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Sally P. Springer, PhD, is associate chancellor emerita at the University of California, Davis, and a psychologist with more than 30 years of experience in higher education as a professor and administrator. She has taken the college admissions journey twice with her children.
Jon Reider, PhD, is director of college counseling at San Francisco University High School, an independent 912 high school. For 15 years he served as an admissions officer and taught humanities at Stanford University.
Joyce Vining Morgan, PhD, is a certified educational planner specializing in college admissions with an online individualized practice. She has over 17 years of experience in college admissions counseling.
ONE: Why Has College Admissions Become So Competitive?
It Used to Be Simple . . . But Not Anymore
What is Selectivity All About?
Why Is There So Much Interest in a Small Group of Colleges?
The Rankings Game
Why Are Rankings So Popular?
“I’ll Make More Money If I Graduate from an Elite College”: Another Myth
Getting into Graduate School
The Importance of Fit
TWO: What Do Selective Colleges Look for in an Applicant?
How College Admissions Has Changed
What Matters Now
The Academic Record
Engagement Beyond the Classroom: The Extracurricular Record
Personal Qualities: The Person Behind the Paper
Hooks and How They Help
Fitting It All Together
THREE: How Do Colleges Make Their Decisions?
Who Works in Admissions?
What Happens to Your Application?
How the Final Decision is Made
The Special Case of the Most Selective Colleges
The Role of Your High School Counselor
How College Access Programs Can Help
Should You Consider Hiring an Independent College Counselor?
The Parents’ Role
FOUR: How Colleges (and Students) Differ: Finding What Fits
So Many Choices: How Do You Begin?
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
Liberal Arts Colleges
What’s in a Name?
Master’s Universities and Baccalaureate Colleges
Colleges With Special Affiliations
Earning Your Degree Abroad, in English
Which Kind of College Is Best for You?
Majors, Careers, and Curriculum
How Easily Can You Get the Advice and Help You Need?
What Makes for a Quality Undergraduate Experience?
Determining Your Priorities
FIVE: Where Should You Apply?
Start at Your Counseling Office
Use a College Search Tool
Meeting College Representatives
Read What They Send You
How to Narrow Things Down
The College Visit
Showing That You Are Interested
Selectivity and Your College List
Check Out the Data
How Long Should Your College List Be?
The Key to a Good College List
A Word About Finances
SIX: The Big Tests
What is the SAT Supposed to Test?
What is the ACT Supposed to Measure?
How Much Do Standardized Tests Count?
How Should You Prepare?
Which Test Should You Take?
When Should You Take the SAT or ACT?
How Do the PSAT an PLAN Fit into the Picture?
Test Optional Schools
The Case of Special Accommodations
The SAT Subject Tests
A Word to Parents About Standardized Tests
SEVEN: Deciding About Early Decision and Other Early Options
An Overview of Early Acceptance Programs
The Pros and Cons of Early Decision
Should You Apply Early Decision or Early Action?
More Things to Consider
Likely Letters and Early Notification
The Advantage of Thinking Early Even If You Decide Against Applying Early
And Humor Always Helps Keep Things in Perspective
EIGHT: Applying Well Part I: The Application and the Essay
Getting Off to a Good Start
Writing an Effective Personal Essay
An Important “To Do” List
NINE: Applying Well Part II: Recommendations, Interviews, and Activities
Getting Great Letters of Recommendation
Shining in Your Interview
Highlighting What You’ve Accomplished
The Canadian and British/Irish Difference
You’ve Finished Your Applications – What’s Next?
TEN: Making the Most of Your Special Talents
The Student Athlete and Athletic Recruitment
Options for the Student Artist
ELEVEN: Students with Special Circumstances
Students with Disabilities
Tips for Homeschoolers
Making a Change: How to Successfully Transfer Colleges
TWELVE: Paying the Bill
Key Concepts for Understanding Financial Aid
How Colleges Determine Your Financial Need
What Forms Will You Have to File?
Getting an Estimate of Your Financial Need
What Goes into a Financial Aid Package?
Why Need-Based Packages Can Differ from College to College
Will Your Need for Financial Aid Affect Your Chances for Admission?
How Merit Aid Works
Seeking Outside Scholarships
Financial Aid and Your College List
Evaluating Aid After You’ve Been Accepted
Another Word About Early Decision
Planning Ahead When Your Child Is Young
THIRTEEN: Advice for International Students
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an International Applicant
What Are Colleges Looking For?
How Will Your Application Be Reviewed?
Where Should You Apply?
The Role of Standardized Tests
Tests to Show Proficiency in English
Getting the Application Completed
Paying for Your Education
The Bigger Picture
FOURTEEN: Making Your Decision After the Colleges Make Theirs
How Will You Be Notified?
The Special Case of Early Decision
What Can You Do if You Are Deferred
When It Is Your Turn to Decide in the Spring
Dealing with Disappointment
Taking Another Look
Revisiting Financial Aid
How Wait-Lists Work
Should You Consider a Gap Year?
A Word About Senioritis
Celebrate and Enjoy!
FIFTEEN: What Matters Most: Advice to Parents and Students
Some Parting Thoughts for Parents
Some Parting Thoughts for Students
A. College Research Worksheet
B. Common Application Essay Questions 2013-14
C. Sample Student Information Sheet for Letters of Recommendation
D. Financial Aid Comparison Worksheet
E. Cost of Attendance Worksheet
College Preparation Time Line
About the Authors