Virtually all college applications are now prepared and submitted online through a student account. Some colleges still provide the option of a paper or “hard copy” application. But increasingly, both large universities and smaller private colleges recommend an online application. For both large and small universities, this process helps them manage large volumes of data more efficiently. For many private colleges, the use of a single Common Application at commonapp.org helps standardize the “frequently asked questions,” thereby saving time otherwise spent on completing multiple forms.
Colleges using the Common App often require a supplemental form with questions unique to each institution, requiring a more personal or individualized response from the student. While the form is not completely “common,” use of the Common App still saves time on general questions and allows a student to focus more effort on thoughtful written statements for each college.
College Application Workshop
In August, the SPA College Counselors host a College Application Workshop to help SPA seniors understand, create and manage their online applications. Seniors choose from several time slots. This orientation helps seniors understand the steps of preparing applications, including drafting written responses to short and long essay questions, while they continue to narrow their college list through fall semester college research and campus visits.
Students submit college applications during the fall and winter of senior year. During the summer before senior year, however, students should become familiar with the type of questions posed on applications and begin drafting ideas for application essays. One helpful tool is to start an account (after August 1) on the Common Application web site, commonapp.org. The site's online application is used by more than 400 colleges and is highly representative of a standard college application. We recommend that students draft initial responses to the Common App essay questions, whether by writing a "first paragraph" for several questions or a full draft for a particular essay question. Seniors may review essay drafts and develop the written portion of their applications through individual meetings with their college counselor. In addition, SPA sponsors a College Application Workshop in August, and an Essay Writing Presentation in early fall.
The college counselors write a detailed school letter of recommendation for each student that is submitted with the transcript and school profile. All recommendations from SPA faculty and counselors are submitted online, following guidelines explained to seniors and parents each fall. We recommend that students wait until senior fall to request two teachers to write letters in support of college applications; students choose among junior and senior year teachers. We also advise students individually about whether to include additional supporting letters or supplemental materials to provide well-balanced, but not excessive, information in their application file.
Sending Test Scores
Colleges that require standardized testing such as SAT or ACT typically require an official score sent directly from the testing company. Each time a student takes a test, they have the option to send those scores to up to four colleges automatically, for free (before reviewing the score). We advise students (and most prefer) to wait until senior fall to send official score reports once they have finished their standardized testing (including any senior fall re-testing) and confirmed their college application list.
The student and college counselor also confer on which test scores to list on the SPA official transcript, however, colleges still require a separate report from the testing company. We advise students about the score reporting options for both SAT/College Board and ACT.
Note that a variety of colleges do not require SAT or ACT; see the list posted on the right – “Colleges with Alternate Testing Policies” – as well as the Fair Test website.
Sample Student Resumes
A student resume may be a helpful way for a student to organize and present more in-depth information about their activities and interests. Whether submitted with college applications (not a requirement, but may be appropriate for some students), used in correspondence with a college coach, or available during a campus visit or interview, a resume can help students fully convey the range and depth of their experiences.
Rising seniors may wish to draft a resume over the summer for use during college visits or as general preparation for filling out sections of applications that ask about extracurricular involvement. Gathering all of this information in one place gives students a helpful head start. Students might simply refer to the resume when filling out application forms. A resume also may be appropriate if more space is needed to list activities or to explain the depth of a commitment or achievement in a few areas.
These samples provide a starting point. The General Resume simply lists activities by category; the student determines what categories make sense. The Extended Resume includes a brief paragraph elaborating on activities that may bear explanation or that hold special significance for the student. The Arts and Athletics-oriented resumes are suitable for students needing to document extensive involvement and training in these areas, perhaps with an eye towards competing in college sports or pursuing serious study or a major in fine arts.
The College Counselors can answer specific questions students may have about the application process