those questions. A few keys I like to point out: 1) Do not use acronyms. Spell out the organizations, sports leagues and club names and what they are about, if necessary 2) Point out any leadership roles, specific awards, and the actual activity you participate in. Do not assume the admissions person is familiar with the organization. 3) Give length of service (years) and amount of time you put into the activity. 4.) If you work, say so. This is considered an extracurricular on some apps. Make sure you include your work experience on your app in the designated area or use this section if a designated area isn’t available.
25. Do I report all my senior year classes even if I’m going to switch out of some?
Yes, report what our Powerschool documentation supports. But, be prepared to understand the college makes its decision based on the information you sent, and ultimately from the final transcript. You will need to inform the college if you are dropping any core subject classes. See your counselor for details.
26. Where do I talk about NMSC?
If there isn’t a designated area on the app, definitely include it in the final open-ended question that asks for any other information that may be helpful in evaluating you. Simply list the award “National Merit …” Also, check with nationalmerit.org. for additional details.
27. Should I go to the Cube to discuss my application?
Yes, if you want to. We can clarify if you answered questions correctly. It’s no different than preparing and proofreading any other important document you submit.
28. What GPA do colleges care about? Fully weighted? Unweighted?
Colleges will carefully evaluate and scrutinize the GPA, regardless if weighted or not. We weigh our GPA on a 4.0 scale. In addition, colleges will spend more time looking at the type of courses you took (core, AC and AP’s, magnet), the challenge level of courses you took, the variety, and your special elective interests. You will not be penalized for challenging yourself academically, but you can be penalized for not taking enough challenging courses, especially if it is done to boost GPA. Colleges aren’t fooled.
29. Should you have letters of rec from certain teachers according to school/college?
Your letters should first come from teachers who are familiar with you, your learning style, ability to collaborate, and your quality of work. It is recommended that at least one recommendation come from a core subject teacher. Magnet teachers are ideal if you are pursuing that specific area of study.
30. If your Common App essay is strong, how important is the supplemental?
31. aaps.k12.mi.us or a2schools.org?
There is not supposed to be a difference, but aaps is preferred. The key is to make sure your recommender knows which account to check.
32. What are schools looking for when they ask your favorite website?
Something that can showcase your personality, interests, AND how intelligent you are.
33. One college asks for a favorite quote. However, “elaborate on a favorite quote” is also one of the prompts I can choose for the supplement. Same quote?
This is a matter of preference. Note that some quotes are more self-explanatory than others, while you may be able to elaborate more on others. Explain how you relate to or live by the specific quote(s).
34. I’m taking an online AP Physics class, but I can’t register for 2nd semester until January. How do I make it clear I’m not just dropping AP Physics?
This should not have an effect on classes listed. There should be a place on the common app to clarify if needed.
35. If you are applying Early Decision to one school and Early Action to another, do you submit applications at the same time?
I personally encourage EARLY, EARLY, EARLY so that you know where you stand, even if it means being deferred. Deferred at least holds a potential spot for a period of time, and gives you time to make necessary adjustments. As much as denials hurt, at least you know where you stand. Most importantly, make sure you understand the commitment you are making.
36. I have some bad grades from 9th grade. In Skyline, my grades are as pass/fail. Is it imperative I obtain my 9th grade transcript or can I just use the pass or fail of my Skyline transcript?
They will require all transcripts. Many, if not all colleges, will be more concerned with progression of grades and/or increased rigor of classes. In fact, some colleges now look closest at the senior schedule and grades.
37. How do you add recommendation letters from outside of Common App to your application?
It should ask for name and email address of teacher. Otherwise, provide a stamped and addressed envelope to your teacher.
38. How does it work when applying to schools with both Common App and outside requirements (i.e. UofM)?
39. What are the actual deadlines? Early? Late?
40. If you are doing non-Common App, letters of rec.?
41. Late testing and early applications means sending in scores blind?
42. Is it advisable to apply early action?
43. If you decide to retake the SAT or ACT, will the colleges get it in time?
44. How do teachers submit letters of rec.?
Add their name and email address in the appropriate place and they will be contacted.
45. If I am retaking the SAT, what do I fill in for my info? Only the older ones?
46. I have 150 words to explain why I want to attend – what’s important to include?
Highlight one element of you and one, specific element of the college.
47.Is there some database which tells me which schools allow me to defer my attendance (so I can take a gap year)?
48. Free hour vs. easy class?
Class that is somehow connected to your interests… could be “easier,” but not a random class.
49. Quality of high school vs. GPA?
50. Will a college stop looking at your application if your test scores are not in their range?
51. Letters of rec. – different departments?
Core, or connected to your desired degree.
52. If my recs are all offline, then do I need to submit my essays, and other information, as paper copies as well?
53. Where do I find test scores to send them by mail?
54. Is it bad that I’m applying to 25 schools?
55. My Common App essay is done, but now I have to shorten it to 250 words for M.S.U. – S.O.S.!
Have a new pair of eyes look at your essay. Ask them what could be omitted. If it still feels choppy, it might be best to start anew.
56. How do I find out if my AP credit transfers?
57. Is it ok to send transcript through Parchment before you send in your application?
58. If you get accepted early decision to a school, how do you revoke your applications to other schools?
59. If you get accepted early decision and they don’t give you enough financial aid to meet your needs, is it still binding?
60. My plan is to go to WCC then transfer. Should I start looking at what colleges I want to transfer to? Should I apply to more colleges than just WCC?
Start now. Why not gather all that you need when you have support?
Apply to where you see yourself in terms of a dream school, a safe school, and a fall-back school.
61, On the Common App concerning letters of rec., do I “withhold rights…”?
62. What is early acceptance and should I do it? If so, when is the deadline?
63. What should I wear in college audition videos? Should my focus be range or style?
64. How dumb is it to double/triple major? Does it cost more?
“Dumb,” not so much. However, this is something that you might change your mind about the minute you step foot on campus. You have time to decide.
65. How do you handle the stress?
Ask for help. Give yourself many deadlines. Treat yourself to pizza.
66. How do I decide which test scores to send (subject tests or not)?
67. For a “why this major” essay, should I also include information about the school?
Perhaps what this school has to offer within the major.
68. Should a 100 word limit essay also include a story?
It will make it more memorable.
69. Is Parchment free?
70. Does visiting a college really make it easier for you to get in?
71. Should you list all 10 activities or only your most passionate ones?
72. When should I worry about sending test scores?
73. Should I emphasize in my essay myself or a good story?
74. How do I know when my application is ready?
75. Is it ok to write two of my essays on a similar topic?
Different topics to highlight you as a well-rounded and unique individual.
76. Can I still apply early even if the school doesn’t have early admission?
77. I need help with applying internationally and/or gap year.
78. Do additional letters of rec. beyond what is asked for really help?
Don’t bother teachers if you don’t need to.
79. Is there a competitive advantage of applying via early decision or early admission?
80. How many letters of rec. do I need?
It should list on the Common App.
81. How do I enter in the info. On the Common App for the teachers I’m getting recommendations from?
82. How recent of a transcript do I need to send in?
83. What do I put down on the common app for “class rank’?
You will put NA for non-applicable. We have so many brilliant Skyline students, we cannot possibly rank them. 🙂