College Planning Guide


You are now entering a very exciting period of your life. The transition from high school to college is a time filled with challenge and opportunity. 

Because the process of selecting a college is very personal, it must begin with self-reflection. You must consider many things about yourself: your goals, your values, your strengths, weaknesses, and reasons for going to college. Then, consider the many criteria you will use in choosing which colleges to explore. Remember, college planning is a process with a beginning, middle, and end. Approaching college selection with this perspective in mind will result in better decisions. 

Throughout the process of making a college decision, one of your best resources is your school counselor. Your counselor knows the various steps in the admission process and can help you establish a logical approach. Just as important, your counselor can help you better understand yourself, your abilities, your interests, and your needs. 

Even before you speak with your counselor, begin to draw up a list of questions that will affect your plans. 

Here are some of the questions that you and your counselor may wish to address: 

  1. Am I interested in a liberal arts institution or a technical institute with more specialized training? Do I want a two- or four- year institution?
  2. Do I want to stay near home, or am I prepared to visit my family only a few times each year? Am I interested in a certain locale? Urban, small town, or rural?
  3. Do I want to attend a small or large institution? Am I interested in a diverse student body?
  4. Have my grades been good enough to be considered by a very selective school? Do I want a demanding academic environment? Do I plan to go to graduate school? Am I comfortable with a curriculum that offers a great deal of independent study? Does my learning needs require more specialized facilities?
  5. Do I prefer on or off-campus housing? Am I interested in fraternities or sororities? How important are intramural or intercollegiate sports? Do I want a campus that offers many social/cultural events?
  6. How important will costs be in my final choice? What kind of financial assistance will I need? Are opportunities for part-time jobs important? What qualifications do I have for scholarships?

Discuss the answers to these questions with your school counselor in relation to your academic “profile” (courses, grades, rank-in-class, test scores, activities). Using the information from these discussions, you and your counselor can begin to develop a list of colleges which meet your criteria. 

Remember, the Counseling Staff at Bridgewater-Raritan High School are dedicated to helping you fulfill your college and career plans. Through a developmental counseling model and client-centered approach, your counselor can assist you with personal assessment, academic enhancement, career identification and college admission. 

The road to college lies before you. It’s time to begin your journey!


Collegiate Degrees

Associate Degree - The degree awarded after the successful completion of a two-year program, usually at a junior or community college.

Bachelors Degree - The degree awarded after the successful completion of a four-year program of study at a college or university.

Masters Degree - The degree awarded at the completion of the first post-graduate program.

Doctoral Degree - The degree awarded after intensive study in a particular field such as Philosophy (Ph.D.), Medicine (M.D.), Education (Ed. D.) or Law (J.D.)

Collegiate Calendars

Semester System - The most common calendar, where the academic year is divided into two relatively equal periods of approximately 16 weeks.

Trimester System - A calendar which divides the academic year into three equal periods.

Quarter System - Similar to the Trimester System, but usually includes a fourth, summer session.

4-1-4 System - A system where students carry four courses during the fall session, one course during the “January Term” (sometimes in an off-campus situation), and four courses in the spring session.

Three-Two Program - A combined degree program at two cooperating institutions, the first three years at an undergraduate school and the final two years at an institution providing specialized study; degrees are awarded from both.

Admission Plans

Matriculation - Admission to a college as a degree candidate.

Early Admission - Admission to a college following completion of the junior year of secondary school.

Early Decision - A plan where students make application in early fall of senior year and notification is sent by mid-December; if accepted, a commitment-to-attend is usually required along with withdrawal of other college applications. A Student may apply to only one college under Early Decision.

Early Action/Early Notification - Similar to Early Decision except that if accepted, the applicant is not committed to attend the institution and other applications may be made.

Wait List/Alternate List - A response to an applicant indicating that his/her application is acceptable, but the limit of accepted students has already been reached; wait listed students may be admitted after May 1, if space becomes available.

Rolling Admission - A procedure by which admission decisions are made on a continuous basis and sent within about 3-4 weeks after receipt of completed application material.

Admission Dates

College Notification Date - The date by which colleges not using rolling admission notify applicants of the decision on their applications, usually by April 15.

Candidate Reply Date - he date by which applicants must reply to college offers of admission and submit a tuition deposit to secure a place in the freshman class, usually by May 1.

Testing Terminology

Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) -Two-hour forty-five minute test usually taken in fall of junior year in preparation for SAT. The PSAT score serves as the basis for selection of National Merit Scholars who receive public recognition and financial awards.

Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) - A three-hour forty-five test given on specific dates throughout the year at testing centers and required by most colleges for admission. The scoring has three components: 1) Critical Reading - which indicates an understanding of words, skill in dealing with word and thought relationships, the ability to read with understanding and discrimination; 2) Math- which measures ability to handle numbers and do quantitative reasoning. Scores on each section range from 200-800. a fifty minute essay section is optional.

SAT Subject Tests - One-hour tests given in specific high school subjects and scored 200 - 800 to demonstrate level of accomplishment. A number of colleges may require these tests in addition to SAT Reasoning.

American College Test (ACT) - A four-part test consisting of English, Mathematics, Reading, and Natural Science used largely by midwestern, western, and southwestern colleges for admission. Individual and composite scores range from 1 to 36.

Advanced Placement Examination (AP) - Subject-oriented college-level tests given in May and usually taken by high school students completing advanced placement courses; college credit usually granted based on scores (1 is low and 5 is high), enabling students to pursue further study in a field or shorten their college career.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - An exam used in conjunction with or as a substitute for the SAT or ACT for students whose native language is not English.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP) - A testing program by which students can usually earn up to 30 college credits by passing subject exams available in 33 different areas.

College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) - More commonly called the “College Board,” this organization regulates the Admission Testing Program which includes the Scholastic Assessment Tests and the Advanced Placement Tests.

Educational Testing Service (ETS) - This organization creates, administers, scores and reports results of the Admission Testing Program of the College Board.

Secondary School Code (SSC) - The identification number of your high school used for CEEB and ACT tests.

Student Descriptive Questionnaire (SDQ) - A form used by the College Board to collect information about a student’s interests, aspirations and activities; the SDQ response sheet is returned when a student registers for the SAT.

Student Search Service (SSS) - A program by which students’ SDQ responses, PSAT, SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject scores are made available to colleges to allow them to directly contact by mail those students in which they might be interested.


Step 1 - Self Exploration

Know Yourself

  • What is unique about you?
  • What are your likes and dislikes
  • What are your strengths and limitations?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • Which academic subjects do you enjoy the most?
  • What activities are you most passionate about?
  • What do you value most in your life?
  • What career areas do you find the most interesting?
  • What are your short- and long-term goals?
  • How do you define success?

Know Your reasons for Attending College

  • Increase your lifetime earning potential
  • Develop greater appreciation of the arts, technology, and culture
  • Develop special talents and skills
  • Expand learning power and become more independent
  • Form lifelong friendships

Step 2 - The College Prep Curriculum

If you’re planning to go to college, it’s important to take the right classes in high school.  Some universities may require fewer years in some subjects than we’ve recommended here, but for “strong preparation,” you should plan to take the following: 

English: 4 years of college prep English are required. This will give you the skills you’ll need to understand literature and write effectively. 

Math: 4 years will give you the best possible preparation. Students who take math in each year of high school are far more successful in college than students taking only three years. 

Science: 3 years of lab sciences are recommended (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) even if you don’t plan to pursue a science related field. 

Social Studies: 3 years will give you the ability to understand and contribute to the world you live in. 

World Language: 3 years of the same language are recommended.  Many universities require their students to study a world language.  

Art: 1 year of a visual or performing art is required. This includes courses in art, music, theater or dance.

Strong preparation

Many colleges will require students to meet certain college prep curriculum standards. But just meeting the minimum is not necessarily the best way to prepare for college. Strong preparation means going beyond the minimum - taking honors or advanced placement courses where appropriate.

Step 3 - Consider College Characteristics


  • Majors and educational programs
  • Type of school and degrees offered
  • Admission policy
  • Location, size, and setting
  • Costs, financial aid, and scholarships
  • College affiliation and accreditation
  • Campus activities and facilities
  • Support services

The College List

After you’ve identified college characteristics important to you, it’s time to solicit advice, do some research and acquaint yourself with some important resources. 

Refer to College Guide Books

College guide books can be extremely useful in identifying colleges, especially when you have decided on geographic location and the curriculum you will study. Use these reference guides to begin to develop your list of prospective colleges. Bear in mind however, that there are two basic types of college guides: the objective, factual guides and the subjective, anecdotal guides. The former provides necessary information and is generally quite reliable, but rarely give you a feel for a college. The latter frequently give you a sense of the intangibles of a college or of college life but may be biased or inaccurate. You should therefore use both to get the most comprehensive overview. 

Use Computer Software and the Internet

Computer software can save you time and effort in the college search and application process. You can use the software to give you additional information on a particular college or help you find other colleges that have the characteristics you selected as important. College selection programs may be found in your counseling office, career center, school or community library, or you can access them directly via the Internet. Some packages may be purchased at bookstores and computer stores. 

On-line services are available for registering for the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT); sending the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); and completing the CSS Financial Aid Profile. You can review entire college catalogs, access college applications including the Common Application, and send applications electronically to colleges. Many colleges also provide you descriptions of their institutions on DVD. 

Some college selection software and information systems have a variety of components which allow you to do the following: 1) conduct a personalized search for colleges that meet your criteria; 2) tour colleges interactively to sample majors, student life, and activities; 3) access college catalogs; 4) send inquiries to colleges and receive responses; 5) apply to the college on-line.

Refine Your List

After following the suggestions above and developing a preliminary list of colleges which fulfill your requirements, you should meet again with your counselor.  At this time, you’ll need to reduce your list to a more workable number for further investigation.  In order to do this, take the following steps: 

  1. Send for literature such as viewbooks, catalogs and application packets to get comprehensive information on particular schools. 
  2. Make informal visits to different kinds of college campuses. Attend Campus Tour Days, Open Houses, Financial Aid Workshops, etc.
  3. Attend college fairs, college nights, and individual meetings with college representatives. The following questions are a sample of important areas to discuss:
  • What programs of study does the college offer
  • Is the location of the school rural, urban or suburban?  Is public transportation available?
  •  How many students attend the college full-time/part-time?
  • What is the average class size for freshmen?
  • What are the admission criteria?
  • What are the application deadlines?
  • How much is tuition?  
  • How much is room and board?
  • What types of financial aid are available?  
  • What scholarships are available, academic and/or athletic?
  • What counseling services are available?
  • What tutoring or other support services are available?
  • What is unique about the college?
  • What percentage of students graduate in four years/five years?
  • What percentage of freshmen return for sophomore year?

It’s okay to be undecided about a major—most colleges provide services to help students select a major during the first and/or second year!

Sample College Guide Books

Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges
Barron’s Guide to the Best, Most Popular and Most Exciting Colleges
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., Woodbury, New York

College Admission Data Handbook
Wintergreen, Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts

The College Handbook
Index of Majors
College Entrance Examination Board, New York, New York

The Fiske Guide to College
Edward B. Fiske, Times Books, New York, New York

The Insider’s Guide to Colleges
Yale Daily News Staff, St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York

The Internet Guide For Collegebound Students
Ken Hartman, College Board, New York, New York

The K & W Guide to Colleges for the Learning Disabled
Marybeth Kravets and Imy F. Wax, Random House, New York, New York

Lovejoy’s College Guide
Prentice Hall, New York, New York

Lovejoy’s College Guide for the Learning Disabled
Charles T. Straughn II and Barbara Sue Lovejoy Straughn, Prentice Hall, New York, New York

Peterson’s Annual Guide to Undergraduate Study
Guide to Four Year Colleges/Guide to Two Year Colleges
Peterson’s Guides, Princeton, New Jersey

Peterson’s Guide to Colleges With Programs For Learning Disabled Students
Charles T. Mangrum II and Stephen S. Strichart, Peterson’s Guides, Princeton, New Jersey

Ruggs Recommendations on the Colleges
Frederick E. Rugg, Fallbrook, California

Step 4 - The Campus Visit

You’re now ready to visit the college campuses remaining on your list. Taking a campus tour will allow you to experience the campus first-hand. What is the atmosphere like?  Do you feel comfortable there? The impressions you gather on your campus visit will help you decide if you and the institution are indeed a good match!

In general, the college visit usually consists of three parts:  a student-conducted campus tour, an interview, and wandering. Each can be a valuable source of information and insight if you have done your research and are properly prepared.

The Campus Tour

Arranging a campus tour is easy. Simply call the Admission Office and ask when tours are offered. Confirm your visitation date over the phone or via e-mail. While arranging your tour, try to schedule time to speak with an admission counselor at the conclusion of the program. You may also want to make arrangements to sit in on classes, stay overnight, or meet with faculty members and coaches.

In addition to seeing and hearing about programs and facilities, student-conducted tours offer at least three other benefits: first, the opportunity to ask the guide questions on any and all subjects and get the student view; second, the chance to exchange information with others on the tour; and third, the opportunity to meet students who may be your future classmates.

Campus Considerations

Consider the following as you tour the facilities of each campus you visit:


  1. How extensive are the hours?
  2. How extensive are the resources?
  3. Are tutoring services available?


  1. Are there sufficient computer labs?
  2. Are there foreign language labs?
  3. Are labs equipped with state-of-the-art technology?
  4. Are there art studios, music studios, dance studios?
  5. Are classroom buildings clean and accessible?


  1. What is the size and scope of the theatre?
  2. Are productions open to non-theatre majors?
  3. How many productions are scheduled each year?
  4. Is there a campus repertory company, choir, band, or orchestra?


  1. What intercollegiate and intramural sports are offered?
  2. In what athletic division does the college participate?
  3. Are athletic scholarships available?
  4. What are the facilities for men and women?
  5. How many clubs are available for social, cultural, and community service opportunities?


  1. Where are the residence halls located on campus?
  2. Are rooms singles, doubles, triples or suites?
  3. Are residence halls coed or single-sex?
  4. Where do freshmen live?
  5. How are roommates selected?
  6. What are the residence hall rules?
  7. Are there quiet study hours?
  8. Is there a visitation policy for guests?
  9. Are there sufficient rooms for all interested students?
  10. Can freshmen live off-campus?
  11. Are there fraternity or sorority houses?
  12. Is housing guaranteed for four years?


  1. Where are the dining halls located?
  2. Are there apartment-style dorms where students do their own cooking?
  3. What types of meal plans are available?
  4. Can special diets be accommodated?
  5. Are there restaurants on or near the campus?

Health Services

  1. Are clinical facilities available on-campus?
  2. During what hours are doctors and nurses available?
  3. Are counseling services available to students?
  4. Is there a charge for medical care?
  5. What hospitals are near the campus?


  1. Is the campus patrolled by an effective security staff?
  2. Are parking lots and walkways well lit?
  3. What are the campus crime statistics?

Step 5 - The Interview

Most colleges state that the interview, whether individual or group, is to be an information exchange wherein the applicant (and parents) may have questions answered and doubts relieved. Also, the interview gives the Admission Office a chance to learn something about the applicant. Therefore, it is essential that you be prepared with questions to ask and issues to discuss. 

In general, your questions should go beyond information offered in the first few pages of the college catalog. Direct your questions at topics YOU care about - availability of faculty, accessibility to computers, campus activities, the food, the social life, campus - community relations, transportation, campus safety and security, facilities, residence life, medical services, or anything else that YOU want to know. No question is out of place if it is sincere! 

On some campuses, an interview is required as part of the evaluation process. In this situation, you may be confronted with thought-provoking questions from the interviewer. Some routine questions might include: 

  • What’s one of the best books you’ve read?
  • Describe some events that have had a major impact on your life.
  • Discuss one of the best teachers you’ve had.
  • What are your favorite classes and why?
  • How would you describe yourself as a person?
  • What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is the most significant contribution you’ve made to your high school?
  • What are your favorite activities outside of class?
  • What unique qualities can you bring to the college?
  • Why are you considering this institution?

Give careful thought to your responses. Don’t be afraid to fall back on humor, but let the interviewer know how your answers relate to your educational goals, abilities and interests. 

Whether the interview is informational or evaluative, you should have an unofficial copy of your high school transcript reflecting the courses you’ve taken through senior year, grades achieved, rank in class and grade point average, SATI/II or ACT scores, Advanced Placement grades, etc. Be ready to discuss and explain any unusual aspects of your record - good or bad! Have a list of all your activities and major accomplishments. Whenever possible, toot your own horn! If you’ve got it, use it! 

Finally, your demeanor and dress should be normal. Do not try to impress the interviewer with your vocabulary or wardrobe. Dress neatly but be comfortable. Be honest and relaxed. Remember, the interviewer wants to see the real you!

Step 6 - The College Admission Application

How do colleges make admission decisions? Let’s take a look at the six main components of an applicant’s folder. 

1.   Application - Most college applications are made up of four sections: Personal Information; Major Program Selection; Activity Chart; and Personal Statement/Essay.

2.   Academic Record - Regardless of a college’s admission policy, the most important factor in an applicant’s folder is the academic record in secondary school. Your specific courses and the grades you received are the two most important aspects of your high school record or transcript. Most colleges require class rank and/or GPA to assist the admission office in making decisions.

The Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education policy precludes the reporting of class rank for the college application process. Because the academic environment at Bridgewater-Raritan High School is very challenging, we believe the comparisons among students inherent in class rank calculations unnecessarily increase competition within the school. Please be advised however, that class rank will be made available upon college acceptance if requested to determine college financial aid and scholarship eligibility.

3.   Test Scores - Standardized testing has come under a great deal of scrutiny and criticism in recent years. Many colleges have stated that they are not concerned with applicants’ test results; a few have even made submission of test scores optional. However, any college that requires the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) will use the scores in its admission process. How much emphasis is placed on test results depends on the college’s policy. It is important to remember that test scores are a part of the total applicant profile, and, at most institutions, test scores alone do no exclude a student from admission, nor do scores alone guarantee admission.

4.   Activities - Although your academic credentials are the primary factor in determining admission, your record of involvement in activities can be a significant supporting credential. Mere membership is not the important factor; it is, rather, the level of involvement and accomplishment that is important. It is better to be involved in one activity and to be a significant contributor to that activity than to be involved superficially in several organizations.  Colleges want leaders!\

5.   Essay - As previously stated, many colleges require an essay as part of the application. Think of the essay as a vehicle for conveying your “personal side” to the college. Your essay is a chance for you to “talk” with anyone that reads your application and makes a judgment about you.

Steps in preparing an essay:

  • Make a rough draft.
  • Make sure your essay answers the question but interpret the topic in your own style.
  • Use correct grammar and punctuation.
  • Have someone proofread your work, but don't let someone else write your essay!

6.   School Recommendation - The official recommendation or statement prepared by your school counselor is also a very important part of the folder, but is not as critical as your record itself.

Teacher Recommendations - These tell the readers of your application about your classroom performance in terms that are not represented by grades. Teachers may comment on the type of contributions you make in class, the written and oral work you have presented, and your potential for success at a particular college.

The Personal Factor

Some colleges are trying to build diversity in their freshman class as well as to ensure academic quality. This desire for diversity means that the Admission Office may show more flexibility in its decisions when evaluating applicants who fall into certain special categories. These categories may include: children of alumni, international students, athletes, leaders, geographically diverse students, artists, musicians, economically and/or educationally disadvantaged students.

The Decision Process

Getting into college is not an exact science. While each school creates its own standards to measure applicants, two factors control the admission policies at all colleges and universities: what the school wants its freshman profile to look like; and what the size of the freshman class will be. Many students and parents worry about the selectivity of colleges and universities. Selectivity generally refers to the percentage of applicants accepted from the pool of students who apply. At one end are noncompetitive or open admission institutions which require only a high school diploma or GED (general equivalency diploma) for entrance. At the other end are the most competitive and highly competitive institutions which admit only 10% - 25% of applicants. The good news is that there are fewer than 100 out of over 2000 four-year colleges and universities in this category. This means that you have better than a 50/50 chance of being accepted at most institutions around the country. While selectivity may be a real factor in gaining admission to a particular institution, don’t be misled. Investigating a list of the BEST institutions is not as important as considering which institutions may be BEST for you!

The Golden Rule

Don’t file an application for admission to a college which you would not gladly attend if offered the chance. Make sure you have visited the campus before applying!

Choosing the College You Will Attend

If you have completed the admission process carefully and applied to institutions which are a good “fit” based on your wants, needs, interests and academic abilities - this should result in several acceptance letters. At this point, you should reconsider the advantages and disadvantages of each campus along with any financial aid and/or scholarship packages which have been offered. Ultimately, colleges will ask for a tuition deposit by the Candidate’s Reply Date of May 1. Also, keep in mind that all offers of admission are contingent upon successful completion of senior year. Therefore, do not contract “senioritis.”

Step 7 - The Financial Aid Process

The actual cost of attending college consists of the tuition and fees charged by an institution less the amount of financial aid awarded to the individual. But how is financial aid awarded?  Let’s examine the process

1.   The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed before any federal, state or campus-based aid can be awarded. Students and parents are required to apply for a PIN to access and apply for financial aid (

2.   The FAFSA should be submitted electronically ( to the Federal Processor beginning in October and no later than April 15th of the senior year. If exact personal financial information is not available when completing the FAFSA, families should use estimates. Delays in submitting the form may affect your financial aid award.

3.   The Federal Processor uses information from the FAFSA to compute the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Savings, assets and income of the family are taken into account. The Federal Processor uses Federal Methodology to determine EFC.

4.   The Federal Processor sends this information to the federal and state government and to six institutions to which the student applies. The student is informed of the analysis through the Student Aid Report (SAR). Please note the Federal Processor does not award funds.

5.   The federal government uses the Federal Needs Analysis for determining eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Federal Perkins Loan, the Federal Stafford Loan and Federal Work-Study funds. The State of New Jersey uses the modified version of the Federal Needs Analysis to determine eligibility for Tuition Aid Grants and Educational Opportunity Fund Grants. New Jersey also awards money for the Distinguished Scholars Program and NJ Stars to academically talented students. Scholarship awards are not dependent on financial need. It is important to remember, however, that most grants provided by the State of New Jersey are only awarded to students who attend college in New Jersey. Therefore, students should list New Jersey colleges first when indicating where the Needs Analysis should be sent.

Some colleges may ask you to verify information on the FAFSA by providing them with a copy of your income tax forms. In cases of divorce or separation, a college may also ask for financial information from the non-custodial parent. Individual colleges may take into consideration the income or assets of the non-custodial parent when awarding their own institutional funds.

Shortly after you receive your acceptance letter from a particular college, a Financial Aid Package will be mailed to you. This package will list the initial cost of tuition, fees, and on campus room and board at the institution and how they will be reduced by any grants, loans or scholarship you are receiving. The final cost of attendance should be clearly marked. In comparing financial aid papers from different colleges, it is important to note not only how financial costs compare but also how much the student and parent will have to borrow in the form of loans. It is also important to know whether the financial aid awarded by the college is renewable for subsequent years and whether a certain level of satisfactory progress is necessary to renew the award.

If the financial aid award at the college you most want to attend is insufficient to meet your needs, it may be useful to contact the Financial Aid Office at that specific institution to see if personal circumstances warrant reconsideration. Parents may also apply to their local bank for a Parents Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), to help meet college costs.


Another primary source of money for college is merit scholarships. These are generally awarded by colleges and universities based strictly on an applicant’s academic achievement.  Typically, the college considers the student for a merit award at the time of application and financial need is not a factor.

In addition to merit scholarships, many foundations, corporations, unions and religious organizations sponsor scholarships. The local Chamber of Commerce may have a list of businesses, civic and professional groups such as Elks, Jaycees, Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary Clubs which offer substantial awards for students in their community. Specific details on national, state and local scholarships are sent to the Guidance Department and a comprehensive file is maintained in the Career Resource Center. Seniors are encouraged to check this file on a regular basis.

A huge source of scholarship aid is the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students must take the PSAT in October of their Junior year to participate. Many large corporations make funds available to those who score well on this exam.

Also - use the Internet! The most fruitful scholarship sites on the Internet are those with searchable databases; you enter personal information such as age, gender, class rank, field of study and end up with a list of awards that fit your profile. By searching two of the databases listed below, one can find a full range of scholarship programs they may qualify for. Finally, be aware of scholarship scams. These usually come in the form of letters inviting you to pay a fee for a list of scholarship sources. The same information is available to you free - via your own computer!

College Board Scholarship Search
Sallie Mae Scholarship Services


If you are a college-bound student who wants to play college-level sports, it is important to learn all you can about the rules governing academic eligibility. Depending on which level of competition you are considering, your relationship with a college recruiter must abide by the rules established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

If you intend to participate in Division I or Division II athletics as a college freshman, you must register and be certified by the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse. Please note that initial eligibility certification pertains only to whether you meet the NCAA academic requirements for participation as a freshman in Division I or II athletics and has no bearing on your admission to a particular institution. Obtain a copy of the NCAA GUIDE FOR THE COLLGEG BOUND ATHLETE from your Counseling Office to review academic eligibility criteria. It is generally best to register with the Clearinghouse towards the end of your junior year. Registration forms can also be obtained in the Counseling Office. Once registered, have you counselor send your official high school transcript along with SAT or ACT scores. A final transcript should also be mailed upon graduation. The Clearinghouse can then process and send your eligibility status to any Division I or II college that requests it.

An athletic resume is an excellent tool for communicating your interest in a college athletic program. During your junior year, write letters to coaches at the institution you are interested in attending. Your athletic resume and one or two of your most impressive “press” items should be included with this letter. Be aware that college coaches cannot contact you in person but only by the telephone until on or after July 1st of your junior year. 

As a senior, maintain a strong academic record and be proactive in your college search.  Respond to all requests from college coaches in a timely manner and be sure to choose an institution that will prepare you for life both on and off the athletic field. The campus visit is especially important. When meeting with a college coach, here are some key questions to ask:

  • In what division does the college or university participate?
  • Is there any division changes anticipated in the next three years?
  • What conference is the college or university in and what were the final standings last season?
  • How many team members are returning?
  • What is the graduation rate of players?
  • How are practices scheduled?
  • What are the living accommodations?
  • How are missed classes due to travel compensated?
  • What kind of financial aid or scholarships are available and what are the criteria for maintaining this aid?
  • Important Resources

NCAA Eligibility Center
PO Box 7136
Indianapolis, IN 46207

National Collegiate Athletic Association
700 West Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46206-6222

National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics
1200 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64106-2304

National Junior College Athletic Association
1631 Mesa Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Planning Calendar

Junior Year


Inquire about PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) date, time, and place in October. · Meet with your school counselor to review your courses for this year and plan for your senior year.




Keep your grades up.


Receive results of PSAT/NMSQT. Read material sent with your scores and consult your school counselor to determine how you might improve. This can be excellent preparation for your SAT.


Begin to think about which colleges you’d like to explore. · Sign up for Spring SAT.


Meet with your school counselor to begin preparing a list of colleges to explore. · Begin to prepare for your SATs.


Write to colleges on your list and evaluate the literature sent to you. · Begin to visit campuses.


When selecting your senior courses, be sure to continue to challenge yourself. · It’s time to take the SAT or ACT; double check date, time and place. · Continue to evaluate colleges, begin eliminating some choices from the original list.


Attend a College Fair to get more information about colleges on your list · Take SAT tests (if appropriate). · Look into summer jobs. · Consider enrolling in an academic course at a local college, pursuing a summer school program, or working as a volunteer.


Plan visits to colleges during summer. · Take SAT tests (if appropriate).

July - August

Visit colleges, take tours, and have interviews. · Continue to refine your list.

Senior Year


Sign up for Fall SAT Reasoning /SAT Subject or ACT. · Meet with your school counselor to be sure that your list includes colleges appropriate to your academic and personal record. · Review your personal records with your school counselor to ensure their accuracy. · Write to the colleges still on your list and request applications. · Plan visits to colleges (if you didn’t get to them during the summer or if you want to return to a campus for a second time).


Take SAT Reasoning/SAT Subject or ACT if registered. · Attend a regional college fair to investigate further those colleges to which you will probably apply. · Begin to gather the information needed for applications. · Line up your teacher recommendations. · If applying for early decision, send in your application now.


Take SAT Reasoning/SAT Subject or ACT if registered. Have scores sent to college on your list. · Be sure that first quarter grades are good. · Continue filing applications to colleges.


Take SAT Reasoning/SAT Subject or ACT if registered. Have scores sent to college on your list. · File your last college application. · Consult your school counselor again to review your final list of colleges.  Be sure you have all bases covered. · If you applied for early decision, you should have an answer by now.


Take SAT Reasoning/SAT Subject or ACT if registered. · Courses continue to count throughout the senior year. · Obtain the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you plan to apply for financial assistance.

February, March, April

Remember to monitor your applications to be sure that all materials are sent and received on time. · Enjoy your final year in high school but don’t catch senioritis.

Before May 1

Decide on the one college which you will attend. Send in your tuition deposit. BE PROUD you’ve completed a difficult task. · Notify the other colleges to which you have been admitted that you have selected another college.


Take Advanced Placement exams.


Request that your counselor send your final transcript to the college you will attend. Congratulations, you’ve made it through high school!  Enjoy your graduation and look forward to college.


Look for information from the college about housing, roommate(s), orientation, course selection, etc.

August & September

Pack for college. Have a great year!

Student Rights & Responsibilities

Your rights entitle you to:

  • Receive full information from colleges and universities about their admission, financial aid, scholarship, and housing policies. If you consider early decision, obtain complete information from the college about its process and policy.
  • Wait to respond to an offer of admission and/or financial aid until you have heard from all the colleges and universities to which you have applied or until May 1, whichever comes earlier.
  • If you think that your rights as a student have been denied, you should contact the college or university immediately to request additional information or the extension of a reply date. In addition, you should ask your counselor to notify the president of your state or regional Association for College Admission Counseling.

If you need further assistance send a copy of any correspondence you have had with the college or university and a copy of your letter of admission to: Executive Director, NACAC, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 430, Alexandria, VA  22314.

Your responsibilities are to:

  • Understand the admission, financial aid, and scholarship policies of the colleges and universities to which you plan to apply. This includes being aware of deadlines, restrictions, and other criteria.
  • Before you apply, you should understand the policies and procedures of each college or university regarding application fees, financial aid and scholarships, and housing. You should also be sure that you understand the policies of each college or university regarding deposits that you may be required to make before you enroll and the dates when refunds of those deposits are available.
  • Complete all material that is required for application, and submit your application materials on or before the deadlines.
  • Follow the process recommended by your high school for filing college applications.
  • Arrange, if appropriate, for interviews and/or visits to colleges of your choice.
  • Notify each college or university who accepts you whether you are accepting or rejecting its offer. You should make these notifications as soon as you have heard from all the colleges to which you have applied or by May 1, whichever is earlier. Also, if you are accepted under an early decision plan, which requires you to attend that institution, you must withdraw the applications submitted to other colleges or universities at the time of that acceptance and make no additional applications. If you are an early decision candidate and are seeking financial aid, the previously mentioned withdrawal of other applications presumes you have received notification about financial aid.
  • Confirm your intention to enroll and submit a deposit, if one is required, to only one college or university by its required notification date, usually May 1. 

If you are put on a waiting list by a college or university and are later admitted to that institution, you may accept the offer and send a deposit. However, you must immediately notify any other college or university where you previously applied your intention to enroll elsewhere.