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College Applications 101. The Who, What, When, Where & HOW of College Admissions. Jeffrey Wright Hill – Houston, TX Program Overview. Admissions Lingo.

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college applications 101
College Applications 101

The Who, What, When, Where &HOWof College Admissions

Jeffrey Wright Hill –

Houston, TX

admissions lingo
Admissions Lingo
  • EA/Early Action-Non-binding accelerated application process. Typically applications due in November. At many colleges, the acceptance rates are higher for early action than for regular admission. Generally, students receive a decision before the new year.
  • ED/Early Decision- Same as EA, but Binding election. Good for students who are SURE of their first choice school and expect no substantive changes to their applications in their senior year.
  • Rolling Admissions
  • Yield- # of students enrolling at a college/ # of students Accepted
  • Rankings
  • Holistic Review vs. Statistical Analysis

Deadlines – Respect them! The Deadline date represents the date by which a school should have received ALL required information (application, test scores, transcripts, etc.)

  • Acceptance Rate
  • Percentiles (for standardized tests) – Range represents the mid-range of students enrolled.

e.g., Hypothetical U.

(SAT Critical Reading: 500 / 610; SAT Math: 520 / 620)

For Hypo U., 25% of enrolled students received a math score of 520 or lower. The upper number is for the 75th percentile of students who enrolled in the college. For the above example, 75% of enrolled students got a math score of 620 or lower (looked at another way, 25% of students got above a 620).

who when
Who & When ?

Every Level: take the most challenging curriculum for which you are qualified

Junior yr.


Prepare for the PSAT in October

Work on a list of colleges that suit the goals of the student prior to any College Fairs. Visit with reps from those schools of interest. Begin to plan campus visits.

Take practice SAT & ACT tests. Determine which is more comfortable and focus on prep for that test.

Register for February or April ACT/March SAT.

Register for any AP tests.

Assess the need for any SAT II tests.

Begin to make plans for summer activities to ensure a balanced resume/applications.


Junior Year (cont’d)


Meet with your counselor at high school to ensure that you know the appropriate process to get transcripts, teacher and counselor recommendations and any other required school forms for your college applications. Make sure that your counselor knows that you plan to get your applications in early!

Firm up the list of colleges that you plan to visit.

Consider using Spring Break to visit colleges. Plan for additional summer college visits.

Continue to prep for SAT/ACT and take the exam.

Firm up summer job plans and volunteer activities.

Determine which 2 teachers from your junior (or soph) year you will ask for college recommendations and speak with them about your request.


Summer (between jr. and sr. years):

Draft 2-3 general college essays that should fit most applications, including an “Additional Information About Me” essay. (GOAL for this task: As soon as school is out!)

Draft an Expanded Resume. This information will be used on the Common Application, as well.

Determine whether it will be necessary to take a standardized test an additional time in the fall. If so, register now & begin prep.

Work experience and/or volunteer experience as planned.

Continue to visit colleges. If interviews are required by any out of state colleges try to arrange for those while you are visiting the campus.

Finalize a list of all schools to which the student will apply including all deadline dates, required items for application and create tickler system to ensure that all deadlines are met and items submitted at least 30 days in advance of due date for Regular Application and 14 days in advance for Early Applications.

Work on Common Application and specific school supplements as they become available, generally after August 1st.


Senior Year


If needed, prep for additional standardized testing (ACT/SAT) in the early fall. Take tests, including SAT II/Subject tests.

Make any additional campus visits. Follow up with handwritten thank you notes.

Meet with any college reps that visit your campus. Be prepared with specific questions re: that school.

Determine if the student has a clear-cut first choice college and, if so, does that college offer Early Decision? Weigh the benefits of that option and make those deadlines the priority, if applicable.

Determine whether any Alumni letters of recommendation are helpful for schools to which the student is applying and help arrange for those.


Ensure that Mid-year Reports are sent by the high school.

Early Action and Rolling Admission decisions will begin to arrive.


summer enrichment program vs summer job
Summer Enrichment Program vs.Summer job
  • College-sponsored, selective academic enrichment programs are growing in popularity.
  • If applying to highly selective colleges consider an academic program
  • Otherwise, colleges like paying summer jobs that the student sought out (not a cushy, unpaid summer internship with parents’ pal.)
standardized testing
Standardized Testing

Test months in italics indicate that Question & Answer Service (SAT) & TIR Service (ACT) are available.


If struggle with Standardized Testing, consider Test Optional schools (

  • Utilize free sample tests on College Board, Kaplan, Princeton Review, other test prep sites.
  • Gather info!
    • -
    • -
    • Local college fairs - Open Houses
    • Campus visits
where cont d
Where? (cont’d)
  • Common Application - Member schools checklist contains due dates, testing requirements
  • - DVD tours of schools
goals for applications
GOALS for applications

Total of 8-10 schools/applications to be distributed as:

  • 2-3 Likely - Student has a 90% or better chance of being admitted. There needs to be at least one school on this list that the family can afford with no financial assistance.
  • 3-4 Target/Match- Student has a 30-60% chance of being admitted.
  • 2-3 Reach – Any school with an acceptance rate of <15% is considered a Reach school for every student. In addition, any school that a student has a <30% chance of being admitted is considered a Reach school for that student.
what do i want to be when i grow up
What do I want to be when I grow up?
  • Do your research BEFORE designating a choice of major on application
  • Some schools admit by planned course of study
  • If so, analyze acceptance data to ensure greatest chance of admission



PLUS: Any additional school-specific Supplements

what you will need
What you will need:
  • Application-including short answer and essays
  • Application Supplements-if any
  • Test scores
  • Official transcript
  • Resume-expanded
  • School forms – counselor recommendation
  • Teacher Recs/Letters of Rec.


  • Colleges spend an average of 2 minutes reading each essay
  • Must capture the reader immediately
  • Need a “hook” in the first paragraph
  • Use the essay prompt as an Icebreaker or Conversation Starter
  • SHOW, don’t TELL
  • Respect the word limits!

Essay is All About YOU!!

ApplyTexas Prompts:

  • Individual of Impact
  • Issue of Importance
  • Additional Information

Do not restate your resume in the essay

  • Do not over edit essays
  • Should be the student’s voice—NOT the parent’s
  • Recommended “how to” book: Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps: Crafting a Winning Personal Statement by Alan Gelb
supplemental essays
Supplemental Essays
  • Generally in the form of “why X College”. Although schools are getting more creative.
  • NOT one size fits all
  • Make specific to the school
  • Use Admissions Info session/Open House “scoop”
  • Let the school know that you have done your research
overall goal
Overall Goal

If the admissions decision comes down to you vs. one other person we want them to choose…


Focus all efforts on making your app that much better, that much more interesting, and you that much more likeable.

When they finish reading your essay they should want to come meet you & convince you to come to their school.

expanded resume
Expanded Resume
  • Explain all activities fully
  • How selective were the activities?
  • Why is it significant/meaningful to you?

Letters of Recommendation

  • Submit only if truly add to your app. Writer should be able to make personal observations as to applicant’s character, work ethic, obstacles overcome.


  • Athletes- Register with the NCAA  Eligibility Center

amchs counseling office
AMCHS Counseling Office
  • Transcripts
    • $2 each
    • need 48 hours notice
    • can be mailed directly to college or student can pick up

Counseling Help:

sign up to see your counselor for help with recommendation letters, forms that need counselor signature, help with college search, etc

web resources
Web Resources
  • - SAT Prep
  • - admission statistics
  • research colleges
  •– career/college exploration
    • username = student ID
    • Password = birthdate (mmddyyyy)