If you plan on attending college, there are steps you must take to begin the process of applying to a university. Below is a guide that will help you plan out your junior and senior years of high school to prepare for your college career.
When Should I Test? (ACT, SAT Exams)
Pick a test date that is at least two months ahead of the application deadlines of all the colleges and scholarship agencies you might want to apply to. Scores for the ACT (No Writing) are normally reported within 3–8 weeks after the test date. If you take the ACT Plus Writing, scores will be reported only after all of your scores are available, including Writing, normally within 5–8 weeks after the test date. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year in high school. At least half of all students take the SAT twice — in the spring of their junior year and in the fall of their senior year. Most students also improve their score the second time around.
For the SAT Subject Tests™, most students take them toward the end of their junior year or at the beginning of their senior year. In general, you should take tests such as World History, Biology E/M, Chemistry or Physics as soon as possible after completing the course in the subject. Students tend to do better on other tests like languages after at least two years of study.
Advantages to testing in your junior year:
You've probably completed the coursework corresponding to the test material.
You'll have your test scores and other information in time to help you plan your senior year. (For example, you may decide to take an additional class in an area in which your test score was low.)
Colleges will know of your interests and have your scores in time to contact you during the summer before your senior year, when many of them are sending information about admissions, course placement, scholarships, and special programs to prospective students.
You'll have information about yourself and the schools you're considering prior to your campus visits, making your visits more focused.
You'll have the opportunity to retest if you feel your scores don't accurately reflect your abilities in the areas tested.
How Do I Apply for College? Once you've selected several schools that interest you, ask the admissions office for application forms and make sure that you:
Fill them out carefully.
Look for application instructions in the school's catalog and follow them exactly.
Make copies of everything you submit.
Wait two to six weeks for a response to each application.
When you apply for admission to a college, you will need to pull a lot of pieces together:
High School Transcript: Most colleges will require a copy of your high school transcript. You can request this be sent to the college(s) you are interested in through your high school's office or your school counselor.
Application Fee: You might have to pay an application fee (anywhere from $20-$75). If you can't afford it, talk to an admissions counselor at the college to which you are applying. You may be able to get the fee waived.
College Admissions Tests: Most four-year colleges or universities require you to submit ACT or SAT scores. If you apply to a school with open enrollment, you may not need to take the ACT or SAT. Make sure you know test dates, times and locations. Talk with your school counselor about how to sign up for the test.
Letters of Recommendation: Four-year colleges or universities often require letters of recommendation. These recommendations are about what you've accomplished, what kind of potential you have, and why the person writing the letter believes you should be admitted to that college. Recommendation can come from your teachers, coaches, mentors, church leaders, employers and people you've worked with in your community. Recommendation cannot come from relatives.
Application Essay: If you plan on attending a four-year college or university, you may be required to write an application essay. This essay is a way to let a college know the real you. If the essay topic isn't provided, you can choose your own topic. If you need help, talk with a school counselor, teacher or parent.
Interview: If the school is very selective with its admissions process, you may have to schedule an interview. The best interview tip is to relax and be yourself.
Paying for College When deciding where to go to college, you shouldn’t have to worry about cost. Yes, college is anything but cheap. But with the right planning and financial resources, you can successfully fund your college education.
Families have the primary responsibility of paying for higher education. Sometimes a family's resources are not enough to pay all college expenses. But different types of financial aid are available to help a family meet the costs of higher education, which include direct education costs (such as tuition, fees, and books) and indirect costs (things like personal living expenses, food, housing, and transportation).
You may be surprised to discover that financial aid can help pay for your college living expenses. Also, financial aid is often available to pay for technical, trade, or vocational school programs. Many different types of schools, not just colleges and universities, have financial assistance available to students.
Applying For Financial Aid Financial aid refers to specific borrowed, given or earned money that can be obtained from various sources to pay for college. There are many types of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, Federal Work-Study programs and loans, all of which can come from the state or federal government. Most types of financial aid require you to reapply every year.
Use the EFC Calculator to determine how much financial aid might be available to help you pay for college. Keep in mind, calculator results are based on estimates and may not reflect your actual awards.
Colleges also offer financial assistance to their students. The financial aid office on campus is the best place to find out about financial aid (those programs listed above, plus internships and cooperative education) available at that particular college.
Searching for Financial Aid Many agencies, associations, and organizations (for example, corporations, civic, religious, and philanthropic groups, and associations connected with your field of interest) provide dollars for college students. There are different eligibility requirements, award amounts, application forms, and application deadlines for each type of financial aid, so research these carefully. Some scholarships may require the applicant to have the special skills to write an essay, build a model, or even audition.
Every program - including those funded by the federal or state government, colleges, or other organizations - has its own unique awarding and processing cycle. If a student plans to use funds from a scholarship or grant to pay a balance owed the college, but those funds are not received prior to the scheduled due date(s), it is the student's responsibility to work with the appropriate office at the college to make satisfactory arrangements.
While some colleges may agree to temporarily postpone due dates (sometimes for a fee) until funds are received, others might require that the student make a full or partial payment by the established due date. If, once received, the funds are more than the remaining balance due to the college, the student may receive the excess to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses or to apply toward other education-related costs. Students who are uncertain of the college's policy regarding anticipated financial assistance should contact their financial aid office for clarification.
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