College Planning Guide
Selecting and applying to college is one of the most important and impactful steps taken in a young person’s life. Where a person chooses to attend college will affect where that person chooses to live and work in the years to follow. It is a decision that should be made by the family based on as much information as possible. The Student Services staff at Juan Diego has much of this information on hand. Juan Diego is committed to supporting and assisting students in this process. We can help a student make informed decisions about the future. This guide was designed to assist in that process from the moment a student walks through our doors.
In Part I: Academic Requirements, you will find brief explanations of the many terms you need to know in order to guide and advise your son or daughter.
Colleges will use some, if not all, of the information listed below when determining admission for a student. Individual colleges differ in how they evaluate the information (e.g. one college may place more importance on test scores than another).
- Grade Point Average (GPA)
- Class Standing (vs. Class Rank) in Relationship to Peers
- Strength of Subjects
- ACT and/or SAT Scores
- Faculty and Administration Recommendations
- Activities/Awards and Community Service
- Personal Essays
Grade Point Average
Although individual colleges use their own criteria when evaluating prospective students, virtually all colleges consider a student’s GPA combined with the level of difficulty of high school courses to be the most important criteria for college admission. GPA is the average of a student’s semester grades, starting with his/her freshman year. Juan Diego applies a 4.0 scale where an A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, D=1.0, and F=0. Since college applications are generally completed during the fall of the senior year, the GPA at the end of the junior year is very important.
Class Standing in Relationship to Peers
Juan Diego applies class standing to show where a student stands academically in relation to the other members of his/her graduating class. Class standing is often followed by the total number of students in the class (e.g. Top 10%/135). It is necessary to have a high GPA in order to have an impressive class standing. In an effort to keep students learning-oriented rather than grade-oriented, Juan Diego does not report a specific class rank. Instead, class standing is reported in terms of the decile in which the student falls (e.g. the top 10%, 20%, 30%, and so on). A GPA breakdown of each decile is reported on our high school profile (a copy is sent with each student transcript), so a college or university can see where that student stands in relation to his/her peers.
A transcript is a document that details a student’s academic achievement in high school. Although the appearance of the high school transcript varies from school to school, Juan Diego’s transcripts will contain the following information:
- Courses, grades, and credits for each grade level completed, beginning with 9th grade.
- Current cumulative GPA.
- Standardized college entrance and placement exam scores including ACT, SAT I, SAT II, and Advanced Placement (AP) scores. Written permission from the student and parent—if the student is under 18—to release these scores is required.
- Anticipated graduation year.
Almost all college and most scholarship applications will request a transcript to be submitted at the time of application. The transcript provides the college admission and scholarship committees with important objective data.
Usually, applications will request an official transcript be forwarded. This means the transcript must include a signature and stamp or school seal of authenticity. An unofficial transcript is exactly the same as an official transcript minus the signature and seal or stamp. Official transcripts cannot be given to a student or parent unless the college or scholarship program states it is permissible to do so.
To request an official transcript be sent, a student needs to complete a Transcript Request Form, which can be obtained through Student Services. A $3.00 charge for each transcript requested must accompany the request. It is reasonable to allow five working days for a transcript to be sent.
College Recommended Courses
Four-year colleges recommend students complete certain college preparatory courses while enrolled in high school. These generally include:
- 4 years of English
- 3 years of Math (including Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II at minimum)
- 3 years of Science (including 2 of these 3: Biology, Chemistry, or Physics)
- 2 years of the same Foreign Language
- 3 years of Social Studies
- 1 year of Fine Arts
Students who do not have these courses may be required to take remedial and/or additional courses prior to or once they enter college.
College-bound students should try to complete all of the above-recommended courses. Some of the more competitive schools and/or programs consider the above as “bare minimum requirements.” Students should take as many college preparatory classes as they can handle that will fit into their four-year high school career.
ASPIRE (Practice Test for the ACT): This is a summative assessment linked to ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and other sets of standard state requirements. The test covers the following five content areas: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Direct Writing. The ASPIRE is given to all 10th grade students in April at Juan Diego. Visit ACT.org for more information.
PSAT/NMSQT – Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (Practice Test for the SAT): This test is also used to determine National Merit Scholarship Competition semi-finalists. The PSAT/NMSQT is given each October to all juniors (and select sophomores) at Juan Diego. Visit CollegeBoard.com for more information.
SAT I (College entrance examination): Generally taken during the junior and/or senior year. Students receive a Critical Reading, Writing, and Math score. Each of these scores are combined to form a total score. Visit CollegeBoard.com for more information.
SAT II (College Entrance Examination): This test measures a student’s knowledge of specific subjects and his/her ability to apply that knowledge. These tests are required by some colleges, particularly the University of California, and many highly competitive colleges. It is best to take these at the end of junior year when subject information is still fresh. Visit CollegeBoard.com for more information.
ACT (College Entrance Examination): Generally taken during the junior and/or senior year, students receive scores in English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning, as well as a Composite score. An ACT with Essay is also an option for students. Visit ACT.org for more information.
Students who know what they want to major in should choose their high school courses accordingly. A large number of students go to college without having decided upon a major. Undecided students use their first two years of college to fulfill their general education requirements and explore their interests to determine their major later in their academic career.
Students will find most colleges have a broad range of majors from which they can choose. The following is a list of popular college majors:
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- Art Education
- Art History
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Computer Science
- Computer Science Engineering
- Criminal Justice
- Electrical Engineering
- Elementary Education
- Environmental Studies
- Fine Arts
- Home Economics
- Information Science
- International Relations
- Management Information Systems
- Mechanical Engineering
- Music Education
- Music Performance
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Education
- Physical Therapy
- Political Science
- Pre-Law (concentration)
- Pre-Med (concentration)
- Public Relations
- Secondary Education
- Social Work
- Special Education
- Speech Pathology
- Urban Studies
- Wildlife Management
Before an athlete can play a sport or receive an athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division I or II college, he/she must meet specific academic criteria as set forth by the NCAA. A student must have at least a 2.0 GPA (based on a 4.0 scale) in 16 core courses (Div II/ 14 for Div I). A student must also achieve a minimum composite ACT score of 18 or an SAT score of 820. To be eligible at a Division I school the student with a minimum test score will need a higher GPA.
Students must take specific courses in order to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. These include a certain number of college preparatory English, Science, Social Science, and Math courses, with at least one year of Algebra and one year of Geometry. Because the NCAA has such specific requirements, and because these requirements can be confusing, it is very important for athletes to meet with their college coordinator to obtain information on all NCAA requirements. Athletes should take the ACT and/or SAT no later than the spring of their junior year. This allows time to retake the test if necessary. In order to initiate the eligibility process, athletes also need to complete an NCAA Eligibility Center Release Form. The form can be submitted only upon completion of their junior year. Forms and information are available in Student Services or NCAA Eligibility Center.
Two-Year Colleges, Career, and Technical Schools
A four-year college education is not for everyone. Students can better prepare for some career fields in two-year colleges. Career or technical schools are also a viable option for students who do not wish to attend a four-year college. Students can also begin at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year college. Most two-year colleges and career or technical schools do not require students to take the SAT or ACT, nor do they require applicants to have followed a college-prep program in high school.
If a student prefers career-related courses and/or a more hands-on approach to learning, a two-year college is a great post-secondary option. These schools are also a good option for students who prefer or need an environment with smaller classes (compared to larger classes in public universities) and less pressure. Resources for exploring two-year schools can be found in Student Services.
In Part II: Grade Level Guide, you will find the information needed to guide the student at each grade level.
In freshman year, everything starts to “count.” Freshman grades are used in determining GPA, and freshman activities, honors, and awards can be listed on college and scholarship applications. Freshman courses, grades, and credits will all become part of the student’s transcript. Parents and students should do the following:
1. Monitor academic progress. Parents see all quarterly reports and semester report cards. Parents, do not assume someone will contact you if there is a problem. Provide encouragement and support, making certain your son/daughter understands freshman grades are important.
2. Encourage your son/daughter to become involved in a wide variety of activities. In addition to activities, many colleges and scholarship applications ask for evidence of leadership. If your son/daughter has leadership potential, encourage him/her to develop leadership skills by becoming a class officer, captain of a team, editor of the yearbook or school newspaper, etc. Their depth of involvement in any activity is also important because it shows focus and commitment. Furthermore, encourage involvement in activities outside of school (church, scouting, recreation sports, etc.). Volunteer work or community service is particularly impressive on a college or scholarship application.
TIP: Sometime during your student’s freshman year, start keeping a file with lists and information on school activities, honors, awards, leadership positions, employment, volunteer work, community activities, etc.
3. Help plan meaningful summer activities for your son/daughter. Often the more traditional summer activities can be very worthwhile (participating in athletics, summer school, employment, volunteer work, reading, etc.). Many colleges also offer excellent summer programs.
4. Parents, if you have not yet done so, start a college savings account.
The sophomore year should be a year of personal growth. In addition to working hard in school and being involved in activities, sophomores should be identifying personal abilities, aptitudes, and interests, as well as looking for ways to further develop their talents and skills.
1. Continue to monitor academic progress.
2. Continue to encourage involvement in activities and to develop leadership skills.
3. The PLAN (Pre-ACT Test) will be administered to your son/daughter during October of their sophomore year. The PLAN measures the same academic skills as the ACT. In addition to an “estimated ACT composite score range,” information regarding your son/daughter’s interests and an assessment of his/her study skills is given.
4. Begin to explore and discuss college options. Gather information, attend college fairs, and make informal visits to colleges. Discuss your son/daughter’s aptitudes, interests, and abilities with him/her and begin to view these in terms of possible college majors and career options.
5. Help your son/daughter choose meaningful summer activities.
6. Update their activities and awards file at the end of the year.
7. Continue to put money into their college savings account.
Junior year is when students should seriously begin examining their post-secondary options, take college tests, make college visits, and start searching for scholarships.
1. Continue to monitor academic progress. Since college applications are completed during the fall of a student’s senior year, the final grades on the transcript are from their junior year.
2. Continue to encourage your son/daughter to be involved in activities and to develop leadership skills.
3. Make certain your son/daughter takes the PSAT/NMSQT in October. The PSAT/NMSQT is a national test administered by Juan Diego in October each year. College-bound juniors should take the PSAT/NMSQT for several reasons:
- It is good practice for the SAT and gives students an idea of how they will score on the SAT.
- Students can see how their academic skills compare to those of college-bound students across the country.
- Students with exceptionally high scores are recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. This recognition can lead to scholarships.
When a student registers for the PSAT/NMSQT, he/she is given a Student Bulletin containing valuable test-taking tips and a practice test. Encourage your son/daughter to read the Student Bulletin and to take the practice test.
The results of the PSAT/NMSQT are available in late December or early January. Students receive a Critical Reading, Math, and Writing score, with each score ranging between 20 and 80. The average for each section is approximately 49. For National Merit purposes, the three scores are added together to determine the Selection Index. Students with a Selection Index in the top five percent nationally will be recognized by National Merit. Students with Selection Index scores in the upper one-half of one percent become National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists.
TIP: The PSAT/NMSQT test penalizes students for getting wrong answers by subtracting a fraction of a point for every incorrect response. If a student does not know the correct response he/she should leave the answer blank. If a student can eliminate one or more answers, he/she should make an educated guess.
4. Talk to your son/daughter about college options. There are over 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. As you start looking at schools, consider the following:
- Location of the college or university.
- Size of the college or university.
- Cost of the college or university.
- Available majors.
- Reputation of the school and its programs.
- School’s facilities.
- Competitiveness of programs.
Early in the selection process determine what is important to you and your son/daughter. After you have determined what you are looking for in a school, begin to search for schools meeting your criteria.
TIP: Early in the college selection process, have a frank discussion with your son/daughter regarding the amount of money you are able and/or willing to contribute to his/her college education.
TlP: Once you have identified colleges you would like to investigate further, call or email the admissions office and ask to be placed on their mailing list. You will receive information on visitation days and upcoming events.
5. Have your son/daughter register for the ACT and/or the SAT in early spring. Almost all four-year colleges require scores from either the ACT or the SAT. Many colleges will accept scores from either test; however, some colleges require or prefer, scores from one or the other. Students should check with the college for information regarding which test is preferred or required.
Students may retake the tests as many times as they wish. Colleges will generally use the highest test scores. Students who are hoping to be accepted into a competitive college program, as well as students applying for scholarships, should take both the ACT and SAT I. Students should take the tests by the spring of their junior year. This allows enough time to retake either test if the scores are not as high as they need to be.
Students can get registration packets and study guides in Student Services. Students need to read the study guides, take the practice tests and review those items missed on the practice test.
The ACT is generally offered in October, December, February, April, and June. The SAT I is generally offered in October, November, December, January, March, May, and June. The SAT II is offered on the same dates as the SAT I. Registration deadlines are four to five weeks prior to each test date. Students should, therefore, complete the registration forms at least two months before they plan to take the test. There is a registration fee for each test. Online registration is quick and easy. However, if you wait until the last minute, the server may be busy. Register well in advance of deadlines either online or by mail.
Registered students receive admission tickets to enter the test along with instructions two to three weeks before the test date. Both the ACT and SAT I are given on Saturday mornings and take approximately three to four hours. Students with documented disabilities may be eligible for special accommodations. Students receive their scores four to eight weeks after the test date. If the high school code is given when registering, test scores are sent to the high school as well as the student for use on transcripts. The Juan Diego Catholic High School code is 450 064.
The ACT consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. Students are given a score for each test, ranging from one to 36. The four scores are also averaged for a composite score. The national average composite score is 21. There is no penalty for guessing, therefore a student should answer every question.
The SAT I contains three sections: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math, with scores ranging from 200 to 800 for each section. The highest possible combined score is 2400. There is a slight penalty for guessing. If one or more answers can be eliminated students should make educated guesses, otherwise the answer should be left blank.
TIP: For an additional fee, ACT and SAT will send you a copy of the test, the correct answers, and your son/daughter’s answers. For the student who plans to retake the test, this information is extremely helpful.
SAT II subject tests are one-hour tests measuring a student’s knowledge of specific subjects (Writing, Literature, American History and Social Studies, Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and six Foreign Languages). Some competitive colleges require or recommend applicants take one or more of the subject tests for admission and/or placement. Registration materials are available in Student Services and online.
6. Visit colleges. The spring/summer of junior year is an excellent time to make college visits. If you visit colleges during the summer months, be sure to revisit the colleges you are seriously considering during the fall. This will help you see the colleges when they are in full swing. Your best information is gained by visiting the campus and talking with students and staff at the institution. If you call ahead, many schools will provide a tour, allow you to sit in on classes, and in some cases provide you with overnight accommodations and meals. Visit the schools you are considering that are located in-state prior to traveling to schools out of state. By visiting Westminster College and the University of Utah, for instance, you can broaden your perspective and basis for comparison. Each school has its own feel. There is no expense involved and little time invested by doing this, and the benefits will become obvious as you visit additional schools.
When planning a visit, call the admissions office several weeks in advance. Explain you are the parents of a junior and you are interested in scheduling a college visit. You might ask if they have any visitation days, preview days, or open houses scheduled. These programs can be very informative as they are designed specifically for prospective students and their parents. They generally include tours, information on specific majors, and sessions on financial aid. If you want to visit a college on a day when no specific program is planned, schedule an individual appointment and tour through the admissions office.
To make the most of your college visit:
- Learn as much as you can about the college and ask questions.
- Take a tour, noting how the students and campus look, the school’s atmosphere, etc.
- Attend a group information session if one is offered during your visit to the campus.
- Talk with someone in the department your son/daughter is considering as a major. Ask what types of jobs their graduates get, average salary, etc.
- If your son/daughter is a particularly outstanding student, check to see if the school has an honors program. Honors programs offer a variety of unique opportunities for students who qualify.
- Visit a dorm and ask to see a room. If possible, eat in one of the student cafeterias.
- Inquire about any special program, activity, or sport in which your son/daughter is interested (e.g. band, tutoring, Greek system, intramural sports, etc.).
- Visit the student union and talk to the students, weighing personal opinions with care.
- Make an appointment with an admissions counselor to discuss concerns you have regarding your son/daughter’s academic record. Take an unofficial transcript with you to the meeting.
- Make an appointment with a financial aid counselor if you are interested in financial aid and/or scholarships. Take an unofficial transcript with you to the meeting.
- Obtain a campus newspaper.
- Any further questions or concerns should be addressed to an admissions counselor or tour guide.
TIP: Have your son/daughter write a thank you note if you had a personal interview or conference.
TIP: Once you start contacting schools and making visits, start a filing system, keeping notes on contacts made and subjects discussed. Include names, dates, etc. Also keep copies of all correspondence, complete applications, etc.
7. Carefully select courses for the senior year. Be certain senior courses meet all requirements for graduation, for acceptance into college and for NCAA. Encourage your son/daughter to continue taking college prep courses, even though he/she may express an interest in “coasting” during their senior year. Colleges want to see seniors are continuing to follow a strong college preparatory program. Colleges generally request a list of the senior courses be included in the application and/or transcript.
TIP: Many colleges require students to take math placement tests before registering for freshman courses. A student who does not take math as a senior is more likely to have a difficult time with the test. Encourage your son/daughter to register for a math course during his/her senior year.
8. Start checking into scholarships. Although students will complete the majority of scholarship applications during the first half of their senior year, you should start looking at scholarship possibilities during their junior year.
9. Update their activities and awards file at the end of the year.
10. Help your son/daughter choose meaningful summer activities.
11. Narrow your list of college choices.
12. Continue to put money into their college savings account.
The senior year is when everything comes together. It is also the year students see the rewards of their hard work paying off.
1. Continue to monitor academic progress. Seniors may have heard their senior grades are not important. They need to know many colleges request a seventh semester or mid-year transcript. At the end of the year, high schools also forward a final transcript to the college the student plans to attend.
2. Help your son/daughter establish a calendar for the year. Use this calendar to record test dates, application deadlines, college visitation days, etc.
3. Have your son/daughter sign up for the first ACT or SAT if necessary. Take a look at your son/daughter’s previous scores to determine if he/she needs to retake the tests. Highly competitive schools like Princeton and MIT will be looking for ACT scores of 30+ and SAT scores of 2100+. Moderately competitive schools will be looking for ACT scores of 25+ and SAT scores of 1200+. For the majority of programs, most state universities look for ACT scores of 20-23 and SAT scores of 1000+. If your son/daughter is hoping to be accepted into a competitive school or if he/she is applying for scholarships, having high test scores is important.
If your son/daughter does not score well on the ACT and/or SAT, this does not mean he/she will not be accepted into the college of his/her choice or he/she will not be successful in college. Admission officers look at a variety of criteria when evaluating applicants.
4. Obtain and complete college applications in the fall. Be certain to check the internet as more colleges are making it possible to&emdashand sometimes require that&emdashstudents apply electronically. All applications will require a high school transcript and most will have one or more sections for a high school counselor to complete. As a parent you should do the following:
- Make certain the student portion of the application is completed neatly, thoroughly, and accurately.
TIP: Before your son/daughter completes an application, make a copy for him/her to use as a rough draft. Double-check the rough draft to make sure information is complete, accurate, and essays are well-written. Also, make sure your son/daughter has presented him/herself in the best possible light and he/she has included all achievements, activities, awards, etc. Information should then be neatly printed onto the application. Always make a copy for your files, noting the dates applications were submitted.
- If required by the application, see the secondary school report or high school information page is given to your son/daughter’s counselor at least four weeks before the deadline. Counselors have many responsibilities and will have numerous applications to complete between October and February. Understand it takes time and thought to complete a quality recommendation. Remember schools are closed the last part of December. Applications with January deadlines must be submitted to the counselor by the first week of December.
- If the application requires a letter of recommendation by the high school counselor, he/she would probably welcome written information regarding your son/daughters strengths, interests, talents, leadership skills, and education plans. Student Information Sheets and Recommendation Request Forms can be picked up in Student Services and should be filled out and submitted to the counselor and/or teacher writing the recommendation.
In addition to counselor recommendations, many schools and scholarships require teacher recommendations. If your son/daughter needs a teacher recommendation, he/she should request a letter in writing, outlining exactly what is needed, when the letter is needed, and where to submit the letter upon completion. This can be accomplished with the Recommendation Request Form. If the teacher is to mail the letter of recommendation, your son/daughter needs to provide an addressed and stamped Juan Diego Catholic High School envelope to the teacher. Envelopes can be obtained in Student Services.
TIP: Make sure all applications are completed and mailed well before the deadline.
TIP: It is important your son/daughter apply to at least one safe school. This is a college to which he/she will definitely be accepted.
TIP: Many colleges will send a postcard to let you know your application has been received. If you do not hear from a college you may want to call to see if they have received your son/daughter’s application and have all of the documents they need.
Apply for financial aid and scholarships.
- Make the decision. At some point in the spring of their senior year, you and your son/daughter must decide on a school. Do not choose a college before making a college visit. Students are required to notify the school they will be attending by May 1. Once you have made a choice, complete the necessary forms and, as a courtesy, notify the other colleges. If your son/daughter is planning to live on campus, be sure to send in the required housing deposit before the deadline.
The financial side of college can be confusing. Part III: Financial Information will provide information to clarify financial aid and scholarships.
The average cost of tuition and fees for one year at an in-state public four-year college is approximately $4,000. The average cost of tuition and fees for one year at a private four-year college is approximately $19,000. Books and supplies average a little over $600, while room and board average between $4,500-$6,500.
As a general rule, private colleges are smaller and public colleges are less expensive. However, a student attending a public college or university in a different state will have to pay a more expensive out-of-state tuition.
Financial aid is money that is given, paid, or lent to help students pay for their education. Financial aid often makes it possible for students to attend colleges they would have otherwise thought too expensive. Students and parents, therefore, should never assume they cannot afford a particular college or university. There are four basic categories of financial aid:
1. Grants. This is money given to the student, usually because of financial need.
2. Scholarships. Money may be awarded to a student because of exceptional academic achievement, an outstanding talent or skill, or financial need.
3. College Work Study. Students can earn money by working at a campus job 10-15 hours a week.
4. Loans. This is borrowed money that must be repaid.
Grants and scholarships are “free money,” while loans and work-study are considered “self-help” programs. Generally, financial aid is awarded in the form of a package. Packages—consisting of grants, scholarships, loans and/or work-study—are put together by the college’s financial aid office. Since packages will vary for each college, you should compare the various packages offered.
To obtain financial aid, follow these steps:
1. Complete the college’s financial aid application if they provide one. The financial aid form is generally included in the application view book or packet.
2. Obtain a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) from Student Services in December of your son/daughter’s senior year and get all tax information organized as soon as possible.
Completing a FAFSA is very important. You must submit a FAFSA to be considered for all federal financial aid and for most of the aid offered by individual states. Regardless of the number of schools your son/daughter applies to, you only need to complete one FAFSA form.
The FAFSA is a federal form that asks for information on income and assets. Approximately two to four weeks after you have mailed in your FAFSA form or submitted it online, you will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report). A copy of your SAR is also sent to the colleges you designated on the FAFSA form. Your SAR will tell you if you are eligible for a Pell Grant and inform you of your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Your EFC is the amount you can afford to pay for your son/daughter’s education for the following year based on the information provided in your submitted forms. If the cost of the college is more than your EFC, you have demonstrated financial need and should be eligible for financial aid. The aid, however, may come in the form of loans.
Complete the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Double check your responses before it is sent.
3. Aid is generally awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Do not delay the processing of your application. If you believe you will not qualify for any need-based aid because of your income, you should still complete the application. Colleges and organizations often want verification that a student is not eligible for federal or state aid before they award institutional and/or private funds. Some loan programs also require the FAFSA. Remember to make a copy of your completed FAFSA form before you send it in. Also, keep a copy of your tax return forms.
4. In addition to the FAFSA, some colleges and scholarship programs require submission of the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. The PROFILE is not an application but a supplemental need analysis document used to determine eligibility for private funds and institutional aid.
5. Attend the financial aid meetings offered at Juan Diego. They are generally held in late November or early December.
6. After the college’s financial aid office has reviewed the information from your FAFSA, they will determine your eligibility for financial aid and send you a financial aid award letter. If you need to contact the financial aid office, note the name of your student’s financial aid officer and ask for that same person each and every time you contact the financial aid office of that school.
7. Students and parents often find they do not get as much money through grants and scholarships as they need. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to consider taking out a loan. Lending institutions provide Stafford Loans to students and PLUS Loans to parents. Repayment of a Stafford Loan begins after the student is out of school. The Subsidized Stafford Loan is for students who have shown a financial need based on the results of the FAFSA. The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan is for students without financial need (the government pays the interest on Subsidized Stafford Loans). PLUS Loans are not based on financial need and repayment begins within 60 days after origination.
If you do not take out a loan, there are other options to consider. For example, military branches offer a variety of programs to help students with college costs. Colleges with co-op programs provide students with the opportunity to earn money while gaining valuable work experience. Students who are concerned about college costs can also save money by attending a community college and then transferring to a four-year college after a year or two of courses.
Applying for Scholarships
There are thousands of scholarships available. However, most of these scholarships have very specific eligibility criteria (e.g. a student must go to XYZ college; be in the top X% of his/her class; have an ACT score of at least XX; belong to a particular ethnic group, race, or religion; have overcome a great obstacle; have great leadership skills; belong to a specific major; etc.).
In regard to academic scholarships, students generally must have an outstanding GPA (3.5 or better), high test scores (ACT 27+/ SAT 1200+), excellent recommendations, and be involved in extracurricular and/or community activities. To receive an athletic or talent scholarship, a student must be truly outstanding. The most competitive schools—Ivy League, Stanford, and similar prominent universities—do not offer any scholarships unless the student demonstrates financial need first.
When looking for scholarships:
1. Start early. Begin looking into possibilities during your son/daughter’s freshman year. Be ready to locate and complete applications early in his/her senior year. Finding and applying for scholarships takes time, energy, and persistence.
2. Colleges and universities award the largest amount of scholarship money. Contact the college or university financial aid office to learn about scholarships they may offer.
3. Private colleges are often more generous in awarding scholarships. This makes private schools more competitive in price with public schools. Do not rule out a private school until you have received your financial aid package from them.
4. Apply for local scholarships. These are generally for smaller amounts (e.g. $100-$1,000); however, since competition is not as great, they may be easier to obtain.
5. Be aware of deadlines. Scholarship applications become available throughout a student’s senior year and are sometimes due weeks after becoming publically available.
6. Network. Tell everyone, including the high school counselor, that you are looking for scholarships. Check for scholarship opportunities with your place of employment, your church, organizations to which you belong, etc. Also look for scholarships in your local paper.
7. Check online. The internet has plenty of information on scholarship opportunities. You can also find books and computer programs listing scholarship opportunities in Student Services and local libraries.
8. Be organized. Give counselors and teachers time to prepare letters of recommendation and transcripts. Most people appreciate four-week notice for letters of recommendation. Be aware of deadlines!
9. Students not able to get scholarships often are able to get need-based financial aid.
10. Your son/daughter has a better chance of being awarded a scholarship if he/she is in the top 25% for the college or university awarding scholarships.
11. Note if scholarships and financial aid are renewable.
12. Scholarship searches that charge a fee are seldom worth the money and many are scams. Take advantage of the free scholarship searches on the internet.
Part IV: Additional Resources provides a listing of books and websites to refer to for additional information. This is a small sample of the resources available today.
Resources with objective data and information:
- The College Handbook, College Board
- Lovejoy’s College Guide, Macmillan
- Peterson’s Four-Year Colleges, Peterson’s
- Four-Year College Admissions Index of Majors and Sports, Orchard House
- Kaplan’s College Catalog, Simon & Schuster
Resources with subjective evaluations and descriptions:
- The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, St. Martin’s Griffin
Resources with college rankings and ratings:
- Barron’s Best Buys in College Education, Barron’s
- The Fiske Guide to Colleges, Edward B. Fiske
- The Gourman Report, Jack Gourman
- Peterson’s Competitive College, Peterson’s
- The Best 311 Colleges, Princeton Review
SAT and ACT Preparation Guides
- Kaplan ACT/Kaplan SAT, Simon & Schuster
- Getting into the ACT, Harcourt Brace
- Cracking the ACT, Princeton Review
- ACT Success/SAT Success, Peterson’s
- 10 Real SATs, College Board
- Up Your Score (SAT), Workman Publishing
- How to Prepare for the ACT/How to Prepare for the SAT, Barron’s
Financial Aid and Scholarship Information
- Paying Less for College, The Princeton Review
- Don’t Miss Out, Octameron
- The A’s and B’s of Academic Scholarships, Octameron
- The Scholarship Book by Daniel Cassidy, Prentice Hall
- The Complete Scholarship Book, Student Services, Inc.
- Scholarships, Grants & Prizes, Peterson’s
Financial Aid and Scholarships:
- The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid – www.finaid.org
- Federal Student Aid – www.fafsa.ed.gov
- Fastweb! – www.fastweb.com
College Search and Information:
- Princeton Review – www.review.com
- Peterson’s – www.petersons.com
- CollegeBoard – www.collegeboard.com
- EdWorks – www.edworks.com
- Fastweb! – www.fastweb.com
- Embark – www.embark.com
- ACT – www.act.org
- Kaplan – www.kaplan.com
Applying to College:
Multi-Cultural and Ethnic Links:
- Ron Brown Scholar Program (Major Scholarships) – www.ronbrown.org
- Fastweb! Scholarship Search – www.fastweb.com
- The Harry S. Truman Scholarship – www.truman.gov
- The Hispanic Scholarship Fund – www.hispanicfund.org
- Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarships – www.jackierobinson.org
- Gates Millennium Scholars/United Negro College Fund – www.gmsp.org