Archive for the ‘Senior What’s Next’ Category

Applications Need To Be Sent Now For Best Acceptance Rate

Friday, September 26th, 2014

As I look at the calendar and watch September come to an end I am reminding all seniors that now is the time to send their college applications. The period of time from September 1st to November 1st is called the priority filing period for most colleges in the US. It was considered the early application period by most until the last 5 years, when college admissions counselors began to look at these applicants more earnestly.
High school seniors can tell you that the applications, now more than ever, have become very similar and with the higher use of the Common Application actually the same. The process of reviewing the applications are still the same for the colleges but the emphasis on retention of first year students is very important to the four year colleges. The statistics show the students that applied in the priority filing period had a much higher rate of returning sophomore year than the students who had applied later in the year. They have determined that the early applicants were more focused and organized which made them better over all students.
The colleges are always looking for ways of determining which student will be the best fit for their student population. Since they now know that generally, the early applicant is the more successful student in their schools, you do not want to miss the opportunity for this higher consideration by your top colleges. It would be unfortunate for any student to work hard in high school for their GPA, best ACT/SAT test scores and be over looked because of sending their application in 30 days later. Get organized and get your applications in seniors, the other advantage is that you will get your acceptance letter by December 15th so you will have more time to set up your final visits early in the spring semester.
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Thursday, October 24th, 2013

On October 1st the CSS Profile was available for college bound students to complete. There are over 400 schools that require the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile) to access their institutional monies for financial aid. You can access the list of schools that requires this for at the following link:

To prepare for the form completion you will need a copy of your 2012 federal tax return and an estimate for your 2013 taxes. You will need your housing information rent/own, mortgage information if applicable, business or farm income and income from any temporary assistance or social security.

The CSS profile is administered by the College Board and once you complete the form there is a $25.00 charge payable by credit card online to send it to the requesting schools. To register for the CSS Profile go to this link:

Once registered you will be able to complete the form. Remember to check your numbers before sending and note that these estimates will need to match the numbers that you use to complete the FAFSA after January 1, 2014. These schools need both forms completed to access all financial aid available.

Having completed both the FAFSA and CSS Profiles over the last 7 years my opinion is that the CSS Profile is the harder of the two to understand. It goes into more depth because it looks at equity in you personal residence and requires two years of taxes to complete. The other difference is the inclusion of smaller businesses that the FAFSA does not. But do not get discouraged, the schools that require the CSS Profile are offering their endowment money to your student to offset the sticker price of their schools. Look at each schools website to make sure you do not miss their application cut off date to send in the form.

There are many books out there that address the completion of the CSS Profile and FAFSA. You will need to look at them to see which one best addresses your financial situation. As always if you feel you need more help call a professional.

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Wait Listed-What does that mean to 2013 Seniors?

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Congratulations, you were found to have what it takes to get into the school that wait listed you!  You should be enjoying the fact that you had what the admissions officer was  looking for in their students. But, should you really consider attending that school?

If you prescribe to my philosophy of applying to 9 to 12 schools it is pretty certain that you have been accepted and received an offer of financial aid to a number of schools that you are also considering to attend. The reality is that those are the schools you should seriously look at to commit to.

Schools wait list students when they are not sure that they will fill all their desks for the fall semester and they want a backup group of students to fill those uncertain desks. Yes, many times students feel honored by the wait listing by a school that they felt was a reach school, but the truth is this serves the school not the wait listed student. All schools work their wait listing differently so there is no one way this works. Many times these schools never make a final offer to attend from their wait list. Just like the schools that fully accepted you and have made their financial aid offers, the wait listing school has offered their available aid to their fully accepted students.  Unfortunately, If you do get in from a wait list after May 1st , when counting on financial aid to attend college, the odds of receiving all the need and merit aid that you are counting on are slim. You should be happy that you are lucky enough to have choices of colleges to attend and make your deposit to one of the schools that you are fully accepted at.

In the case that you have a real need to attend the wait listing school and there is no issue of financial aid, let them know that you are interested and be ready to wait to hear back from them. In the event that you are fully accepted by the wait listing school you will have the option to accept their offer or not while having the backup of the school you made your deposit to.

Make sure that you respond to the school of your choice and do not miss the May 1st deadline to accept.

Your Time is Running Out to File Your FAFSA

Monday, February 18th, 2013

This post is for those who are waiting to complete their 2012 taxes before they file their senior’s FAFSA for the 2013-2014 school year. I know that the website for FAFSA tells you that you have until June 30th to file but the truth is that most of the aid money available will be gone by March 1, 2013. The schools work on a first come first serve basis and over the last 5 years students are filing sooner because of this. Please look at the website for the schools that you are sending the FAFSA to and note if they have a priority date for filing the financial aid paperwork. Your best opportunity for aid is during this filing period.

The FAFSA provides for estimating your taxes and will ask that you correct the final numbers when you do complete your 2012 taxes at a later date. When you file please note that the SAR (Student Aid Report) is issued by FAFSA usually within 24 hours of submitting, they will tell you then if you are required to submit documentation called verification. This is not like a IRS audit, they are required to ask for this documentation and check that it matches the submitted FAFSA. Remember that this is a federal form and you do not want to submit with fraudulent information, this is how they check for misinformation. The school will send you the request for the specific documentation they are looking for via email and tell you how to submit it to them. You will also want to check each school’s website to make sure that you send all required paperwork and forms that the school requires.

This is a stressful period since the state schools are sending out their acceptance notices in February with the private schools following by March if not sooner. I know that every student has that one school that they really want to get into but, if you are told by that school you are wait listed, the odds of receiving financial aid from that school are not good. What will happen is that by the time that school does accept you all their financial aid will be gone even if you were perfectly on time with the FAFSA and any aid paperwork. Make sure you are working with your second choice school and keep your options open before your final decision on May 1st, 2013

File your FAFSA as soon as possible each year and make sure all paperwork is complete. This is one key to receiving the financial aid available to your student. You should see your award letters from private schools before the end of March, they have been sending them sooner over the last few years. The state schools have still been sending the final award letters by the middle of April. In case you do not see your award letter from a school during these months you need to get on the phone and check that they have your financial aid information. Mistakes do happen and you do not want to let someone else’s mistake effect your future in college.

Shopping Not The Only Thing Seniors Need to Finish By December 25th

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

As the year comes to a close so does many of the college deadlines for accepting applications. It is human nature to put off stressful tasks and completing college applications for seniors in high school is no exception. All students must be aware of the deadlines of the schools that they are interested in attending and make sure that they complete and submit their application before that date. Be aware that if you are one of these students filing at the end of the year you are not alone. Just don’t make the mistake of applying after the deadline. I find it amazing that every year I get calls from parents to help their student after New Years and the student has one or two schools still on their application list with their deadlines come and gone. Most college admissions counselors will tell you that they get a huge crush of applications between Christmas and New Years every year. What you need to know is that the systems have a hard time with this final volume and will usually crash servers over that that last week of the year making it more frustrating than usual because of limited access to file your applications. So a word to the wise, try your best to get any applications you still need to submit into the system before December 25th. This way you will be confident that your application will be considered and you can enjoy the holiday season before you start to stress about being accepted to these last schools in February and March.

There Are Advantages to Applying During College’s Early Decision Period

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

For high school seniors there is a lot of pressure to get your college applications in now. Most schools offer their priority filing period starting September 1st through November 1st each year. When you make your application the school will give you an acceptance answer shortly after they receive your application or usually by December 15th depending  on their policy. This can make students anxious because they are afraid to find out they might not get into their college of first choice.

Students need to know that some colleges use this period to cherry pick the type of students that they have determined that they are looking for. Many times they need to bring in more minorities, male or female students after they have reviewed their schools population. They also look at the level of academics for the current school population and will accept the applications of higher qualified students, usually in the schools top 25% of the freshman class of the previous year to raise academic standards.

Even with this happening there are many advantages to applying in the priority filing period. Historically colleges receive the bulk of their applications just before the deadlines to apply.  Most of the highly selective and selective schools cut off all applications by December 31st.  By applying early you get a first look from the essay readers and admission counselors while they have fresh eyes. You have more opportunity to stand out instead of blending into the later mass of applications. You can also benefit from the early decision by not getting your final acceptance in the first round. Most schools will tell you that you did not make the first round but you will be notified of acceptance when they announce who is accepted at their scheduled date. Most of the state schools will have their dates in February and the private schools in March. This can give you time to examine a few other schools that might better meet your needs than the school you are probably reaching for.

When a student has worked a plan to determine if they academically match well with a school and there is opportunity to receive financial aid from them, there should not be any issue with an early application. So the message is to research and visit your schools during junior year of high school. Take advantage of the early application period and use it to your advantage to get accepted in the colleges of your choice. Remember that you will receive your financial aid offers later, after your file your financial aid paperwork. All the schools will then let you make your final decision by May 1, 2013.

Please go to www.cps-illinois for more information concerning our services for college bound students and their families.

Choosing Colleges to Attend

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

May 14, 2012

Week 2: Choosing Colleges to Attend

We previously talked about looking at careers which led you to a major for college.  This is a good first step in starting a college plan. Now that you have a major or maybe a few that you’re interested in, you can now look at colleges to attend. As you search your colleges of choice make sure they offer the major that you have elected to pursue.  You want to see what courses the college offers and the time it takes to complete your major. Many times you will find that a specific field of study can require more than the expected 4 years. Look at all the regional schools that offer your major because there can be schools that can shorten your college stay by offering summer classes at a reduced rate to accelerate your graduation. There are also schools that will offer monetary discounts if you take over four years to get your undergraduate degree.

When you look at colleges to attend with your major there are other factors that will be important to you. These are some of the characteristics you need to consider as you make your choice of colleges.

·         Cost, does the college fit your budget?

·         Admissions Selectivity, what is the college’s difficulty of admission and can you get in? What type of competitiveness are you’re looking for or are you interested in exploring your interests?

·         Public-Private or Affiliation, The difference between public and private schools currently means a lot when we discuss financial aid and acceptance.

·         Geographic Location, is the school in the area of the country that you want to eventually work in?  Is it in a rural or urban area?

·         Enrollment, what is the average class size, total population of the school and student to professor ratio?

·         Types of Student, what is the makeup of the school? Is it diverse, liberal, conservative, religious, sports or arts centered, do students live on or off campus and do you share some of the same interests?

·         Special Programs, does the school offer programs that enhance your major or interests?

·         Services for Students with Disabilities, Does the school offer the most current or adequate programs to over come your handicap?

·         Sports, Are you looking for the college sports experience as a participant or fan?

I suggest that you think about what would make you happy about a school and then look at similar schools.  As you create your school list it should have about 9 to 14 schools in it. Over the last few years, we have found that the right number of schools to make application to is now nine. The old answer was 6 (2-safety schools, 2-that you should get into, 2-reach or dream schools). As the economy worsened attendance of colleges have increased and so has the difficulty to get in because of the competition. We are now seeing very good students not being accepted into schools that they should have easily gotten into. There are other advantages in applying to nine schools that effect financial aid being offered and your ability to negotiate the final aid package.

Once you are happy with your list you need to visit a few schools to see if they do have the characteristics that you are looking for. You can see if the items you originally thought were important really do factor into your final choice of a college to attend. When I have interviewed students about their visits, they tell me that sometimes they knew that a school was or wasn’t for them in about 10 minutes of their visit. Now, not everyone had that experience but as you visit a few schools you will be able to zero in on the things about a school that appeals to you. You will be able to modify your list as you visit your schools. The visit is important since is impossible to really tell what a  school looks and feels like. You cannot make that decision just by looking on the website of the college. Remember that these schools are in the business of filling all their freshmen openings at their college and they are good at this. We will discuss visits a little more in detail and offer you a plan for a successful college visit.

Picking the school to attend is the most important decision for many reasons. The biggest mistake students make is picking the wrong school for the wrong reason. Because of this we will get into more detail about the characteristics of colleges in the next step.

Please leave a comment or ask a question and I will be happy to respond.