Friday, April 4, 2014

College App Advice, pt. 2: Periphs

Part Two of the series "In Which I Think I'm Qualified to Talk About College Apps."


Assorted Application Requirements:

You're probably going to have to run around a lot in the first couple of months of senior year getting all the side pieces in. I know it's a pain, I've been there, but you don't want your application disqualified because you missed some little thing.

Here are the things I had to deal with:

  • official school transcripts
  • standardized test scores
  • letters of recommendation
  • teachers
  • counselor
  • midyear reports

I might be missing something from that list...remember, the big important thing is that you must do your own research. I'm going to put that in caps: DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. Source data >> hearsay, even if that hearsay is from articles like this.

Transcripts: at my school, we had to turn in a transcript request form and payment to the school's transcript office (not the official name).

Test scores: sorry, you have to deal with the College Board if you took the SAT or any SAT Subject Tests. This is an expensive pain but many schools require scores.

A post I wrote in September (with the same title as this one) has some links to LoR stuff.

Essentially, be super-organized to make it easy for other people to help you. This is the stage where it's most important to have lots of communication with your school counselor, who has probably handled this process hundreds of times and will be happy to guide you through.

Midyear reports need to get turned in after first semester grades come out. Some schools, like MIT, have their own forms. Common App schools have a form that you can ask your counselor to turn in for you.

Remember, these items, though not usually part of the main application, are usually needed for the school to come to an admissions decision. Taking care of the details is not fun, but you have to do it anyway. I'm sorry.


I confess that when I had to email my alumni interviewers, I looked up models of how to do it. Writing emails is nerve-wracking--what if they misinterpret my tone? What if I wreck my chances?

Some common questions:

  • What do you intend to major in?
  • Why do you want to come to this school in particular?
  • What are you strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are you involved in at school?
  • and so on

Your interviewer is probably not out to get you. Just be yourself, relax, laugh if they say something funny but don't laugh at everything. Something that helped for me, personally, was using a notebook as a crutch: you can write down questions to ask them, and take notes on what they say.

Questions I asked:

  • What was your favorite part of this university?
  • What opportunities do you wish you'd taken?
  • What advice do you have in general?
  • What's the school culture like?
  • take advantage of the fact that they have first-person data

An additional benefit of taking notes: if you write down things that the interviewer really enjoyed about the school, you might find an opportunity to weave that into an essay.

Remember to send a thank-you afterwards. I just sent emails, since that was how I'd communicated with all my interviewers previously. These are busy people who took time out of their schedules to talk with you--they deserve kudos.

Financial Aid:

Fill out the FAFSA and the CSS Profile sooner rather than later. Warning: they are annoying, draining, and involve tax information. Slog them out on separate days, maybe over a weekend or two, with a parent.

If you have very, very low chances of qualifying for need-based financial aid, for some schools the CSS Profile might not be worth it. However, at other schools you need it even for merit scholarships. As ever, do your own research.

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