College Counseling

SMA December College Counseling News

We are delighted to report that more than 80% 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 5, we will submit the SMA portion of the application before Christmas break (by Friday, December 16). The college counseling office is closed during the Christmas holiday. We will respond to email questions, but otherwise, we are happy to report that we will be on vacation!

IMPORTANT DATES

Junior College Night: Wednesday, February 15, 6:45 p.m. — 9:00 p.m

All juniors and at least one parent or guardian should plan to attend. The evening will have six break-out sessions pertinent to the college research and application process. Students and parents may divide and conquer!

PSAT and Pre-ACT Score Reports

In early December, in their TAs, sophomores and juniors will receive their PSAT and Pre-ACT test booklets. Sophomores will receive their Pre-ACT score reports over Christmas break. Juniors will receive information about their scores electronically from the College Board by December 12. We will mail paper reports home when we receive them. A primary purpose of these tests 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.

JUNIORS

Kicking off College Planning

There will be a Christmas break mailing with 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. We hope these questionnaires will help spur conversations about life after St. Mary’s, which is likely to mean college. They also help the college counselors prepare to work with each student. This individualized support is an important benefit of a St. Mary’s education. After the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we will begin meeting with juniors. Juniors and their parents each must complete their questionnaire before students meet with their college counselor.

SENIORS

Applications

December is the perfect time for seniors to complete their college applications. Nothing feels better than a holiday free of the burden of worrying and working on college applications. Students minimize stress by submitting applications well before the deadline. 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. Most schools offer electronic portals to allow students visibility to their process. When possible, students should 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.

Early Decision

Students applying Early Decision should have an answer by mid-December. If your daughter hears news, please help her to remember to take care of her classmates as she shares her joys and disappointments. One student’s plan B school may well be a dream school for a friend or classmate. This process is highly individual 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.

Your daughter should record her results in Naviance and share the information with her college counselor. We will help her celebrate or plan for further applications. We will check our email over the break should you have questions or need advice about how to support your daughter around the ED/EA process. Have her email us if she needs or wants our input on plan B options.

Financial Aid

Thanks to all the families who attended our All School Financial Aid Night. We have emailed the correct slides for each session and the handouts home to every SMA family. Please let us know if you found the information presented helpful or if there is more support we can offer.

Here are tips offered by Leslie Limper, our presenter for seniors currently applying for Financial Aid:

1) Parents and students should each apply for a unique 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. (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid)

2) If possible, use the IRS data retrieval tool to simplify completion of FAFSA and avoid any data errors.

3) Once the FAFSA is filed, students will receive the SAR (Student Aid Report) but can update to add additional colleges as you submit those applications for admission.

4) For each college identify Financial Aid forms and deadlines and note whether these are ‘receipt’ or ‘submission’ deadlines.  All colleges require the FAFSA (found at: www.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 website. Deadlines will vary across colleges. It is the responsibility of each family to support their daughter as she tracks and attends to financial aid requirements for each college on her list.

5) Stay in touch with financial aid officers at individual colleges with any special circumstances.

Admissions Decisions

Some colleges will send out decisions as they are made, others will hold all decisions until their 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 2017 and look forward to beginning the process with the class of 2018!

Happy Holidays,

Kimberly, Carolyn, Karlen, and Meg