High School Juniors: It’s Time to Gather Your Application Materials for College Reply

When applying to college, you’ll need to gather all of your pertinent documents require for the application process. Along with the school’s application and depending on the program you’re applying for, you’ll want to have a resume, writing samples, letters of recommendation, portfolios, audition tapes, statement of purpose, and any other documents that the college is requesting.

College Resume

Student filling out a resume for college.

A resume for your college admissions packet is different than a work resume. For the college resume, you’ll want to include everything of note that you have already accomplished and will accomplish by the time that you graduate. Include anything from experiences that show a passion for your major to publications, awards, volunteering, jobs, extracurricular activities, sports, and hobbies. For help brainstorming and organizing a formal resume, do some research online for a good template and ask your parents and mentors for help. You want to ensure that your resume is easy to scan and shows that you’re professional enough to put the time into creating a great resume. Whatever you do, don’t just throw a resume together and expect it to be good.

Likewise for all writing samples, portfolios, audition tapes, and anything else that you’ll submit along with your application, be sure that each is formally presented. Be sure to label everything with your name, phone number, email, address, and name of your high school at the top. Admissions departments have so many applicants each year they will appreciate an organized and well-thought application.

When you send your application materials, be sure that you know that all of your documents and application actually get to where you send. This can mean that if you send it through the United States Postal Service that you request a tracking number and notice of delivery. If you send your documents digitally, follow up after a couple of days with an email to the school’s admissions department to be sure they got it. Also, if they don’t reply to your email, be sure to call them during normal business hours to ensure they received everything. It would be a good idea to call admissions if you send everything through the USPS as well after you receive a notice of delivery, just to be sure.

The most important part to the admissions process is to ensure that you have done everything properly and submitted the required documents so that your application isn’t delayed. Be sure to ask your teachers, mentors, and parents for help creating the perfect application packet.

Sophomores: Now is the Time to Visit and Tour College Campuses Reply

iStock_000004837175SmallVisiting a college campus is a great way to find out if a college is the right fit for you. With all of the variation in college campuses, student housing, and academic and student life, the only way to experience a college before actually attending is to do a campus tour. Plus, it can be fun to have a road trip with your parents or friends during a summer to hit two birds with one stone. During the summer is usually the best time for high school students, however, in order to get a true feel for how the campus will be during the school year, it might be best to visit during the Fall or Spring semester.

The first thing you need to do when planning out your on-campus visits is to choose a number of universities and state colleges that are close and far from your hometown. How many you want to visit is up to you, but it is important to at least visit the colleges on your top 5 list. Keep in mind that sometimes college tours only take a couple of hours so you can visit 2 or 3 during one day if you schedule in advance. However, some colleges also offer the chance for potential applicants to stay the night with current undergraduates. If you have the time to do this, it is highly recommended. Staying the night in a dormitory is a great way to learn firsthand from students what the college experience will be like.

After you have narrowed down the colleges you want to visit, be sure to call the school’s admissions office so that you can be sure you are visiting during an appropriate time. If you want a tour that is led by someone who knows about the campus, most require that you call at least 2 weeks in advance. However, simply going to the campus and walking around without a guide can be helpful too. Though colleges prefer that you schedule a tour, exploring the campus can often give you a more authentic experience.

If you want to get all of the information possible in one visit it is also a good idea to set up appointments with an academic advisor, financial aid office, a professor in the field you want to major in, and a coach if you are planning on doing college sports. Professionals at the school will typically be willing to meet with you during business hours to help answer your questions and show off their school to get you to attend when you graduate high school. And don’t worry, you don’t have to have everything planned out right away. You still have plenty of time to decide what you want to study and where you want to go. Plus, over 50% of students change their major at least once, so don’t feel bad about trying out different specialties until you find one that you truly enjoy.

Applying for Scholarships: Start Early and Apply Often Reply

Students studyingLocal scholarships are scholarships that various organizations in your community offer students who reside in particular place to help pay for college. Often these scholarships are offered through municipalities or prominent figures that wanted to give back to their home communities. Plus, since these are largely given out based on geographic location, it can often be easier to be awarded money for school because of the smaller applicant pool.

Even if you live in a small community, there are often plenty of scholarships available, you just might have to do more work to find them. So, before you start your junior year, you should already be asking your teachers, mentors, employers, parents, and other people in your community that might know about local scholarships that might be available. You might be surprised to find out how much money is available to eager and driven students.

Most scholarship deadlines are in January, so you should be ready by mid-year of your junior year to have scholarships already lined up for after you graduate. This might seem early, but it isn’t. Plan on carving out some time in your schedule in order to find and apply for scholarships. Preparation and due diligence are key here.

Along with asking those who are close to you about available scholarships, check with your guidance office. They will likely have a list of scholarships available. But don’t just stop there as they might not have a full list. Contact state and local agencies, community colleges and universities around your area, as well as searching online for local scholarships in your city. This is a time when picking up the phone or scheduling a meeting with someone in-the-know can greatly pay off in the long run.

10 Body Language Tips for Your College Interview Reply

Having a successful college interview means more than just saying the right things and having a great digital resume, having the right body language is extremely important too. Non-verbal cues can convey a message stronger than your actual words since they can often be unintentional yet express your true meaning. Here is a list of the 10 body language tips for your college interview.

  1. Sit firmly back in seat

Sit up straight

Sitting all the way back and firmly in your seat not only shows that you have great posture, but also that you are confident. It gives a sense that you are comfortable and relaxed and ready to tackle any tough question that might get thrown your way.

  1. Keep feet on the ground

Planted feet shows that you are secure and steady. Since your feet are planted on the ground literally, it can figuratively mean that you practice sound judgement and good common sense, which any college interviewer would look for in a prospective student. Also, it has been scientifically proven that you can respond to questions more creatively and with more complex answers with both feet on the ground.

  1. Make and maintain eye contact – but don’t stare

Maintain eye contact
Making eye contact shows that you are being direct. Maintaining eye contact shows that you are listening and engaged to your interviewer. Even without speaking, proper eye contact shows that you are an active participant in the conversation. However, while you should maintain eye contact, you should not stare. According to Forbes, this can be interpreted as aggressive and even creepy.

  1. Gesture with your hands

It can often feel awkward to hold your hands still while talking, so it’s okay to use your hands to gesture while you speak. It can show that you are passionate about what you are talking about, which would be impressive to any college interviewer. Just be cognizant of your gestures, so don’t point in an aggressive manner.

  1. Palms up means honesty

According to Mashable, putting your palms up conveys honesty and engagement and can actually make the interviewer feel more comfortable. If the interviewer is more comfortable, this can cause you to relax, as well, making for a better and stronger interview.

  1. Nod while listening

Slightly nodding while listening is a great way to send the message that you’re listening, without actually speaking and interrupting your interviewer. Nodding at key moments drives home the fact that you’re engaged. Just remember not to overdo it and nod at every single word your interviewer has to say.

  1. Lean slightly forward

Leaning forward slightly during your interview can show that you’re listening intently. It’s also reducing some of the space between you and the interviewer, which can make things more relaxed and comfortable.

  1. Don’t cross arms

Crossing your arms can seem like a defensive mood, where you can seem off-putting to your interviewer. It’s better to keep your arms at your sides to seem more relaxed and personable. You want to seem open and approachable during your interview.

  1. No hands behind back

Don’t keep your hands behind your back at any point; it can seem as if you have something to hide. Place your hands lightly in your lap while not speaking or gesture with them while talking as cues that you are engaged throughout your interview.

  1. Make sure tone and expression match

You could send mixed signals to your interviewer if you are speaking passionately, while having a deadpan expression on your face. This can signify that you don’t believe what you are saying. Therefore, make sure that both your tone and expression match to convincingly get across what you are saying is exactly what you mean and how you honestly feel.


About Vera Marie Reed

Vera Marie Reed is an ex-elementary school teacher turned freelance writer from Glendale, California. She is now a stay at home mother to her two young daughters and enjoys writing about education and parenting issues. She hopes on day to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. Follow her on Twitter at @VMReed.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

How Important Are Test Scores in College Admissions? 2

With the recent trend of more colleges going test optional, you may think that test scores have become less important in college admissions, but this isn’t exactly the case. The reality is there are many schools and many categories of students for whom test scores remain to be very important. So let’s break it down.

Why Test Scores are Still Important

Currently, there are over 850 colleges and universities in the United States that are test-optional, or “test-flexible” in some capacity, but these make up less than ⅓ of the 4-year colleges and universities in the country. SAT and ACT scores are considered by many institutions to be the most effective data points we have right now to compare students from different high schools and different parts of the country. These tests are not perfect, by any means, and they do not accurately assess many of the intelligences and skills a student might bring to a school, but, for better or worse, they are what colleges have right now to use as an equalizing factor. And so they will remain an important component in admissions at many schools, particularly large institutions. Even many schools that appear to be test-optional are not truly test-optional for all students. They may require other testing in lieu of the traditional SAT or ACT, such as AP or IB scores, or they may require scores from student athletes and students seeking scholarships even if they aren’t required in general admissions.

Test Scores are More Important at Some Schools than Others

Every higher ed institution ranks the factors it considers in admissions from “very important”, to “important”, to “considered”, to “not considered”, and you can find this information online in college profiles. For example, Yale lists test scores as “very important,” the University of Michigan lists them as “important,” and Harvard lists them as “considered.” But because this information is self-reported, you have to take it with a grain of salt (Harvard boasts some of the highest test scores in the country, after all). Test scores are also calculated into U.S. News and World Report rankings, so this puts additional pressure on schools seeking higher rankings to increase the average SAT score of their admitted students.

Still…Test Scores are Just One Factor in Admissions

Knowing how important test scores are to certain institutions can give you valuable insight into the level of scrutiny that your SAT or ACT score report might face, but it is also important to keep in mind that scores are only one factor in admissions. Most institutions consider your high school transcript and GPA to be the most important component in admissions and also consider other elements such as essays, teacher and peer recommendations, extracurricular activities, and personal obstacles. This is a good thing for students who feel that their test scores do not best represent them, but it also means that students should realize that test scores might be even more competitive at their dream schools than they realize. Say a school deems test scores a “considered” factor in admissions and releases a middle-50 percentile SAT score range of 1200 – 1450 (I’m using new SAT scores out of 1600, since that is what we will be working with from now on). You may think your 1250 makes you competitive at this school, and it might, depending on the rest of your profile. But remember that this score range is likely pulled down by some students who have been admitted for special reasons. You should always target scores in the upper half of this range, then, to consider yourself to be truly competitive. If you’re wondering how to improve your ACT score or your SAT score to move up in this range, one of the best ways to do so is to practice with all of the official tests you can get your hands on (and do so under a time limit). You can find previously given SATs and ACTs on the College Board and ACT websites as well as in the official books published by these organizations.

The moral of the story is that good test scores can only help you in college admissions. Test optional schools are a great choice for students for whom the SAT or ACT is not a good fit, but, with the state of college admissions today, good scores still stand to open up a lot more doors.


About Kristin Fracchia
As Magoosh’s resident ACT Expert, Kristin creates awesomely fun ACT lessons and practice materials for students. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

 

It’s March – Which College Should You Apply To and When? 1

So you’ve gathered a list of prospective colleges and you are ready to apply. But with applications fees stacking up creating a financial burden, which ones are the right ones to apply to?

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Girl pushing university button on search toolbar of virtual screen.

By now you should have a good list of 5 to 10 or more colleges that you are considering attending once you graduate high school. These colleges should include colleges that are a long shot, some conservative selections, as well as safety nets like local universities and community colleges. The reality is, everyone wants to go to the best college, but a lot have to go to a more conservative option due to a number of reasons, including the cost of attendance, how far the college is from family, and what the college has to offer.

Whatever the case, March of your junior year in high school is a good time to start narrowing down your list of schools. But, how do you know which school is the right school for you?

There are many factors that come into play when choosing which school you want to attend, and ultimately the decision is up to you. However, there are a few things you should keep in consideration no matter what your particular situation is, for example, the cost of attendance, what majors the school has to offer, and the geographic location of the school in terms of where you want to live and how close you want to be from home. Other things to consider are extracurricular activities, such as clubs, sports, and special programs, housing options, and last but not least, the facilities on campus, like science labs, theaters, and gyms.

Each of these things should be carefully considered when deciding where to apply to. You don’t want to end up paying for application fees to places you don’t plan to go to anyway. Some of the can be upwards of over $100 to submit your application.

Get the best information on how to choose the right college for you with Peterson’s.

Getting Ready for College as a High School Senior Reply

Student Loan

Student loans and scholarship money.

It’s crunch time for high school seniors preparing for college. For many, the end of the prior school year and the summer before senior year was spent applying for scholarships and grants  and spent September applying to colleges.. Most students will have a decision from the colleges they have applied to by April, but there are things that need to be done before then.

Finishing up scholarship applications:

High school seniors should be finishing up the application process for most of their scholarship requests. It is important to review the scholarship application deadlines as well as ensure that all requested information for each scholarship is completed correctly. Many scholarships are very competitive and incomplete or incorrectly completed applications are often not considered. Others may require essays or letters of recommendation or transcripts. It is important to take the time with each scholarship that has not already been submitted to ensure that all requirements have been accurately completed.

Even though college starts in the fall, it is not too late to continue to look for other scholarship opportunities. This may be a good time to check with local social and philanthropic organisations in within the community for further opportunities. College expenses add up quickly and any extra fund sources, even smaller scholarships, are worth the time to investigate.

Two misconceptions regarding completing the FAFSA:

It is time to complete the FAFSA application, if it has not been completed already. Some students and parents think that they must wait until after 2016 income taxes are completed. Others think that they cannot apply for financial aid until they have been accepted by a college. Neither of these are true. FAFSA applications can be completed prior to income tax returns, and can be amended once the returns are completed. If a student has applied for more than one college, information on all colleges can be included in the FAS application.

With the FAFSA application, timing is everything. Many of the grants and financial aid options offered by the FAFSA are offered on a first come, first served basis. The sooner the application is completed, the more opportunities for financial aid will be available.

Most applications to college are decided in March or April. If a student has applied for Early Decision or Early Action, then likely he or she has already received the decision. It is important to speak with admissions counselors and understand the complete admissions process. Regardless of the admissions process for the individual college, having the FAFSA completed will simplify the process.

Learn more about what seniors in high school should be doing for college applications with Peterson’s.

Juniors: Prepare and Sign up for the ACT in February 1

It can sneak up on you. Sure, you’ve thought about college in the past, but suddenly now it’s just over the horizon. One more year of high school is all there is before you pack your bags and head off to higher education. Now, in addition to your current schoolwork, homework, and extracurricular activities, you’re looking at colleges and researching scholarships. There’s so much to do!

Contemplating the ACT® test can be daunting, but it’s an important part of preparing for college. Your ACT scores will be a very important factor schools look at during the application process. If you feel overwhelmed or concerned, it’s tempting to postpone the test. After all, you could take the test as late as September of your senior year.

That may not be the wisest course. Unless you have a very specific reason to wait, it’s a good idea to start preparing and schedule your test as soon as possible. We have two great ways to help you prepare for the test: Peterson’s ACT Prep Guide and online practice tests.

Petersons ACT Prep Guide_NonDVD_FrontCover

Peterson’s ACT Prep Guide

The Peterson’s ACT Prep Guide provides detailed information on each of the five test categories, general information on the test itself, and six full-length practice tests.

The Online Prep Course provides similar information on the test but has a few more added features. You can get an initial diagnostic that will give you an idea of where you should focus your study. It also allows you to enter your testing date and even has automated essay scoring to take the guesswork out of the test.

Remember, if you do your prep work, take the test, and are not satisfied with your results, you can take the test again. Testing early gives you more of an opportunity to continue ACT prep and re-take the test than if you waited until later in your junior year to take it the first time.

If you take the test the first time, and feel that more assistance might help you get a better score on the test, these ACT preparation products are readily available to you.

There is a lot to do between now and the end for your senior year to prepare for college. The best course is to continue to make steady progress. Getting the ACT under your belt sooner will allow you to focus on your other goals. This is one you shouldn’t put off. Take the test as soon as you can!

Fill Out Your FAFSA Early to Help You Estimate Your EFC Reply

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College money

Navigating the financial aid process can be confusing and difficult, especially when trying to calculate your estimated family contribution (EFC) on your FAFSA application. Your EFC is a number that determines your eligibility to receive federal student financial aid. This number is calculated by a formula that is established by federal law, and includes your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (unemployment, Social Security, etc.), family size, and other family members who will attend college. Luckily, you don’t have to do this on your own. The US Department of Education makes a lot of great tools to help you estimate the aid you will receive.

First, if you are a high school junior scoping out colleges to attend after you graduate, you should start in January so that you can find out what the cost of attendance (COA) is for each of your prospective colleges. Depending on how much tuition and room and board is going to be, it will help you decide which colleges are worth spending time on.

So, how do you calculate your EFC? After you’ve filled out your FAFSA, this number will be available to you after the FAFSA has been fully processed. Though you are able to fill out your FAFSA between January 1st and June 30th for the same calendar year, you should file the application as soon as they are available so that you don’t miss out on any aid. You will have to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college, so it is good to get familiar with the process.

However, if you want to estimate your EFC before filling out your FAFSA, there are many free tools online to help you do that. On the Department of Education website, they have a FAFSA4caster that will give you an estimate of your eligibility for need-based and non-need based aid, including federally subsidized and unsubsidized loans and other grants to help you pay for school.

Find out what your EFC is with a free calculator.