We are delighted to report that more than 70 percent of our seniors have applied to at least one college and the rest are working to meet their first deadline – for many that is January 1. For students with deadlines before January, we will submit the SMA portion of the application before Christmas break (by Friday, December 18). The college counseling office is closed during the Christmas holidays. We will respond to email questions, but otherwise, we are happy to report that we will be on vacation!
- Financial Aid Night — Thursday, December 3 at 7:00 p.m.
- Junior College Information Night — Tuesday, February 9 at 6:45 p.m.
PSAT Score Reports. In early December, sophomores and juniors will receive their PSAT test booklets in their TAs. To receive their scores as soon as possible, students should create a College Board account. Once this task is accomplished, the College Board promises students should receive their scores electronically by the end of this month. In January, the College Counseling office should receive the paper PSAT score report and we will send them to you. A primary purpose of the PSAT is to provide students with standardized test practice and to give them information they can use to decide whether they want use the SAT or the ACT as their college admission test. Colleges and universities will accept either test. Many schools are adopting “test optional” admissions practices; you can be confident that there are paths to college for every student. Colleges and universities do not see the PSAT scores, and schools go to great lengths to fully and fairly consider their applicants. We hope our students will prepare for testing (eat breakfast! get enough sleep!) and do their best, but not obsess unnecessarily about these scores. Juniors will work with their college counselor later in the winter to form a testing strategy that will address their particular situation.
Kicking off College Planning. With the PSAT letter in December, we will also send juniors information about the college planning process at St. Mary’s. Parents and students will be asked to log on to Naviance, our college planning system, and complete college planning questionnaires. This will help you and your daughter reflect on (and begin discussing together) life after St. Mary’s, which is likely to mean college. Naviance also helps the college counselors prepare to work with each student. In late January, after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we will begin meeting with juniors. In order to have productive conversations, juniors and their parents each must complete their questionnaire before students meet with their college counselor.
Applications. December is the perfect time for seniors to complete their college applications. Nothing feels better than a holiday break free of the burden of worrying about and working on college applications. If using the Common Application, students should review their application using print preview before submitting. Students can minimize stress by finishing and submitting applications well before the deadline, rather than at midnight on the deadline itself. They should keep an electronic file with copies of each application, including those for financial aid and scholarships. These back-up files can be lifesaving if they choose to apply to another school or for outside scholarships. Once applications are submitted, seniors will be anxious and excited to receive their decisions. Many schools offer an electronic portal to allow students visibility to their process. If this is the case, it is a good idea for seniors to check to make sure all materials have been received by the school after submission – allowing at least a week or two to give the school time to download documents completely.
Early Decision. If your daughter applied Early Decision she should have an answer by mid-December. When she hears from her ED school, you might help her to remember to take care of her classmates as she share her joys and disappointments. One student’s plan B school may well be a dream school for a friend or classmate; this is a highly individual process and we want everyone to choose well and feel good about their schools. Also, we expect seniors with ED applications to check in with their counselor before leaving for holiday break to review alternate choices. If your daughter is accepted, we hope she will come and tell us – we will help her celebrate! If she is denied or deferred, we want to be sure she has a plan in place that is easy to implement. We will check our email over the break should you have questions or need advice about how to support your daughter around the ED process. Have her email us if she needs or wants our input on plan B options.
Financial Aid. It is not too early to think about financial aid. Students and their parents should research each school’s financial aid requirements, noting and tracking specific deadlines and required forms. Sending forms in by the deadline will ensure best consideration for financial aid. The Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is not available online until January 1, but you and your daughter can prepare by doing the following:
- Apply for Federal Student Aid ID (FSA-ID). This serves as the passcode for Federal Student Aid online systems. It allows parents to ‘sign’ the FAFSA, a step required when the FAFSA is submitted; a separate student ID will be required in order for your daughter to take out federal loans that might be associated with her financial aid package. So, both the student and the parent need their own IDs. (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid)
- For each of your daughter’s college/university applications, identify Financial Aid forms and deadlines and be sure to note whether these are ‘receipt’ or ‘submission’ deadlines. Most colleges require the FAFSA (found at: fafsa.ed.gov). In addition, they may require the CSS Profile (found at: www.collegeboard.com) and/or their own form. The information you need should be on the Financial Aid page of the college’s website, but each college is different. It is the responsibility of each family to track and attend to financial aid requirements for each college your daughter applies to.
- Gather all the documents needed to complete the FAFSA and financial aid forms, including:
- Driver’s license (student)
- Social Security numbers (student and parent)
- W-2 forms and other records of money earned
- Prior year’s federal income tax returns (2015 for the 2016-17 academic year)
- Records of untaxed income
- Current bank statements: Asset information is “As of today…”
- Business and farm records
- Records of stocks, bonds and other investments
Admissions Decisions. Some colleges will send out decisions as they are made, others will hold all decisions until their entire process is complete and send them out at one time. Colleges also differ in how they deliver the news – some allow students to view their decisions online. As students receive their admissions decisions, please remind them to update Naviance and check in with us as needed.
We are thoroughly enjoying the class of 2016 and look forward to begin the planning process with the class of 2017.
Kimberly, Carolyn and Meg