Nuts and bolts of the college application process
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NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS. WHERE TO BEGIN?. Self evaluation: Why do you want to go to college? What are your areas of interest? What do you have a passion for learning about? What stimulates you intellectually? What kind of environment would you like?

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Nuts and bolts of the college application process


Where to begin

  • Self evaluation:

    • Why do you want to go to college?

    • What are your areas of interest?

    • What do you have a passion for learning about?

    • What stimulates you intellectually?

    • What kind of environment would you like?

    • How well do you respond to academic pressure?

    • How best do you learn?

Self evaluation part 2
Self Evaluation – Part 2

  • How far away from home do you want to go?

  • How large or small of a school do you want?

  • Do you want to be near a city or away from a city?

  • Do you want a diverse student body?

  • Do you want a community spirit?

  • Do you want a religious affiliation?

  • What kind of activities would you like?

What colleges look for
What colleges look for:

  • Academic rigor in high school

  • Grades/rank in class

  • Test scores

  • Special talent (especially if you have something they are looking for)

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Honors and Awards

  • Evidence of intellectual curiosity

What colleges may look for but less important
What colleges may look for but less important:

  • Geography

  • Legacy (siblings and/or parents)

  • Demonstrated interest

  • Major (can work for you but can also work against you)

  • First generation student

Things you will be asked for
Things you will be asked for:

  • Application

  • Essay – and maybe a supplemental essay or two

  • Recommendations – usually two teachers and one counselor

  • Transcript

  • Test scores

  • Sometimes an interview

  • Certain programs – a portfolio


  • Value of PSAT and/or PLAN

  • SAT – Critical reasoning/Math/Writing

  • ACT -English/math/science/reading/writing

  • SAT Subject Tests – subject specific in English/Science/Math/Foreign Language/History/Social Studies

  • AP/IB scores

When to test
When to test

  • ACT – will be given in April at your high school

  • SAT – May want to take in March or May or June

  • SAT Subject tests – take them as soon as you finish the class, especially if you are taking the AP or IB exams in May

  • Look at first scores – do you feel the accurately represent you?

What to do next
What to do next

  • If you don’t feel that they represent you, you can take a summer study course or if you are good at self study, there are books you can use – especially those that have old tests in them.

  • There are on-line study guides and questions.

  • Retake either the SAT or ACT again in the fall of your senior year, or you can retake both.


  • State colleges and universities:

    • Usually have their own application

    • May or may not have an essay

    • Usually do not ask for recommendations

  • Private colleges and universities:

    • Most use the Common Application

    • Will have an essay or two or maybe three

    • Will ask for recommendations

The common application
The Common Application

  • You will be the first class to use the “new” Common Application. I have not seen a prototype yet. Two new things: there will be new essay questions and the old “Topic of your Choice” will not be there. The electronic system is set up to cut you off at 500 words, so you will no longer be able to “fudge” a little on word count. The new essay topics are to be released this spring – the Common Application itself is usually available August 1st.

Admission options
Admission options:

  • Regular Decision

  • Rolling Admission

  • Early Action (EA)

  • Early Decision (ED)

  • Restrictive Early Action (REA)


  • Print materials:

    • Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges

    • The College Board Book of Majors

    • Fiske Guide to Colleges

    • The College Finder – Steven Antonoff

    • Colleges That Change Lives – Loren Pope

    • K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities – Kravets and Wax

    • Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges

Web sites
Web Sites










Other research options
Other research options

  • Campus visits

    • Informal

    • Planned

    • Keep notes and take pictures of each visit

  • College representatives’ visit to high school

  • College fairs

    • Spring College Fair at the University of Portland – Sunday, April 21st , noon to 3 p.m.

    • Colleges That Change Lives – Sunday, July 28th– usually held at the Oregon Convention Center at 6 p.m.

    • Gap Year Fair – Lincoln High School – Thursday, January 31st at 6 p.m.

Financial aid
Financial Aid

  • Students and parents need to have a sit-down conversation about what is possible and what is not possible. There will be a District Financial Aid Night, usually in November, where an expert will walk you through the process and the FAFSA. You cannot submit the FAFSA until January 1st of the student’s senior year but then you will want to send it in as soon as you can after that date.


  • There are many search engines for finding scholarships but I think the best source is your own high school. Your high school will have information about LOCAL scholarships. If you use the search engines for national scholarships it can be overwhelming. Look for local scholarships from your school, your place of work, your Credit Union, your church, local organizations like the Elk’s Club and the Rotary. Find out where your high school posts local scholarship information.

Important last minute thoughts
Important last minute thoughts

  • Make a spread sheet of the colleges you will be applying to:

    • Name of school

    • Deadline for application

    • Testing required

    • Recommendations required (who are you going to ask?)

    • Essay required (how many?)

    • Interview required?

    • Application fee?

    • Date you send your application – keep copies of EVERYTHING!