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Steps to completing the college application process

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Caitlin McLeavey and Sibel Lorentz

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College application deadlines are quickly approaching for the graduating class of 2019. In order to prepare students for the next step, The Hawk provides a handful of important terms and resources that can shine a light on this stressful process. 

Early Action  

Early action is the process of applying to the college(s) of one’s choice at an early deadline. By applying within a college’s early action deadline, students have a higher chance of being accepted into the institution of their choice while being informed of the decision earlier. This can also provide more opportunities to receive school-specific scholarships. Although most colleges have early action as an option, some do not, so it is a good idea to check with the institution before applying.  

Early Decision  

Early decision is a binding contract created with only one college. If accepted by this means, an applicant must withdrawal all other submissions, and is legally obliged to pay the first year’s tuition—not dependent on attendance.  Due to these restraints, counselors do not recommend early decision, although it is another way to boost the chance of acceptance. Deadlines for many early decision programs are very near, so any students interested are advised to manage their time well.  

Regular Decision  

Regular decision is usually the last date students can apply to colleges in order to be admitted. The only other acceptance to this would be “last-op decisions,” which allows students to apply during the summer months. This deadline does have some setbacks as most colleges accept 90 percent of students that apply early as compared to ten percent from regular decision. This deadline also weakens a student’s chance of receiving scholarships from the institution, as most are given to early action applicants.  

Naviance 

Naviance is one of the main resources for students when applying to college. Here, students can filter through and access thousands of schools, and organize colleges they are interested in. Students can also access colleges they are applying to, what colleges they want to request transcripts for, and much more. FAFSA can be obtained on Naviance, as well as uploading resumes and registering for college visits within the school. Students should visit their Naviance accounts to view these features and begin their college journey.  

SAT scores 

SAT scores play a role in the 32 factors colleges look for, including resumes, letters of recommendation, and well written essays. Be sure to create an account and sign up for the SAT on the College Board website. The SAT is graded out of 1600 points, try to aim for the average range of the desired college. Naviance has information about what colleges want regarding the essay portion, and if all past SAT scores or the highest SAT score needs to be sent. Sending scores costs twelve dollars per college, unless a student has a fee waiver. Look for the orange box that says, “send available scores” located at the top of the SAT score or the white box that states, “send scores when available.” 

Transcripts 

A transcript shows all the previous classes and grades in which a student received. They are useful for colleges to understand which courses had been taken throughout the years and the level of difficulty of each class. The unweighted GPA which is weighted out of 4.0, weighted GPA, and Academic Honors GPA which is weighted out of 5 are located at the bottom left hand corner of your transcript. To request a transcript, log onto Naviance and go to “colleges,” located at the top right of the screen. Click on the first tab that reads “colleges home” and scroll down to “apply for colleges,” and choose “manage transcripts.” After a new page appears, press the red “x” button on the top right hand of the screen and choose “college application transcript.” Note that when submitting the transcript, it cannot be undone. Also, to request transcripts, move colleges into the category “colleges I’m applying to.” To check the status of requested transcripts, go to “colleges I’m applying to” and view the status. A counselor letter of recommendation also automatically gets requested when a transcript is selected. 

Grades/GPA 

On the Common Application website under the Common App tab, the category “grade” will appear. The graduating class of 2019 has approximately 378 students, the class ranking reporting is decile and is determined by the Academic Honors GPA. To understand the class rank ranging from 10-100 percent, go to Mr. Hall located in guidance. The GPA weighting is out of a 5.0 scale, and in order to receive a 5.01+, take AP classes along with level-four classes to help boost the average.   

Common Application 

Common Application is a resource used to directly apply to multiple colleges through the same form. Only certain colleges use the Common App while others, including the University of Maryland College Park, use the Coalition Application. When filling out the questions, understand that they do take a while and each school may require multiple specific questions. Additionally, a writing prompt is required, so be sure to manage time efficiently and work with peers to edit all written material. To add colleges to the dashboard, go into the tab “college search” and search desired colleges. Joining Naviance and Common App is required for requesting transcripts. In order to connect them, use the following steps: 

  • Visit Commonapp.org 
  • Choose the “my colleges” tab  
  • Click “recommendations and FERPA.”  
  • Select “release authorization” 
  • Check off the “I have fully read and understood the FERPA Release Authorization explanation above” box  
  • Select the first, second, and fourth boxes, and sign with an electronic signature to complete the process  

Letters of Recommendation 

Letters of recommendation should be requested by a student on their Naviance account to one or two teachers of his or her choice. Students should keep in mind how many letters of recommendation their college requires and choose from the teachers they feel will best represent them. To request a letter of recommendation, students must sign into their Naviance account, select “colleges,” then select “letters of recommendation,” and add their request for their specific institutions from the teachers of their choice.  

Scholarships  

Students can find scholarship opportunities on their Naviance account by scrolling to the bottom of the site, selecting “document recourses,” and then selecting “scholarship applications.” There, students will find all available scholarship applications and the documents to apply for them. For most scholarships, a scholarship specific essay will be required. Follow each prompt for the selected scholarship and return applications to the guidance office.

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