Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have lots of questions about how to get into college? Well, you aren't alone! Here's a helpful list of answers to questions most frequently asked of college counselors at Presentation High School.

How do I choose the right college?

Choosing the right college can seem like the most important decision you will ever make. After all, your college education will affect the rest of your life. "What if I make the wrong choice? What if I'm not happy there? What if I don't learn anything? What if I don't get in?”

Relax. First, there is no one right college for everyone; there are many. With over 3,600 colleges in the United States, every student can find at least six to eight colleges that are right for her. Second, if you don't think you're leaning anything or you don't like the college you selected, you can always transfer. Third, the only really wrong college choices are uninformed choices. Choosing a college requires some work, but the results are well worth the effort.

In order to arrive at a final decision on the top six to eight choices of colleges that are "right" for you, you need to begin by answering these questions:

1. What kind of college do I want to attend? A liberal arts school? A UC or CSU campus? A private university? A community college?

2. What size school do I want? One with a few hundred? One with 2,000 to 4,000 students? One with 15,000 or more?

3. Where do I want to be? Close to home or far away? Some people find being far away too lonely; others enjoy the
independence. Sometimes staying near home eliminates the problem of adjusting to a new environment; sometimes being near home keeps you in old patterns and routines.

4. What location do I want? Urban, suburban, or rural? UCLA, the University of Washington and USC, for example, are in the middle of big cities, which can be fun or distracting. Suburban campuses offer access to a big city without being in the heart of the "hustle and bustle." Rural colleges offer lovely, quiet campuses with fewer distractions.

5. What lifestyle do I want? There are conservative schools, liberal schools, fraternity/sorority-oriented schools, and gung-ho football schools. They all provide an education. Consider the kind of education you want, as well as the ambiance you want surrounding you when you're not studying.

6. What special programs do I want? Try to identify colleges offering strong programs and activities in which you are interested. Do they have inter-mural teams you can participate in if you do not want to play at a competitive level?

The way to answer these questions is to go through college handbooks, college search software programs, the Internet, or Naviance and jot down the name of any college that interests you. Then go back and read the descriptions for the colleges on your list, crossing off a name if it does not offer programs, activities, or a location that seems right for you.

When your list is narrowed, read through the schools’ catalogs or web sites and contact them directly to receive information.

Most importantly, visit as many of the schools that interest you as possible. The spring and summer before your senior year are the best times for visiting. Make your appointments early. Arrange to take a campus tour, meet with an admissions officer if available, and stop by the financial aid office to pick up information.

What should my final list of colleges include?

A student’s final list of colleges should meet the following criteria: an academic match, a social/environmental fit, a financial fit, has all majors of interest and is in a desired location. There should be a core group of five colleges that meet this criteria: we refer to this as the “Five First Choice” colleges. We recommend that students apply to between eight and ten colleges so the remaining colleges on a list are those that a student is interested in attending, but do not meet all the criteria of the “First Five.” Researching colleges and building a college list is one of the parts of the college process on which the College Counselors spend a great deal of time with students.

How will Presentation help me navigate the college application process?

In sophomore year in mentoring, you receive login information for Naviance, the college planning software to which Presentation subscribes. As a junior, you are assigned to a college counselor who will help guide you in your college search process. That counselor will continue to work with you as a senior with applications, college essays and making final college choices. In addition, the college counseling center contains many resources for your use, including college guidebooks and materials, college resource guides and testing resources. The college counseling department also sponsors many college nights beginning sophomore year for students and parents to help answer questions and guide you through the process.

What is an academic profile?

A student’s academic profile is comprised of her cumulative grade point average and standardized test scores (SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests and/or ACT.) It is then compared to the ranges for the schools that interests her. Here are resources to find a college or university's published academic statistics:

• Naviance

• Guidebooks (such as College Board Handbook or the Fiske Guide to Colleges)

• Web sites of the college or university

• College Board web site

• College books in the College Counseling office

Once you have found these numbers, see how you compare. Consider whether your profile is above, right on or below the college's academic profile. We suggest that you apply to a range of schools in the following three categories:

• Best Bet or Safety: Schools for which your profile is higher

• Realistic: Schools that your profile matches

• Reach: Schools whose profiles are higher

After careful research and an honest assessment of a one's needs and wants, students should be ready to apply to approximately 6-8 schools. While there are always exceptions, for most students there is no need to apply to more than 10 schools.

How do colleges evaluate candidates?

High School Transcript
- Grades
- Courses taken (considered along with what the school offers)
- Trends (Whether a student has improved grades, remained consistent, etc.)

Standardized Test Scores (SAT Reasoning & Subject Tests and/or ACT)
- All SAT Reasoning tests taken will be placed on student’s College Board records
- Colleges will consider the highest individual score for the verbal, math, and writing* (not necessarily achieved at the same test date).

Extracurricular Activities
- Looking for both effort and leadership abilities
- Looking more for students to concentrate on their interests and not spread themselves too thin
- Outside courses, jobs and special programs

Major and Career Goals
Colleges and universities may evaluate a candidate’s choice of major in determining an admissions decision. Majors such as architecture, biology, engineering, business, theater and pre-professional programs may have additional requirements. These may include but are not limited to portfolios, auditions and pre-requisite courses an applicant has had to have taken in high school. In order to determine if a college factors an applicant’s intended major into their admissions decision please check the college’s admissions web site.

What is the difference between a CSU and a UC school?

There are 23 California State University campuses and nine University of California campuses. One of the main differences between these two public university systems is their educational foundations. The California State Universities were founded as teaching institutions; University of California schools were founded as research institutions.

What if I want to play a sport in college?

Remember that academic preparation is the important foundation for your college career. The NCAA rules and competition among students for recruitment demand it. It goes without saying that throughout this process academic guidance should be sought from a counselor.

Sophomore year
• Talk to your coach about your athletic ambitions.
• Make preliminary inquiries about colleges that interest you.
• Write a brief letter to the coach indicating interest in his/her program
• Call the athletic department to get the right coach's name.
• Be sure to spell the name correctly.
• Demonstrate that you have some knowledge about the school and its sports program
• You may not receive any reply other than a brochure, but your name will go into a file for future reference.

Junior year
You and your coach are now in a better position to assess your skills and narrow your list of college choices. Be sure to look at colleges that offer programs in areas you want to study. Check special academic entrance requirements. Write selected college coaches a more serious letter:
• Try to concentrate on three schools plus a backup.
• Be sure to have the right name and spell it correctly.
• Explain why you are considering that college and how the school will help you realize your overall goals.
• Tell the coach why you would be an asset to the program.
• Inquire about financial aid and scholarships.
• Include a resume and transcript.
• Keep college coaches informed of your schedule, tournaments and summer schedules.

Your coach needs to send a letter of recommendation explaining why you are considering that college's program, your accomplishments and potential, and what you can contribute beyond physical skills, i.e. work, practice habits, character, etc. Make sure your coach knows you appreciate the help. If your coach has left the school, ask him/her for a reference letter but also ask for another coach in your area or conference to help and establish a good relationship with our new coach.

Video tips:
• It should run no longer than 5 minutes.
• All extraneous scenes should be edited out.
• If you are in a team sport, include some scenes showing how you move and work with teammates.
• Let close-ups show you hitting, throwing, running, stick-handling, etc.
• Include your uniform number (or other identifying mark) to avoid any confusion.
• Remember that a video cannot take the place of talent, which is demonstrated by statistics and a strong recommendation from your coach.

Assessing Your Challenges:
• Try to get something in writing if you can.
• In Division III schools, no athletic letters of intent are permitted. However, admission officers often write letters before the official notification date saying that a spot is being saved for you.
• Call your coaches to let them know you have applied.

Alternate Decisions: Attend a community college for two years and start the sport and scholarship search again. If you are accepted at a school that denied you a scholarship, you can consider attending as a walk-on. Club sports and intramural games are available at most colleges. Athletes who sign a National Letter of Intent and then change their minds lose two years of eligibility in almost all cases. Athletes who transfer from one four-year school to another lose no eligibility but must sit out a year before playing again.

Eligibility & Recruiting | Divisions I and II: There are some things you should be aware of if you intend to participate in interscholastic athletics at a Division I or Division II school. It pays to plan ahead!

Be qualified: Study the NCAA requirements. Even if you meet the minimum athletic eligibility standards you must also meet the entrance requirements of the college you wish to attend. Know what a “core course” is and which courses at your school qualify. Some courses you take in high school may meet a graduation requirement but not a college-admission or NCAA-qualifying requirement.

All courses that meet the NCAA eligibility standards must be taken before graduation from high school and do not include remedial, special education, independent study, correspondence, or pass/fail courses. Grades are not weighted, even if your high school has a system of weighting certain grades.

You should take the SAT and/or ACT as a junior. If you need to repeat the test for a higher score, the NCAA will count the best individual score from multiple testing dates. Note that ACT scores reflect a sum of the four subtests, not the composite score.

There is a sliding scale for grades and test scores – the lower you are in one area the higher you need to be in the other.

Complete the forms: It is your responsibility to complete all NCAA Eligibilty Center registration items. You must arrange to send appropriate transcripts, test scores, and fees. You may waive the Eligibility Center fee if your SAT or ACT test fee was waived. You do not send your eligibility status to your college, the college must request it from the Eligibility Center.

Know your college: Ask the college about the graduation rate of its athletes, academic support services available to athletes, the redshirt policy, what position you’d be most likely to play, out-of-season practice requirements, what happens if you are injured. Your coach can help you develop questions applicable to your circumstances. Find out about financial aid in terms of scholarships vs. financial need. Ask if aid covers tuition, fees, room and board, books, etc. Usually athletic scholarships are only granted for one year and are renewable up to five times in six years (although you can only play for four seasons).

Know about recruiting rules: And be careful! You may jeopardize your eligibility if you accept any benefit inducement, letters or phone calls, or direct contact on or off campus by coaches, alumni, boosters, or other college representatives (including other athletes) except within specified timelines and under specific circumstances. You could jeopardize your amateur status by accepting payment in any form for participation in an athletic contest or for using your athletic skill for a paid TV commercial or advertisement. It is permissible to accept payment for teaching a lesson in your sport. There may be “agents” or “scouts” who want to market your athletic ability. Don’t accept gifts to you or your family that may affect your college eligibility. Don’t take drugs! That includes use of tobacco products. NCAA rules allow for regular drug testing of athletes and forbid use of tobacco products during the sports season (practice or competition). Know the transfer policies from a junior college to a four-year institution and from school to school.

Ask questions: Your coach and counselor are better resources than friends who might or might not know the facts. If you have questions, you can always contact the NCAA Eligibility Center, P.O. Box 7136, Indianapolis, IN 46207-7136, (877) 622-2321.

How do colleges evaluate applications?

The most important factor in college admissions is the academic record: grades earned and classes taken. Colleges need to ensure that the applicant will be successful at their institution and the high school record is considered an accurate representation of a student’s academic achievement and potential. Colleges are also looking to see how a student challenged herself, within the context of classes offered and opportunities available to her in high school.

After grades, colleges consider test scores (if required), the student essay(s) as part of the application, the letters of recommendation from her teachers and counselors and the extracurricular activities. Students who demonstrate depth in their activities stand out from those who may have dabbled in many different activities but not a high level. Leadership--in clubs, sports, service, etc--is also looked at favorably. For some majors, there are additional criteria used in the evaluation, for example auditions for a performing arts major or a portfolio for a visual art or architecture major.

Majors in the engineering fields usually require a higher number and level of Math classes to be considered for the program. Ultimately, for the majority of colleges, the evaluation process combines both objective and subjective information and decisions are made with each college’s institutional philosophy and priorities in that particular admission cycle.