Preparing for College. It's never too early to start.
For the best chance of success, you need to begin preparing for college long before it's time to apply. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be to do everything that's required for getting into college and getting on with your dreams.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a college
- Do I know what I want to major in? How sure am I? Would I like to be completely immersed in that field at a specialized college, or would I prefer to be at an institution where I can change majors if I change my mind? Do I want to meet people with my interests or with different interests?
- Do I want to attend a mostly male, female or predominantly minority institution? Do I think it would offer me more educational opportunities? What is the reputation of the type of college I’m considering? How will that affect my career goals?
- Do I want to attend a church-related college? Do I want to be around people who share my beliefs, or do I want to meet people of other faiths and value systems?
- Do I want to attend a private college? Can my parents or I afford it? What is the value of paying more for tuition? Will I get a better mob when I graduate?
- Should I attend a community college for the first year or two? What would be the advantages or disadvantages? How does the four-year college I want to attend handle transfer students? Will I have to retake courses when I transfer?
- Do I want a bachelor’s degree? Are my grades and test scores good enough to get into a four-year college? Does the college I’m considering offer a good program in my major? Does it offer me career counseling if I don’t know what field to study?
- Do I want to live on campus? Am I interested in organizations, athletics, and activities on campus?
- Are the colleges I’m considering accredited? Is the college nationally ranked or listed on any “best college buys” lists?
- Is the academic program I’m interested in accredited? Is the academic department involved with professional organizations and national honor societies in the field?
- What is the faculty’s reputation? Are any faculty members nationally recognized? Have they written books or textbooks in the field?
- Do I want to live in another state while attending college? If so, how will I get back and forth between school and home? What kind of climate do I want to live in?
- Are there opportunities for internships near the college? If not, how far will I have to travel?
- How important is nightlife to me? Will I be happy or bored at a college far away from a large city?
- Is the campus I’m considering well-lighted at night? What is the crime rate? Do campus police officers provide “safe rides” at night?
- Do I already know what I want to major in, or would I prefer many choices of majors?
- Do I like meeting new people, or would I rather know everyone on campus? Do I want to get involved in campus organizations? Do I want to join a sorority or a fraternity, participate in athletics or learn to be a leader?
- Does the college I’m considering offer satisfactory health services and computer and library resources?
Top 10 Percent
Texas students may be eligible for automatic admission to a state college or university as an undergraduate student if they meet certain criteria. To qualify for automatic admission, a student must:
- earn a grade point average in the top 10 percent* of his/her high school graduating class,
- graduate from a Texas public or private high school (or, if the student is a Texas resident, from a high school operated by the U.S. Department of Defense),
- successfully complete the requirements for the Recommended High School Program (RHSP) or the Distinguished Achievement Program (DAP) (or the equivalent if enrolled in private school) or satisfy ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks on the ACT college entrance exam or earn a score of at least 1,500 out of 2,400 on the SAT college entrance exam, and
- apply for admission to a state college or university within the first two school years after graduation from high school.
Students who meet the criteria for automatic admission must submit an application before the deadline set by the college or university to which they are applying. Students must also provide a high school transcript or diploma that indicates whether they have satisfied or are on schedule to satisfy the requirements of the RHSP or DAP.
*The University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin (UT) is no longer required to automatically admit applicants in excess of 75% of its enrollment capacity for first-time resident undergraduate students. Should the number of applicants who qualify for automatic admission exceed 75% of enrollment capacity, UT shall provide notice of the percentage of qualified applicants that are anticipated to be offered admission. For the 2011-2012 academic year, UT has determined that it will automatically admit all eligible applicants who rank within the top 8% of their high school graduating classes. For the 2012-2013 academic year, UT has determined that it will automatically admit all eligible applicants who rank within the top 9% of their graduating classes. Please note that students admitted to UT under the Automatic Admission policy will be required to complete at least 6 semester credit hours during evening or other low-demand hours in order to ensure the efficient use of available classrooms.
The Application Process
- Write, call or request online each school for admission, financial aid, scholarship and housing forms.
- Be aware of deadlines! Know the difference between “must be postmarked by” and “must be received by.”
- Compete the application using the guidelines below.
- It is a student’s responsibility to complete an official transcript request form as follows:
- Obtain a Transcript Request form from the counselor's office and submit it at least two weeks in advance of the mailing date. The form must be entirely completed. You must include a stamped, addressed envelope.
- Transcripts will include grades, test scores, rank-in-class, and grade point averages.
- Transcript will be considered “void” and “unofficial” if the seal on the envelope is broken before it reaches the receiving institution. In order for the transcript to be designated as the Official Transcript, it must be mailed directly from the counselor's office to its final destination.
Most colleges do not require a letter of recommendation. Please read your applications carefully and follow the instructions just as the colleges have requested. Each college will receive thousands more applications than they can accept. Incomplete or incorrectly submitted applications are discarded. Make sure you meet all deadlines. Allow teachers and counselors plenty of time to complete the process (usually two to three weeks).
The Application – A Reflection of You!
- Schools and employers look for a package of you. In-depth insight is what is sought. The application is your permanent symbol. It is a mirror of who you are in your absence. It reflects your thoughts, interests and contributions. A well-crafted application can boost your chances for acceptance and employment. Check out these pointers from the pros.
- Do not be boring! Give them a reason to remember and select you. It is not what you say that counts. It is what they hear and read. Test the application on yourself. Is it repetitive? Do you sound snobbish? Is it tedious? Ask friends, teachers, families and counselors what they think.
- Do not lie or exaggerate. Do not pretend to be something you are not. You run a great risk of being disqualified if you deceive.
- Communicate effectively! This requires hard work. Think about what your assets are, then present them. Forgetting to include vital information or part of the application should be avoided. Make sure that your birth date and social security number are correct. Use your formal name throughout the application number are correct. Use your formal name throughout the application process.
- Pay attention to your presentation style. Never accept the first draft as the final draft. Photocopy your application and complete it first. This will enable you to “practice” before writing or typing on original forms. Transfer the material afterwards to the real application. Keep the application neat and legible. Avoid marring your application with eraser marks or correction fluid. Unless the application asks for your own handwriting, try to type it. Do not include a lot of extra pages and do not cram too much into small spaces. If it is handwritten, use blue or black ink.
- Always read and follow instructions. Never leave anything blank.Write “N/A” if an item does not apply to you.
- SAT/ACT scores. It should bring out what you want to emphasize and enhance. Never repeat information in the essay that can be found on the application. Spelling and grammatical errors can be damaging to your chance. Do not forget to edit, proofread, and consult with your English teacher before making a final draft. Type it; do not hand write it.
- If you are applying to a select school or company, remember that good grades are more impressive than high test scores. They seek students who have not only tackled the tough courses, but also who have enrolled in courses in line with their career interests.
- Schools and employers like students who can handle responsibility. It is not just being a member of clubs and organizations that is impressive, but becoming a leader in one or two of them that gets their attention. Also, include special talents and work experience.
- Do not omit an explanation of poor grades. Also, ask your counselor to explain unusual personal or family circumstances in the letter of recommendation.
- It is our job to assure that test scores, recommendations and transcripts arrive on time. Give supplementary forms to appropriate persons in plenty of time. For a counselor recommendation, you must give evaluation forms to three teachers, give them at least one week to complete them, and return them to your counselor. Then the counselor needs at least two weeks to compose a letter of recommendation for you. Start three weeks before you need the completed letter! There is a counselor letter or recommendation packet within this booklet.
- Do not forget to submit the application fee along with your application. Without it, your application will not be processed.
- Avoid submitting your application late. Keep deadlines on your calendar and adhere to them.
Obtaining Teacher Recommendations
Highly selective schools and scholarship organizations will require recommendations from teachers as well as counselors and other adults. It is generally agreed that the recommendation is an important aspect of the application process. You are strongly encouraged to discuss your skills, course work, and personal qualities with the person who will be writing your recommendation. Ask an adult for a recommendation in person. Get recommendations only from people who know you well, who like you, and who can reinforce your strengths.
- Give plenty of notice. The adult needs at least one week notice to the date you wish to have the recommendation sent.
- When you have decided which adult you will ask to write your recommendation, be sure you submit all forms as soon as you receive them. Add a note detailing the exact date the recommendation is due and to whom it is to be sent. Supply them with a stamped, addressed envelope.
- Supply information about yourself. Photocopy your completed autobiography, résumé and activity form and give it to each person you ask to recommend you. This will help to individualize your letter.
- Remind the adult to keep a copy in case you will be asking for additional recommendations at a later time. Follow up with a personal “thank you” note.
The College Visit
Ask college students…
- Do you spend most of your time outside class studying? Is that amount typical for most students here?
- Are campus jobs readily available?
- Are faculty members accessible outside of class? Do faculty members teach undergraduate courses?
- Do many students go home on the weekends?
- Is it possible to study in your dorm room?
- Do you like to study in the library? Do you often do research there?
- Is it relatively easy to get the classes you want at registration time?
- If you could do it again, would you still choose this college?
If you attend class, ask yourself…
- Are students interested in the course material?
- Is there time for questions and discussions? Do students participate?
- Are students prepared for class?
- Am I intellectually challenged by what’s happening in the class?
- So the students seem to be learning—either new facts or new ways of thinking about a subject?
- Is there a good rapport between professors and students?
- Would I feel comfortable in the class as a student?
- As you tour the campus, ask yourself…
- Is the lab equipment up-to-date and available?
- Are the rooms in the residence halls quiet enough to study in? Are they in a pleasant setting?
- Are common areas in the residence hall pleasant? Are there kitchen and laundry facilities?
- How accessible are computer labs and Internet access?
- What’s the surrounding town or city like? Could I live here?
Search Engines and Scholarship Programs
- Scholly – A mobile app that provides students with a fast and simple way to find scholarships for college (Created by Christopher Gray, a Coca-Cola Scholar!).
- Fastweb – Create a profile and let fastweb do the research on scholarships, internships colleges and more for you.
- CashCourse – Information that helps college students stay financially informed.
- Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation – Educational and scholarship opportunities for students of all levels.
- Cappex – A free website where you can learn which colleges want you, before you apply and learn about more than $11 billion in merit aid scholarships.
- Scholarships.com– A free college scholarship search and financial aid information.
- Scholarship America – Provides information and resources for your scholarship search.
- KnowHow2GO – Complete information on college prep, whether in middle school or seniors.
- HS Finder (Hispanic Scholarship Fund) – Scholarship information for Latino students.
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund – Provides scholarships, programmatic and capacity building support to the 47 public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
- Gates Millennium Scholars – Provides outstanding low income African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline they choose.
- Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund – The nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted to providing college scholarships for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
- American Indian College Fund – Provides Native American students with scholarships and financial support for the nation’s 33 accredited tribal colleges and universities.
- Dell Scholars Program – Recognizes academic potential and determination in students that have a definite need for financial assistance.
- UNCF – Awards 10,000 students each year through 400 scholarship and internship programs so that students from low- and moderate-income families can afford college tuition, books and room and board.
- Chegg – A place to connect with scholarships and learn about colleges.