College Exploration and Selection


This is a resource to help you begin the process of planning and exploring college choices. Should you attend a technical school, 4-year school, community college or pursue an apprenticeship? There are many options to choose from. Post high school education is not a one size fits all experience! Your job is to choose the path that is right for YOU!

This is your process! Don’t get caught up in what everyone else plans to do, or the media frenzy surrounding the college admissions process. Be cautious about college rankings – they oversimplify and mislead! In this handbook we’ve included ideas to help you get focused and to discover what is important to you.

It is never too early to begin your search. Exploring different options through websites is one way to begin. As a junior, you should put together a list of choices and begin visiting campuses. Your list should include one or two safety schools – schools you could apply and be accepted to, one or two reach schools – a reach school you love to go to, but are not sure you would be accepted to, and one or two likely schools that seem to be a natural fit. In most cases your “final” list should consist of four to six schools



REMEMBER.....You are not in this alone! Family, teachers and friends are a great resource. Discuss your plans to go to college with them and ask for help and advice. Make an appointment with a school counselor or the college and career specialist to discuss the application process, colleges that will suit you and options for financial aid. - College Board

College Search and Application Tracker - Are you looking for a way to keep your college search and application requirements and deadlines organized? We encourage students to use a worksheet to keep track of all of the details. Use our template or build your own!

College Navigator - U.S. Department of Educations' college search too. You can search for schools by location, degrees offered, programs/majors, tuition and fees, setting, size, and much more.

The College Scorecard - which was announced by the President in 2015—provides the clearest, most accessible, and most reliable national data on cost, graduation rates, debt, and post-college earnings. The College Scorecard ensures that students and families have the best information available to choose a good-value school.

Career Cruising - Log in to Career Cruising and use your Save Careers or the School Selector tool to search for schools. Use the College Visit and Application Tracker tools to record your visits and track you applications. See 11th Grade High School and Beyond instructions for detailed steps.

Big Future by the College Board - A step by step tool and interactive guide to find the right school for you.




  • What is the average class size? Largest? Smallest?
  • How many students in last year’s freshman class returned for their sophomore year?
  • What was the grade point average for the freshman class last year?
  • What is the college’s procedure for student orientation and scheduling?
  • How much reading, writing, class participation is expected?
  • How is a faculty advisor assigned to students?
  • What service does the school offer for the student who is undecided about a major?
  • How many students complete a degree? In what majors?
  • Are students taught by full time faculty members, graduate assistants, or a combination of both?
  • What types of additional services are provided by the school at no additional cost to the student (e.g. tutoring, career and personal counseling, developmental reading and study skills workshops, job placement)?
  • Is there an honors program? What are the qualifications for entry?
  • What is the average number of years it takes for students to graduate?
  • What is the process for declaring/being accepted into a major?
  • What is the profile of those accepted into their major vs. another college?



  • What high school courses are required?
  • Are entrance tests required? Which ones? What scores are acceptable?
  • Is a certain grade point average or class rank required?
  • Will my activities and school involvement be considered?
  • Is there an essay to apply?
  • Are there personal interviews or letters of recommendation required?
  • Do certain majors have special requirements?
  • What percent of applicants are accepted?
  • When are applications due?
  • What is the school’s early action/early decision and deferment policies?


  • Where is the college located (city, suburb, small town, rural setting)?
  • What is the surrounding community like?
  • Is the college public, private, church affiliated?
  • What is the current student enrollment?
  • What special or unique programs are offered?
  • Does the college have general education or course distribution requirements?
  • What is the academic calendar (semesters, quarters)?
  • What is the extent of their accommodations for students with disabilities?


  • What is the cost of attendance? Tuition, room and board? Other fees? Use the Net Price Calculator on each college’s website.
  • How much did costs increase from last year to this year?
  • Is there a difference in the costs for in-state and out-or-state students?
  • Are accepted students required to place deposits for tuition and housing? Are these refundable?
  • Is the public college or university you’re considering part of the Western Undergraduate
  • Exchange (WUE)? Go to to see participating institutions and if you qualify for a reduced tuition rate.


  • What percent of students receive need-based financial aid?
  • What percent of students receive scholarships based on academic ability (merit money)?
  • What would be a typical financial aid package for a freshman?
  • What percent of those who apply for financial aid receive it?
  • Will my financial aid be adjusted if my need increases?
  • What are the financial aid application procedures and deadlines?
  • When are financial aid applicants notified of their awards?
  • How long do they have to respond? Is there a tuition payment plan?
  • Are there campus jobs available? Are there off campus jobs as well?
  • How do I find out if I qualify for the work/study program?


  • What is the average age of the student body?
  • What is the male to female ratio?
  • What percent of students reside on campus? Are freshman required to live on campus?
  • Are dorms co-ed or single sex?
  • Do students leave campus on the weekends?
  • What are the procedures for selecting a roommate?
  • What are some of the rules and regulations that govern campus and dormitory life?


  • Where do the majority of students come from?
  • Do most of the students commute or live on campus?
  • What types of student activities are there? Are sororities and fraternities on campus?
  • What athletic programs are available?
  • Is the surrounding community supportive of the college?
  • Does the college have a campus visitation program?
  • Is housing available/guaranteed for freshman? Is it available for all four years?
  • Community service opportunities?



National College Fairs are the perfect place to kick off your college search. Admission representatives from schools across the country are all gathered all in one place. This is a great time to learn more about participating institutions, and help you sort through the qualities you’re looking for in a college.

Use your visit to:

  • Explore your options. Each fair draws representatives from 175 to 400 colleges. The schools are located throughout the US, and from around the globe.
  • Ask questions. What’s college life like? What majors are popular on campus? Chatting with representatives from a variety of colleges can help you cement your own preferences.
  • Gather information. Pick up brochures and other materials about the schools that interest you. Ask admission reps to scan your barcode—an easy way to help colleges follow up with you after the fair.





  • Visiting the campus lets you get a firsthand view of a college and it is fun!
  • Find out, "Is this college right for me?"


  • Research a number of colleges to determine which you would like to visit.
  • Determine the best time for you and your family to visit the campus
  • Contact colleges to schedule your visit (many colleges have preview days for future students, check their websites), take advantage of many aspects of a campus visit program: campus tour, classroom visit, information session, interview, appointments with important people on campus (financial aid, coaches, faculty, students, and staff), and overnight stays in student housing.
  • Make sure to mention any necessary accommodations or special interests that you have.


Confirmation materials and campus map, camera, notebook and pen, academic transcripts, high school resume, list of important questions and expectations, appropriate clothing, and toiletries (if staying overnight)


  • Look at flyers and posters around campus to get a sense of campus life.
  • Pick up a copy of student and local newspaper.
  • Gather business cards and contact information of staff and faculty you meet.
  • Sample campus dining.
  • Strike up spontaneous conversations with random students on campus.
  • Do not limit your visit to just the campus; check out the local surroundings.
  • There is no such thing as a silly question. When in doubt, always ask.
  • Visit the campus when classes are in session.
  • Send thank you card to admissions and other staff you met with.


  • Write down your observations, reflections, and impressions of your visit as soon as possible.
  • Make a list of follow up questions and contact appropriate college personnel to get answers.
  • Is a follow up visit necessary?


Read the College’s Mission Statement. Think about how closely they match your goals.


  • Does this college have the academic program that I am interested in?
  • How difficult will it be for me to get into my major? Is that process competitive?
  • Are there a lot of students in my chosen academic program?
  • What are graduates in the selected academic program doing now?
  • How many students go on to graduate school?
  • Does the teaching and learning style appeal to me?
  • What is the average class size, student to faculty ratio?
  • Is the teaching done by professors or teaching assistant?


  • What is the campus meal plan like? Are there choices for people with special diets, vegetarian, gluten free, etc?
  • What is the social scene like? What kinds of activities are planned by the college?
  • How would you describe the security of the campus?
  • Is there ample space in the dorms or does there seem to be a housing crunch? How many students are residents/commuters?
  • What is the makeup of the current freshman class? Is the campus fairly diverse?
  • What are the recreational facilities, library, and computer center like?
  • What are the public transportation/parking options like?


  • Can you describe the application review process for me?
  • What type of student is the college looking for?
  • What type of student succeeds at your college/university?
  • What percentage of applicants is accepted?
  • What are the application deadlines, fees?
  • What tests do I have to have (SAT, ACT with writing, SAT Subject Test)?


  • How available are faculty members to me? Is there tutoring available?
  • If I need it, where can I go to get academic assistance?
  • How are special accommodations arranged?


  • What is the average financial aid package for incoming students?
  • What scholarships does the college offer?


  • Look at the students you see on campus, do you believe you will fit in?
  • Is this what I pictured my college experience to be?



When they use scores in admission decisions, different colleges weight the scores differently. But no matter which college you’re applying to, test scores are not the most important factor. Colleges give the most weight to your grades and the rigor of your classes. - College Board

Some colleges publish the average scores of their students, and others show ranges. If you’re interested in a particular college, you can see how your scores compare. But keep in mind that most colleges admit students with a wide range of scores; there are always some students who score above and some below the published scores. Think of these scores as a guide, not a cutoff. - College Board

Many College Admissions require scores on college entrance exams (ACT, SAT and SAT subject tests). Some higher education institutions have decided to go “test‐optional,” meaning that the institutions do not require students to submit college entrance exam scores for admission. Almost all colleges and universities in the U.S. accept either the ACT or SAT exams and do not have a preference of one exam over the other. Most schools require the essay portion of the exam to be completed (the essay section is optional on both the ACT and SAT exams). It is recommended that all students register for the optional essay section of the ACT or SAT exams.

Some highly selective colleges require SAT subject tests in order to be considered for admission. Typically, schools request two SAT subject tests to be completed. It is important to check with the individual school to find out which ones they prefer a student to submit.

College Entrance Exams

  • PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (College Board) - Given during junior year that determines student eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
  • SAT Test (College Board) - A standardized college admission test. It features three main sections: math, reading and writing, which includes a written essay.
  • SAT Subject Test (College Board) - Hour-long, content-based college admission tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas: English, history, math, science and languages.
  • ACT Test (ACT) - A standardized college admission test. It features four main sections: English, math, reading and science — and an optional essay section.



  • What are the benefits of a Community or Technical College?
  • They offer options for both professional/technical and transfer education. The have smaller class sizes and offer strong support services. They are less expensive and can make transitioning to a 4-year college life easier.
  • Do you need to take the SAT/ACT if you plan to transfer to a 4-year college?
  • Maybe. Students without a University Transfer Degree may need test scores. If you earn a direct Transfer Associate Degree you may not need test scores but some schools encourage you to submit them. The University of Washington and some private universities require test scores for all students, even transfer degree students. It is important you visit the 4-year schools website to find information on their transfer requirements.
  • How do you apply to a Community or Technical college?

Community Colleges are open-door institutions and welcome any person who is at least 18 years of age, or has graduated from high school, or holds a GED certificate. They have a rolling admission and students can apply any time, but it is important to apply as early as possible.

If you are applying to a community college in Washington State visit their websites and follow their instructions for admissions procedures, materials, and deadlines. Complete the application and pay your fees on-line.

College Contact List: Click HERE for a list of community and technical college contacts. (

College Program Search: Click HERE to search for community and technical colleges in Washington State. (




Like most misconceptions, community college myths are based on elements of truth. But like most misconceptions, these myths lead to mistaken beliefs that could warp your ability to choose the right post-high school educational path for you.

Myth 1: Students only attend community college because they can't get in to a four-year university.

Fact: Statistics refute this assumption. Many students attend community college for convenience, family, job, or financial considerations. Community college makes sense, purely for economic reasons. Community college tuition is lower and many courses are directly articulated with four-year college programs. Students save on boarding as they can live at home during the first two years of school.

Myth 2: A degree from a community college is not as good as a university degree.

Fact: A community college degree can take you straight into the workforce or to an elite four-year university. Community colleges educate 62 percent of allied health professionals and over 80 percent of law enforcement officers and firefighters, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Myth 3: Community colleges are inexpensive, so the education is not high quality.

Fact: Community colleges may be less expensive than four-year universities, but that doesn't mean you sacrifice a quality education.

Myth 4: Community college credits do not transfer to four-year universities.

Fact: There are articulation agreements with four-year colleges for them to award credit for comparable courses taken at community colleges. Bellevue College students can now earn a 4 year Eastern Washington University degree in selected areas on the Bellevue College campus.

Nationally, 40 percent of all traditional-age college students start out at community college, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Walt Disney went to a community college, so did H. Ross Perot, transplant surgeon Daniel Hayes, and NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, Pulitzer Prize winners and several governors also graduated from community colleges. So let's bust four of the most common myths about community colleges and let the truth speak for itself.



You are in charge! This is your big future—you're in the driver's seat. Stay focused on what's important to you and what you want to get out of the college experience. College planning can feel overwhelming at times, but if you take charge and stay focused on your goals, you can make it work for you. - College Board

College applications are typically completed during the fall of senior year. The number varies by student, but the College Board recommends students complete 5-10 college applications for schools that you would be happy to attend. Your college list should include reach, likely and safety schools. When researching a college note the middle 50% range of test scores and range of GPA’s of accepted students. Be very aware of the acceptance rate! Colleges that accept less than 25% of applicants should always be in the reach category. Figure out your own SAT/ACT and GPA profile. Rank your schools using the following criteria:




APPLY TO ONE - Going to this school would be a dream come true. It may fit into one of the following categories: You “fit” but the school is so selective that it turns away many “qualified” applicants, or you do not quite fit the profile of typically accepted students but you would love to attend. The school may have a very low acceptance rate. This school may also be one where it is a financial reach for your family but with the right scholarship and financial aid package it would work.


APPLY to ONE to THREE - A campus where you would be comfortable, and have access to programs that are academically challenging and interesting. You should closely match the profile of accepted students.


APPLY TO ONE OR TWO - You exceed the average students profile and most qualified students are accepted. These schools typically have admit rates above 70-75%. Community college can be a good safety school choice for some students.



After compiling your list confirm at least one school in each category is a financially feasible school for your family.

Avoid the “Designer-Label” trap! How successful you are at a school will be more important to your future than how prestigious the school is. Prestige and quality are not always found in the same institution. Look for the elements that will most directly support who you are as a student.

Most important: Remember you are in charge! The power in this process resides with you. You are responsible for the quality of your school performance and the effort you devote to the college search and application process. Those who make admissions decisions base their conclusions on what you present in your application. Give them your best work.



Now that you have your list, make sure you “demonstrate interest” before, during and after the application process. Because schools keep databases on student contacts many things you do are noted and may come into play when admission decisions are made. Appropriate demonstrations of interest may put you ahead of another candidate. Below is a list of potential points of contact that demonstrate interest.

  • Attend functions put on locally by colleges you have on your list.
  • Attend college visits in the Career Center – come prepared with thoughtful questions.
  • Pre-register for your college campus visit so the admissions staff knows you are coming.
  • Request an appointment with an admission representative and financial aid counselor when visiting the campus.
  • Make sure any contact with the college is from you not your parent!
  • E-mail questions to admissions. Put your name in the email subject line.
  • If the college contacts you reply in a thoughtful, thorough, and timely manner.



College admission isn't as competitive as you might think. Fewer than 100 colleges in the U.S. are highly selective, which means they accept less than 25 percent of applicants. Close to 500 four-year colleges accept more than 75 percent of applicants. And open-admission colleges accept all or most high school graduates. - College Board.

There are a bunch of application deadline options to choose from. They will vary from school to school. Keep in mind that the college might have different deadlines for their financial aid forms.



Regular Decision deadlines are non-binding and widely available. Regular Decision deadlines for fall admission usually occur in the preceding January or February, and students receive a decision by April.



Schools with Rolling Admission deadlines (also non-binding) accept applications until the programs fill up, often as late as April and through the summer. However, there is a chance of losing your spot if the class fills up, so it’s best not to wait too long. (Many rolling admission schools recommend applying on the same timeline as their Regular Decision counterparts.) Also, some colleges with rolling deadlines will still have set admission deadlines for particular academic programs (such as physical therapy). Again, check with your schools to be sure!



An option to submit your applications before the regular deadlines. Early Action is the term used to describe the application process which permits a student to make application to an institution of preference and receive a decision well in advance of the normal response date. Decisions can be admit, hold for further review, or deny. The candidate is not committed to enroll at that particular institution. Student will be able to wait until May 1 to accept so that they can compare the financial offers of multiple schools.

Student may apply to other colleges (not binding).

Some colleges have an early action option called EA II, which is later application deadline than their regular EA plan.

Institution will notify the applicant of the decision within a reasonable and clearly stated period of time after the Early Action deadline.

Student applying for aid will adhere to institutional aid application deadlines.

Student will not be required to make a commitment prior to May 1st but is encouraged to do so as soon as a final college choice is made.




A non‐binding agreement that prevents the applicant from applying to other schools early (ED or EA). Stanford allows students to apply REA, which prohibits students from applying to Ivy league schools or private college/universities early. Under REA, students are allowed to apply to public colleges and universities early, but not private college and universities. However, students are allowed to apply regular decision (RD) to private college and universities.



Single-Choice Early Action is offered by some schools. This program differs from other Early Action programs, as it does not allow a student to apply to other schools under any type of early action, early decision or early notification program.



An option to submit an application to your first-choice college before the regular deadline. Early Decision is the term used to describe the application process in which a commitment is made by the student to the institution that if admitted, the student will enroll. Early Decision plans are binding. Only a student who can make a deliberate and well-reasoned first choice decision should apply under early decision. If accepted you must attend that school and withdraw any applications sent to other schools. You won’t be able to compare financial aid offers. Any student considering Early Decision should meet with the College and Career Center and their school counselor in September of senior year to go over this option.

Student may apply to other colleges but submit only one Early Decision application.

Institution will notify the applicant of the decision within a reasonable and clearly stated period of time after the Early Decision deadline.

Student applying for aid will adhere to institutional Early Decision aid application deadlines.

Institution will respond to application for financial aid at or near the time an offer of admission is extended.

If admitted, student will enroll unless aid award is inadequate.

Immediately upon acceptance of an offer, student will withdraw all other applications and make no subsequent applications.

There are pros and cons of applying early to colleges and universities:

Pros of Applying Early:

  • Higher acceptance rate of applicants (depends on the college)
  • More scholarships awarded to early applicants
  • Demonstrating high level of interest to a specific school or a few schools
  • Earlier notification of admission decision – usually by mid‐December
  • Earlier notification of financial aid package
  • Peace of mind earlier in senior year

Cons of Applying Early:

  • More competitive applicant pool
  • More work to be done near the beginning of senior year



Each college may have a different deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Check with the college(s) you are interested in attending. You may also want to ask your college about its definition of an application deadline – whether it is the date the college receives your FAFSA, or the date your FAFSA is processed. NOTE: Scholarships may also have a FAFSA deadline to be eligible. It is best to complete the FAFSA as soon it is available (October 1st) to ensure you meet the deadline. Missing the deadline could result in the lost of thousands of dollars in financial aid and scholarships.




The counseling office requires a minimum 10 working days to process requests. School closures such as holidays and snow days are not counted in the ten days. The first Friday in December is the deadline applications due before winter break. Be aware of the college application deadlines, allow enough time for processing!

Every 4-year College and university, community college, and technical school requires applicants to submit different components. Research the documents that are required by exploring specific college’s website. The following is a list of items that may be included in the application process:



Most students use online applications, but paper applications are usually available too. Online is the preferred way to apply. Application are available on colleges website under the admission tab, on sites like The Common Application, the Universal College Application and other online applications sites. When creating your on-line application accounts keep good records of your logon and password information. fill in the blank on the application form itself.



Fees vary, but generally it costs from $35 to $50 to apply to each college. Online applicants will pay by credit card. All four-year public schools in Washington charge a non-refundable application fee. Many colleges offer fee waivers.



Some colleges do not require transcript with the initial application. Read directions carefully. If required, transcripts are ordered online through Parchment. Transcripts will be sent directly to the admissions office or location of your choice. You are eligible to receive (5) Official Transcripts prior to you graduating at no charge. There will be a $5.00 fee for each additional transcript.



At the end of your senior year, request a final transcript using Parchment to the college you've decided to attend. Transcripts are ordered online through Parchment. Transcripts will be sent directly to the admissions office or location of your choice. You are eligible to receive (5) Official Transcripts prior to you graduating at no charge. There will be a $5.00 fee for each additional transcript.



Some colleges require or recommend that you send scores form tests such as the SAT, SAT Subject Tests or ACT. Colleges only accept scores from the testing organizations. Request scores be sent directly from SAT or ACT. Send scores as soon as you begin applying to a college. Do not wait!



May colleges require letters of recommendation form teacher or adults who know you well. Ask your references well in advance of the deadlines to write you a recommendation.



You essays are a chance for you to give admission officers a better idea of your character and strengths



If you're applying to music, art or theater programs, the colleges may want to see samples of your work.



Separate application may be required for honors, special programs, college scholarships. These may have separate Due Dates.



The type of college application you submit can vary from college to college: paper or online? Common or Universal? And what’s this about a supplement? The following is a brief overview of the different types of applications you can expect to find.




The Common Application consists of several components: the college essay, recommendation letters, an extracurricular activities list, optional supplemental questions, standardized test scores, and the high school transcript. It is an online application that offers students the capability to complete and edit their application before submitting it to multiple member colleges. The Common App now has a “rollover” feature that allows students to open an account anytime during high school.



CREATE ACCOUNT: Create your account online at Common Application. You can create your account as early as you want. All you’ll need is some basic profile information – like your name, date of birth, address and phone number and a valid email address.

GATHER MATERIALS: It’s important to be well prepared before starting your Common App. Use this list to ensure you have all the critical information needed to complete a thorough Common App. Material to have available: copy of your High School Transcript, list of your extracurricular activities both inside and outside of school, test scores and test dates from you college entrance exams (SATs, ACT, SAT Subject Tests), parent / legal Guardian information (educational background, occupational information, employer information, etc.), counselors and teachers names and emails.

COMPLETE APPLICATION: Complete the student application (including all required supplements) on-line at Common Application.

COLLEGE LIST: Add your college list. You can use the search tool to search over 700 schools that use The Common Application.

COUNSELORS/TEACHERS: Input your counselors and teachers names and e-mail addresses. They will receive an e-mail request from Common App after you enter their contact information. They then access a secure server to fill out the Teacher Evaluation (TE), School Report (SR)-this is the counselor recommendation, and Midyear Report (MR). Note: Before the counselors can complete their part of your application you must provide them with additional information.

COUNSELING SITE: Go to your schools Counseling website for the forms and procedures to follow for processing their part of the Common App. Counselors will upload your transcript online (no charge). Be a proactive applicant and confirm with your counselor in a timely manner that items have been completed.

SAT/ACT SCORES: Arrange for your SAT/ACT test scores to be sent directly to the colleges from the College Board (SAT) or ACT sites.



Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]



The Coalition App, developed by the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success was introduced last year and now has close to 90 member colleges although only 60 will be accepting it this year. This is the only application that requires member institutions to meet a set of standards. All member institutions must have a graduation rate of 70 percent or more in six years, and they must offer need-based financial aid.

The goal of this application is let students work in a platform that helps them organize a portfolio early in high school. You can begin preparing your application at any grade in high school and store all components of the application online in a virtual “locker.” You can also collaborate with mentors during your high school career by sharing materials in your locker. You will be able to add these items to your application and submit them with the application.



FINALIZE YOUR COLLEGE LIST – make sure you know where you want to submit applications and have included those schools in your college list

CHECK APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS - Check the application requirements and deadlines for each of the Coalition schools on your list. You can find them on the schools’ landing pages. All of them will have different requirements, will ask you to request official documents from your high school and recommendations from teachers or counselors, and will want you to fill out supplemental questions as part of each institution’s own application process.

REQUEST OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS - Request official documents and recommendations as soon as you know they are required. Before starting any college applications, you can request letters of recommendation, and other official documents (such as a high school transcript) which are submitted to colleges on your behalf by others. All documents and recommendations that you’ve requested are listed in your locker so you can see their status (in progress, complete, and so on). When you apply to a college, you'll be able to select the documents and recommendations from your locker that you want to submit with your application. You can ask several teachers, counselors, and other adults for recommendations. See this article for more about how to request recommendations.

CHECK FOR COMPLETENESS/ACCURACY - Check for completeness and accuracy of your profile. Your home page shows you the status of each section at a glance, but read through each section again for safe measure.

REVIEW LOCKER ITEMS - Run through the items that you’ve stored in your locker – make a list of which ones you want to submit to which schools.

START APPLICATION - Start your application by clicking the button next to the school’s name in your college list or go to the school’s landing page and click the ‘start application’ button. Choose from the application types offered, follow the directions and you’re on your way.



Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.

Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?

What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?

Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.



The Universal Application, although not commonly used, is a standard application form accepted by all colleges that are Universal College Application members.

Similar to the Common App and the Coalition App, students only need to complete the application once and use the same application for any of the participating colleges. Many of the colleges that accept the Universal Application will also accept the Common App.



Some state college systems share a general application that students can submit to all the colleges within the state system. Students can apply to multiple schools within the colleges’ system using one application.

CollegeNet has organized online application forms for over 1,000 private colleges. College Net is a great site where you can use the same account login and password for WWU, UW, WSU, Evergreen, UPS, PLU, Whitman and many other colleges applications.

WEB ADMISSIONS CENTER - If you are planning on applying to a Washington State community or technical college, you apply online or by paper application.

The State University of New York (SUNY) and the UNIVERSITY of CALIFORNIA SYSTEM use a system-shared application. If a student stays within this system of colleges, it makes sense to use this application type. However, if a student is applying to more colleges outside the system, they would most likely use the Common App.

CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM - California State University schools use a system-shared application called CSU Mentor.

CSU application (for California State public schools) Common Application

California State Schools use CSU Mentor



CollegeNet has organized online application forms for over 1,000 private colleges. College Net is a great site where you can use the same account login and password for WWU, UW, WSU, Evergreen, UPS, PLU, Whitman and many other colleges applications.



High School Resumes are used to highlight your achievements. You will submit your resume with your culminating project, recommendation requests, and applications for some colleges and scholarships.

For tips on producing your resume use our Resume Handbook on the Career Center website under jobs.

Your resume should include the following:

GPA & test scores (if available) and selected courses

School and community activities

Honors and awards

Work and volunteer experience


Other special skills as talents (i.e. music, drama, clubs, etc.)

Keep your resume to one page (if possible) - For examples go to the Career Center website and download our IHS Resume Handbook on the Employment Tab



Not required for public universities, for other colleges check each application directions to be sure you need recommendations before requesting.

School/Counselor secondary school reports: See School's Counseling Website.

Teachers or staff: Letters from teachers of core subject courses taken in your junior year may be good choices. Ask the teacher toward the end of junior year or right away in the fall of senior year if they are willing to write a letter for you. Provide them with a current resume and any other information they need to write a good letter. Make sure you provide them with the list of schools, deadlines for each, and the best way to submit the letter. Many applications including the Common Application allow recommendations to be submitted on-line through secure servers, check the directions and “invite” your recommenders to upload directly to your application file.

Additional guidelines when asking for letters:

  • Find people willing to write you a Letters of Recommendations early.
  • Consider asking teachers from junior year’s core subjects as they know you best.
  • Send a written thank you to each person writing you a letter.
  • If you receive a copy of your letter, keep a copy for your records.
  • Requesting Letters of Recommendation
  • Ask for Letters of Recommendation early, with plenty of time before they are due: at least 10 school days ahead.



Almost all colleges & universities require applicants to submit either a personal statement or short answer essay(s). Sometimes the college provides specific guidelines in terms of topic, length, and even format; while other times the prompt may be as general as “Tell us something about you.” But for all schools, the essay is a significant part of the application, if allows the reader know what’s important to you, how you think about things and who you are as a person. Be sure the essay or personal statement you submit represents your very best work. It is very important that the essay you submit is your own work. Be original! Note: The written essay you complete during the SAT writing section is sent along with your scores as a sample of your writing ability.

Always write the essay even if not required! Some schools use essays to decide merit and/or departmental scholarships. It is your opportunity to tell them other things about yourself that may enhance your admissions chances. Applicants need to be wary of books or websites that market “successful” or “effective” college essays. There is not a formula for writing a “perfect” essay.


From: Tips - University of California, Berkeley


Before you write, make sure you know what is expected of a successful college essay. A good essay...


A strong personal statement is reflective; that is, it demonstrates that you have thought about and gained a clear perspective on your experiences and what you want in your future. It does not simply tell a reader what you think he/she wants to know. Instead, it gives the reader a vivid and compelling picture of you--in essence, telling the reader what he or she should know about you. Remember that the focus of the essay is YOU--your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your values.


A good essay is not a list of your accomplishments. Remember when your mom told you that it's quality, not quantity that counts? Well, the same adage applies for your college essay. A reader will be much more interested in how your experience demonstrates the theme of your essay, not the number of accomplishments you can list. What is NOT interesting: an essay that devotes one paragraph each to a variety of different topics. This type of approach denies you the ability to give depth to your essay.


A good essay uses appropriate grammar and syntax, uses precise and vivid language, and does not contain any spelling errors.


If the essay instructions tell you that the essay should be two pages long, on white 8.5x11 inch paper, then the essay should be two pages long, on white 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Less is not more, and more is not better, either.


A good essay is the result of a writer who has examined the essay question and written an essay that explicitly addresses that question. For example, if you are asked to describe your greatest accomplishment or any unusual circumstances or challenges you have faced, then your reader will expect you to use vivid language that will enable the reader to visualize your accomplishment and share your sense of success.


Revision allows an essay to grow. Revising is not editing; revising is the act of "re-seeing" and of looking for those parts of the essay that would benefit from more explication, more (or less) vivid language, or even deleting parts that simply don't work to move your primary theme forward. Similarly, feedback from others can help you identify those parts of the essay that work well--and those that don't.


It is important to recognize that essay readers will read hundreds, maybe even thousands, of essays during the application review period. That means that an essay with a catchy introduction, one that gets right to the point and uses precise language and vivid imagery, is going to stand our more than an essay that is predictable and conventional in its opener.


It's okay to have flaws! The essay is your chance to show how you have transformed blemishes. For example, if your essay theme is "overcoming obstacles" and you earned a poor grade in a class, but went to a community college at night to repeat the course, it is important for your reader to know this because it is an example of your perseverance. The reader does not want to hear complaints about poor grades or circumstances, but rather wants to know how you have overcome them.


No one expects you to know everything about the college or university to which you are applying. However, readers will want to know that you have done your homework. For example, if you write an essay that states your interest in becoming an engineer, but the college does not have an engineering program, then you haven't done your homework.


A good essay doesn't beg or brag. Colleges and universities want to admit the best students, and the best students are those who can demonstrate their ability to pursue their goals regardless of where they are admitted. Think of this as quiet confidence--the kind that reveals itself through your description of lifelong interests, sustained commitment, and/or perseverance in the face of adversity.

Keep these characteristics of a good essay in mind as you compose. And be sure to avoid the typical college essay blunders. There are a number of good resources available online to guide you with writing your college essays. Check out the following: Writing Your College Essay: Mine Your Identity



From Randolph-Macon College: “Writing Your College Essay-Do’s & Don’ts”


  • Do think small & write about something that you know about
  • Do reveal yourself in your writing.
  • Do show rather than tell. By giving examples & illustrating your topic you help bring it to life
  • Do write in your own “voice” & style


  • Don’t write what you think others want to read.
  • Don’t exaggerate or write to impress.
  • Don’t use a flowery, inflated, or pretentious style.
  • Don’t neglect the technical part of your essay (grammar, spelling, sentence structure)
  • Don’t ramble - say what you have to say & conclude.





READ CAREFULLY - Carefully read and follow directions! Many applications are designed to check how well the applicant can follow directions.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS - Make sure you’ve answered exactly what has been asked.

QUESTIONS - If you have questions about how to answer something in the application e-mail or call the admissions office.

SAVE UNFINISHED APPLICATION - You do not have to complete the entire online application in one sitting. Once you have created a student profile or account you continue to save your application until it is complete and ready to submit.

SPECIAL COURSES (AP, CHS, H)- Mark special courses appropriately. AP = Advanced Placement, CHS = College in the High School Course, H* = Honors *For Honors: Adv. English 9, 10, Adv. American Lit, and Honors World Cultures are marked as honors. Math is not considered an Honors course regardless of which grade you were in when you took the course.

ESSAYS - Type all essay and short answer questions in a word document, proof read and spell check, then copy and paste them into your application. Your formatting may change when you paste your document into an on-line application, but it will print correctly on the other end. Do not go over the maximum word/character count if one is specified. Your essay will be cut off at the maximum.

VALID e-MAIL ADDRESS - Use a valid e-mail address- one you access regularly. Check your “junk” mail & spam settings to make sure you are receiving all correspondence from the schools you have applied to. Many schools send out important information as “bulk” mail to their applicant pools.

FEES/CREDIT CARD - Use a credit card to submit online application fees.



TEST RESULTS REC'D - If you know your test results. Fill in the date and your score.

NOT TESTED YET - If you have not taken the test, fill in the date you will be taking the test.

RE-TESTS - If you are taking the test again, fill in the date you will be taking the test.

SEND SCORES - If you did not send your results directly to the college(s) at the time of testing, go to the testing centers websites: SAT or ACT to send your scores. Do this as soon as you know you will be applying to a school. Test results can take time to arrive at the admissions office! Your application is not considered complete until the school receives your scores.



REVIEW - Check that the Application is complete.

ESSAY/RESUME - Make sure your personal statement and resume have been pasted in the appropriate boxes.

RECEIPT -Print the receipt that shows your credit payment for your records.

OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT - You have sent an official transcript if required. Note: The University of Washington does not want high school transcripts for the initial application process.

SEND SAT/ACT - Send your test scores directly from SAT/ACT to the colleges you are applying to. No need to wait until you has completed your application. Colleges will match your test scores once your application is submitted.



CHECK ONLINE ACCOUNT - Check your online application account(s) to make sure documents have arrived and your application is complete. Mail any additional requested documentation immediately.

SAT/ACT RECEIVED? - After submitting your application confirm that SAT or ACT scores have been received.



Remember, e-mail is an easy way to communicate with college admissions offices, but here are a few reminders for students to keep their communication professional and clear.


  • EMAIL SCREEN NAME - Do choose an appropriate e-mail screen name for collegiate correspondence. You may want to rethink names like or
  • FULL NAME/CONTACT INFO - Do give your full name and contact information on each e-mail note. If you received a student ID number when setting up your on-line application account include that also.
  • MANNERS COUNT - Do be as polite and respectful in an e-mail as you would be in face-to-face meeting or on the telephone. Your correspondences are a reflection of you.
  • PROPER PUNCTUATION - Do use proper punctuation and avoid using acronyms as much as possible.
  • USE REPLY - Do use the “Reply” function to help schools remember the questions you asked in previous e-mails.
  • CHECK WEBSITE FIRST - Do check the school’s website before you send your e-mail questions. You may be able to find the answer quickly on the web. If you still have specific questions, then e-mail or call the school.
  • JUNK/SPAM FOLDER - Do check your “junk” mail & spam settings to make sure you are receiving all correspondence from the schools you have applied to. Many schools send out important information as “bulk” mail to their applicant pools.
  • CHECK REGULARLY - If you set up an e-mail account specifically for college applications make sure you are checking it on a regular basis.


  • SUBJECT TIMES - Don't use subject titles like “IMPORTANT INFORMATION” or “PLEASE READ!!!” since these titles are commonly used for “junk e-mail” or viruses and are screened out on many systems.
  • BLANKET e-MAILS - Don't send blanket e-mails to a lot of institutions at once. Do some research and then ask specific questions indicating genuine interest in a specific college.
  • YOU ARE THE APPLICANT - Don't let your parents e-mail admissions for you. College applications and correspondence are your responsibility.



Below is an example of a very poor e-mail received by an admission counselor.



Subject: Please read!!!!!!!!

Although today is the deadline for EDI, I wanted to send my latest SATs, JIC u didn’t get them thru my school, their kind of slow. my scores improved from 1500, (which BTW is a super score if it had been the old SAT – LOL) to 1950. i really want u to know that I think WU is GR8 and is still my top choice. TIA!









All parents must fill out the FAFSA ( to qualify for the four types of aid: grants, loans (both parent and student loans), work study positions, and need-based scholarships. Think you can’t afford a private school? Remember that the amount of financial aid given to families will change depending on the price of the school. Parents are encouraged to fill out the form regardless of their income level and apply as soon after January 1st as possible to take advantage of state and federal monies given on a first come first serve basis. Some schools require the FAFSA on file prior to awarding some need based scholarships. Applying for the FAFSA is always free.


Seniors and parents can fill out a FAFSA after October 1st of their students’ senior year. The process needs to be completed on an annual basis. The FAFSA online is a secure site.


We highly recommend using the online version. It allows families to update the form from year to year and errors and omissions are caught and corrected prior to submission. The on-line version is processed quickly giving you an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number. Results are sent directly to the colleges’ financial aid offices you select to receive them.



Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) - State Financial Aid for DREAMers - Eligibility for several Washington State financial aid programs has expanded to include students who are ineligible for federal financial aid due to immigration status. Students who meet individual program, income, or residency requirements for the State Need Grant, the College Bound Scholarship, State Work Study, or Passport Scholarship should complete the free WASFA.



The College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® is an online application that collects information used by almost 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs to award financial aid from sources outside of the federal government. After you submit your application, the College Board sends it to the colleges and scholarship programs you have chosen.

WHO MUST SUBMIT THE PROFILE APPLICATION? Not all colleges and scholarship programs require the application. Make sure you check the websites of the colleges you are interested in to see if they require it.

CSS Profile Information: Click HERE to find out more about the CSS Profile and to submit an application.






Grants are need based and don't have to be repaid. Grant aid comes from federal, state governments, and from individual colleges.

Public schools tend to give grants to students with very low income.

Private schools use grant monies to attract students they want.



Most financial aid comes in the form of loans, aid that must be repaid. Most loans that are awarded based on financial need are low-interest loans sponsored by the federal government. Some of these loans are subsidized by the government so no interest accrues until you begin repayment after you graduate.

To qualify for loans or any other financial aid—students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA each quarter and be enrolled at least half time.

Do you plan on taking out a loan to help pay for your students’ college? Make sure you find out if the type of loan is subsidized or unsubsidized. Interest on subsidized loans does not accrue while the student is enrolled full time.

Parent Plus Loans are need based and can be granted for up to as much as the cost of a school. Parents will pay an origination fee and are low interest. Parents cannot borrow more than the cost of attendance using a Parent Plus Loan.

Bank Loans: Thinking about taking out a bank loan? Private Educational Loans tend to be high interest. Make sure you speak with your financial advisor about your options.

Student Loans: Do you plan on having your student help pay for college through loans? Know their limits. Students Stafford loans, maximum per year:

1st year: $5,500 3rd year: $7,500

2nd year: $6,500 4th year: $7,500

Stafford Loans are a low interest loans with a debt cap of $31,000. To continue to qualify for this loan—or any other financial aid—students must maintain a 2.0 GPA each quarter and be enrolled at least half time. Students begin making monthly payments six months after they graduate or leave school. Does your child fully understand what it means to take out and pay back a loan? Some colleges—including Bellevue College—require students to go through loan counseling before they qualify. Career Center staff recommends parents talk with their children about the positives and negatives of loans.



Work study positions are need based. Student employment and work-study aid helps students pay for education costs such as books, supplies, and personal expenses. Work-study is a federal program which provides students with part-time employment to help meet their financial needs and gives them work experience while serving their campuses and surrounding communities.






Are you saving money for college for your student? Where are you saving it? Is the money in your name or your child’s? Where your money resides will determine how much it will get taxed and how it will impact your FAFSA results? Always consult with your professional tax advisor for details.



Credit card and private loan debt is having a big impact on students. Check out the DVD “Debt Slapped” from the IHS Career Center to learn more. The DVD is also shown at IHS financial aid evening presentations in the spring.



  • Not applying for financial aid because they “think” they won’t qualify.
  • Assuming expensive private colleges are out of reach. Some may offer significant financial aid.
  • Waiting too long to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA) with the U.S. Department of Education. This paperwork determines how much federal aid families receive. FAFSA applications begin October 1st of your senior year. The application process calls for figures from the current year’s tax return. Tax information can be estimated and corrected later.
  • Assuming there are thousands of dollars available through scholarships if students will only search for them. Significant national scholarships often go to “superstars.” Solid students may be better off pursuing local scholarships. By applying for multiple local scholarships students at IHS have been very successful in accumulating thousands of dollars. The Career Center has information about local, community and Washington state scholarships. Visit the Career Center website and click on College Planning then Scholarships.
  • Assuming financial aid from a college will continue past the first year. Families should confirm any financial aid package with the college. Determine what is required for the scholarship to renew.
  • Failing to understand that financing college often means borrowing money and working. Families need to have open financial discussions with their student prior to selecting and applying to colleges.
  • Paying companies to search for financial aid or scholarships. Paid services are often scams.
  • Assuming students will get a good financial aid offer from an out-of-state public university. Schools often reserve their need-based aid for residents.



Students are encouraged to apply for local, state and community scholarship through the IHS Career Center website. Many scholarships are awarded based on merit, ethnic background, community service, leadership, and personal interests regardless of financial need. Students should be searching and applying for scholarships while they are applying to colleges. Most colleges have scholarship money that they give out on a first come, first serve basis for students who meet specific academic requirements. Check with the colleges you are applying to for specific institutional scholarships.‐scholarships‐search



All students! Any students interested in attending a technical college, community college, or 4-year school should consider applying for free money to help pay for school.



Most scholarships are offered during senior year, but occasionally students have the opportunity to apply during junior year as well. You should start to become familiar with the process beginning in December of your junior year.



Go to the Career Center website and click on College Scholarships. Local scholarships with their requirements and due dates are updated on a regular basis. Students can also look for local/community and state scholarships through



Go to for a list of national scholarships. You will be asked a series of qualifying questions and then have access to information on how to apply for scholarships that you meet the requirements for. Note: You may want to set up a separate e-mail account just for scholarship notifications from FastWeb.



The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is a scholarship that may save you money at a “public” out of state college or university if you qualify. Go to to see the list of participating institutions.




Many scholarships are based on financial need and/or academic merit, but not all. Some scholarships are based on community service participation or the ability to have overcome obstacles.



When considering whether or not you want to apply for particular scholarship, take into account that you might be competing with. Are you only going to be competing with students at Issaquah High School? If so, financial need might be relative to the families that live in the Issaquah area. If only five or six students apply for the scholarship, your financial need might be highest amongst this group. But if you are applying for a nationwide scholarship, your competition will be much greater. The obstacles that you have overcome, GPA, and community service participation are also relative to the group that applies, so keep that in mind as well.



Many scholarships require you to submit a resume, letters of recommendation, and/or an essay. Applying for scholarships should never require you to pay a fee!



Presentation goes a LONG way! Make sure your application is representative of your best work. As with college applications follow directions carefully. Spelling, word usage, and grammar mistakes are a sure way to get people to put your paperwork at the bottom of the pile! Put your application in a clean manila envelope. Don’t fold your application. Address the envelope with your name; return address and the name of the scholarship, plus the address of the review committee.

Keep your resume to one page. Remember that scholarship review committees have many scholarship applications to read and a two or three-page document can in some reviewer’s eyes actually count against you.

Give a copy of your high school resume to the people that you plan to have write your recommendation letters. This helps them write a letter that covers all the things you have accomplished.

Be yourself in your essay! Do not write what you think others want to read. Don’t be pretentious, or exaggerate to impress. Readers pick up on your lack of true voice and may get turned off. Instead, write about things that make you unique. Show rather than tell. By giving examples and illustrating your topic, you help bring it to life.

And last but not least…have friends and family proofread your application, resume, and essay. Often times another set of eyes can pick up on mechanical errors that you have overlooked.

Don’t wait until the deadline to turn in your applications. Earlier is better!

It is always appropriate to write a thank you note to the organization awarding you a scholarship!





Searching for a Scholarship? Buyer Beware!

This section is included to alert families to a concern that is increasingly widespread: fraudulent scholarship search services or in other words, SCHOLARSHIP SCAMS. Hundreds of scholar-ship services are on the market, but many are scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently launched Project Scholarship Scam to alert consumers about fraudulent search services The FTC warns students to beware if the scholarship service:

Guarantee that a student has won a scholarship

Pledges that this scholarship information is not available anywhere else.

Requests a credit card or bank account number so that they can hold the scholarship for the student.Requests payment before they can give the scholarship

Claims “a national foundation has selected you to receive a scholarship” or “you are a finalist” in a contest you never entered.


How else can you be aware of scams?

Scholarship Scams usually have a particular set of characteristics. Watch out for these warning signs:

  • Application fees
  • Other fees
  • Guaranteed winnings
  • Everybody is eligible
  • Unsolicited opportunities
  • Typing & spelling errors
  • No telephone number
  • Mail drop for a return address
  • Operating out of a residence
  • Masquerading as a federal agency
  • Time pressure
  • Unusual requests for personal information
  • Notification by phone
  • High success rates
  • Excessive hype
  • Disguised advertising
  • A newly formed company




  • Respond promptly to any requests for additional information. Make sure you are checking your on-line application status, e-mail, snail mail, etc.
  • Continue to demonstrate interest (as appropriate).
  • Begin applying for scholarships.
  • Fill out your FAFSA October 1st of your senior year.
  • Request mid-year reports - send to the private colleges you are still interested in.
  • If you change your senior schedule you must notify the colleges.
  • Maintain your grades and extra-curricular activities at the same level you stated in your applications.
  • College notification of acceptance happens anywhere from mid-December through April


Determine the date by which you must tell the college you are accepting or declining their admission offer. The national date to tell one school you will attend is May 1st. Notify all other schools where you have been accepted that you are declining their offer of admission. Offers such as direct admission into your major and honors should be given strong consideration.


We highly recommend if you still want to attend the school that you contact admissions by e-mail or formal letter to express continued interest. Failure to do so may result in the school assuming you are not interested and removing you from the waitlist. Be sure to highlight why it would be a great school for you, updating any new accomplishments or improved grades and what you will bring to their campus as a student. Ask the school if any additional information is needed, mid-year grades, additional letters of recommendations, etc. Find out how they will process their waitlist. Maintain appropriate contact with your other schools.


Contact the admissions office to explore appeal options (if appropriate). Appeals are rarely successful so keep at least one of your other options active.



Accreditation—Recognition of a college or university by an outside agency indicating that the institution has been judged to meet established standards of quality.

ACT (American College Test)—Tests in English, math, science reasoning, and reading (optional written test available) used in the college admissions process.

AP (Advanced Placement)—System by which college freshman may bypass entry-level courses by proving that they have taken the equivalent in high school. Colleges may award credit if a student earns a certain score on a specifically designed exam given in May.

ASSET—Group of tests required at community colleges as part of the entrance process. Tests measure reading, math, and writing, and are administered by the college.

Associate Degree—Generally requires a minimum of 90 credits. There are TWO types:

Associate in Arts (AA) or Associate in Sciences (AS)—often referred to as the “Transfer Degree” as it allows students to complete a program of study similar to the first two years of a four-year college.

Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS)—awarded upon completion of a technical program. Generally not all of the 90 credits will transfer to a four-year college.

Bachelor Degree (Baccalaureate)—Granted after completing a course of study, normally requiring four or five years. A student may earn a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science) Degree.

College—Institution that only offers associate and bachelor degrees or a subdivision of a university that offers both bachelors and advanced degrees.

College Catalog—Book published by the institution describing requirements for admission, degrees, services, and course selections. Course catalogs are often online.

Community College—Two year institution offering instruction adapted in content, level, and schedule to meet the needs of the community in which it is located. Offerings include transfer and occupational curriculum. Community colleges offer “Open Admission”; however, a placement test is required before admission.

Cost of Attendance—Total amount needed for tuition, books and supplies, room and board (meals), transportation, and personal expenses.

Degree—Titles given to college graduates upon completion of the program. Two-year degree (Associate), four-year degree (Bachelor), six-year degree (Master), and Doctoral Degree, approximately five years beyond a Bachelor’s Degree.

Direct Transfer—A type of associate degree given in Washington State that enables students to transfer to a state university with all or most of the basic requirements completed.

Early Action—A plan allowing students to apply for admission to their first choice college early in senior year to receive a decision well in advance of the normal response date. Students are not committed to enroll, but it is NOT a good idea to apply to more than one college using this plan.

Early Decision—A plan allowing students to apply for admission to their first choice college very early in their senior year. Notification of admission is given to outstanding students who give assurance that, if accepted, they will NOT enter another institution.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) — Form used by colleges to determine financial aid eligibility.

Financial Aid Package—Amount and type of aid awards listed in a letter along with any conditions attached to the award.

GED (General Education Development)—Certificate earned by passing a test when high school has not been completed. Must be 16 years of age in the state of Washington.

Gift Aid—Financial aid, scholarships, and grants not requiring repayment.

Graduate Student—Student who has already earned a bachelor’s degree and is seeking advanced study in a particular area.

Honors at Entrance—Term used by colleges to give recognition to high quality performance on the part of outstanding students who are entering college.

Liberal Arts—Course of study intended to expose a student to a broad sampling of academic studies. Reasoning, writing, and speaking skills are stressed.

Major—Subject area in which a student specializes. Classes in the Major usually comprise half of courses for the bachelor’s degree and usually declared your junior year of college. Open Admission—Policy of admitting all applicants regardless of high school grades or admission test scores.

Pooling Admissions—A pooling admission process means that admission decisions are neither finalized nor communicated until all applications have been received and assessed. Private College/Independent University—All referred to as Independent. Not supported by public tax dollars.

Profile (CSS Profile)—Form used by some private colleges to determine financial aid eligibility. It is used in addition to the FAFSA form.

Registrar—Person who maintains the academic records. High schools and colleges have a registrar’s office.

Remedial College Classes—Classes taken at the college level to improve basic skills, usually in math and English. These classes, when taken at the college level do NOT count towards degree completion, but must be paid for at the college tuition level. These skills may be obtained in high school, saving students time and money.

Rolling Admission—A rolling admission process means that decisions are generally made and communicated as applications are received and assessed. Students should apply well in advance of posted deadlines.

SAR (Student Aid Report) —Contains information from the FAFSA regarding financial aid status.

SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) — Verbal, mathematical and written tests used in college admissions process.

Self-Help Aid—Financial aid that includes work and loans needing to be repaid.

Subsidized Loans—Based on amount of financial need. Interest is paid by the government, while the student is attending college. Repayment is deferred until after graduation.

Transcript—Chronological listing of all subjects taken and grades received. Colleges only accept transcripts that are official. To be official it must bear the high school seal and be in a sealed envelope with a seal marked “official”.

Tuition—Amount of money charged by an institution for its instructional services.

Undergraduate Student—A college student who has not yet received a bachelor degree.

Unsubsidized Loans—Not based on financial need. Interest is charged from the time the loan is disbursed.

Wait Listed—In addition to accepting and rejecting applicants, some colleges place students on a waiting list. As accepted students decide to attend other colleges, admission is offered to students on the waiting list. Waiting list acceptances are very inconsistent.





  • Information about the ACT college entrance exam can be found at

    SAT and SAT Subject Tests

  • Information about the SAT college entrance exam and SAT Subject Tests can be found at
  • To view a list of colleges and universities that do not require college entrance exams (ACT or SAT), visit

The Coalition Application

  • The Coalition App:
  • List of Schools that are members of The Coalition App:

The Common Application

  • The Common App:
  • List of Schools that use The Common App:

Financial Aid

  • CSS Profile:‐financial‐aid‐profile
  • FAFSA:


  • NCAA Eligibility Center:
  • NCAA Division III Information:



Test Preparation

  • Free test preparation options:

Colleges That Change Lives

  • Different perspectives on choosing a college -

    The Education Conservancy

  • Offers practical suggestions to parents and students about the college application process -

    My Majors

  • A tool to help students identify their skills/interest and match majors. - or

    National Survey of Student Engagement

  • A view of college fit focusing on teaching and learning -


  • Clearinghouse for eligibility for prospective athletes to play in college -



  • Information on athletics at smaller colleges -




WE ADMIT…GUIDANCE FROM THOSE WHO DO - Applying to college does not have to be overwhelming! The following principles and guidelines can help make the college admission process more manageable, more productive, and more educationally appropriate. This guidance is offered by the Education Conservancy, a group of admission professionals committed to calming the commercial frenzy by affirming educational values in college admission.



These guiding principles are relevant for parents, students, counselors, and admission deans:

Education is a process, not a product. Students are learners, not customers. The benefits and predictors of good education are knowable yet virtually impossible to measure.

Rankings oversimplify and mislead.

A student’s intellectual skills and attitude about learning are more important than what college a student attends.

Educational values are best served by admission practices that are consistent with these values.

College admission should be part of an educational process directed toward student autonomy and intellectual maturity.

Colleges can be assessed, but not ranked. Students can be evaluated, but not measured.

Students’ thoughts, ideas, and passions are worthy to be engaged and handled with utmost care.



An admission decision, test score, or GPA is not a measure of your self‐worth. And, most students are admitted to colleges they want to attend. Knowing this, we encourage you to:

Be confident! Take responsibility for your college admission process. The more you do for yourself, the better the results will be.

Be deliberate! Applying to college involves thoughtful research to determine distinctions among colleges, as well as careful self‐examination to identify your interests, learning style and other criteria.

Plan to make well‐considered applications to the most suitable colleges. This is often referred to as “making good matches.”

Be realistic and trust your instincts! Choosing a college is an important process, but not a life or death decision. Since there are limits to what you can know about colleges and about yourself, you should allow yourself to do educated guesswork.

Be open‐minded! Resist the notion that there is one perfect college. Great education happens in many places.

Use a variety of resources for gathering information. Seek advice from those people who know you, care about you, and are willing to help.

Be honest; be yourself! Do not try to game the system.

Resist taking any standardized test numerous times (twice is usually sufficient).

Limit your applications to a well‐researched and reasonable number. No more than six should be sufficient, except in special cases.

Know that what you do in college is a better predictor of future success and happiness than where you go to college.



An admission decision, test score, or GPA is not a measure of a student’s worth. And, parents should always be mindful of the behavior they are modeling for their children. Knowing this, we encourage you to:

Recognize that gaining admission to college is merely one step in a process of education that will include your student attending a college where she or he can maximize talents and growth. Emphasize the education.

Resist doing for your students what they are capable of doing for themselves. Allow your child to take responsibility for his or her own part of the college application process. Be involved in the process, but do not try to control it.

Resist relying on rankings and college selectivity to determine the most suitable colleges for your child.

Realize that researching, selecting, and applying to colleges does not have to be an expensive process.

Resist attempts to turn the process into a status competition. Develop a healthy, educationally based, and family‐appropriate approach to college admissions.

Gaming the system may not only diminish your child’s self‐confidence, it may also jeopardize desired admission outcomes.

Listen to, encourage, and believe in your child. Do not use the term “we” as in “we are applying to….”

Discuss the idea of education as an ongoing process, and how selecting a college might be different from buying a product.

Love them enough to let them demonstrate the independence you have instilled in them.

Keep this process in perspective. Remember that student skills,self‐confidence, curiosity, and desire to learn are some of the most important ingredients in quality education and successful college admissions. Do not sacrifice these by overemphasizing getting into the “best” college.


This guidance is offered by the following veteran admission professionals: Phillip Ballinger, University of Washington - Brad MacGowan, Newton North High School - Stephanie Balmer, Dickinson College - Bonnie Marcus, Bard College - Michael Beseda, St. Mary’s College-California - David McDonald, Western Oregon University - Jeff Brenzel, Yale University - Mark C. Moody, Colorado Academy - Jennifer Delahunty, Kenyon College - James Nondorf, University of Chicago - J. Antonio Cabasco, Whitman College - Marty O’Connell, Colleges That Change Lives - Sean Callaway, Pace University - Bruce Poch, Pomona College- Sidonia Dalby, Smith College - Jon Reider, San Francisco Univ. High School - Doris Davis, Cornell University - Jeff Rickey, Earlham College - Melissa Ewing, The Bush School - Kristine Sawicki, Reed College - Bill Fitzsimmons, Harvard University - Stuart Schmill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Erica Johnson, Lewis & Clark College - Michael Sexton, Santa Clara University - Maria Laskaris, Dartmouth College - Jim Sumner, Grinnell College - Matthew Malatesta, Union College - Steven Syverson, Lawrence University