Discussing where you will apply to college with your School Counselor can be an overwhelming experience. Below, we have outlined four steps to prepare for these meetings. The first step, define your college major. Defining your college major may narrow your college search because certain colleges specialize in specific disciplines making those colleges potential candidates. The second step, record your priorities for your college experience. Knowing what characteristics you prefer in a college will narrow your college search considerably. The third step, gather applicable reference information. Your activities, grade point average, test scores, and transcripts indicating advanced courses, contribute to your college applications and play a role toward where you may be accepted to college.

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COLLEGE APPLICATIONS: PREPARING FOR SCHOOL COUNSELOR MEETINGS


Introduction

Discussing where you will apply to college with your School Counselor can be an overwhelming experience. Below, we have outlined four steps to prepare for these meetings. The first step, define your college major. Defining your college major may narrow your college search because certain colleges specialize in specific disciplines making those colleges potential candidates. The second step, record your priorities for your college experience. Knowing what characteristics you prefer in a college will narrow your college search considerably. The third step, gather applicable reference information. Your activities, grade point average, test scores, and transcripts indicating advanced courses, contribute to your college applications and play a role toward where you may be accepted to college. The fourth and final step, create a list of colleges to apply to based on your major and priorities. Meticulous research and planning will serve you well because you will arrive thoroughly prepared for your School Counselor meetings ensuring your time is well spent.

1. Major

Prepare for your School Counselor meeting by researching and possibly defining your college major. If you want to focus on the financial aspects of choosing a major, read The Economics of Choosing Your College Major. For online resources pertaining to college majors, visit College Pencilpedia and look at the Majors section. Defining your college major narrows your college search substantially because some colleges do not offer certain majors while other colleges specialize in specific majors. To determine your college major, consider the points listed below.

Degree Completion Time

Extended enrollment has a price. If a student spends two additional years in college and finances $10,000 per year, there is a $230 increase in their monthly student loan payment (computed with 6.8% interest with 10 year repayment). Use FinAid’s Loan Payment Calculator to estimate your potential student loan payments. Less obvious ramifications of extended college time include additional accrued loan interest (if interest is not deferred), lower overall lifetime earnings, and fewer contributions to your 401K reducing your retirement savings. It pays to thoroughly examine the resources required to complete a degree prior to making the commitment.

Demand

Supply and demand are puppeteers that shape the landscape of our economy. If there is no demand or very little for your degree, chances are, you will not find a job or you will have an incredibly difficult time finding a job post graduation. It is vital that you investigate employment projections for your major choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides projections for employment amongst a vast number of occupations and projections for the fastest growing occupations. Search these projections for occupations you are considering and determine if there will be demand for your particular area of expertise.

Yearly Salary

Estimate initial and long-term salary projections for your college major. These calculations allow you to determine if you will achieve financial independence upon graduation. In addition to your base salary, consider other forms of financial compensation such as bonuses, health care, and 401K benefits. For a free analysis evaluating the initial median salary for your major, visit payscale.com. In addition to starting salary projections, PayScale provides salary data for advanced education, such as Master’s and PhD degrees, and salary increases for a diverse number of career paths related to your major.

2. Priorities

Deeply contemplate what you value in a college and what you want for your college experience. Develop and record your priorities ranking them from most to least important. As you research colleges and consider submitting your application, use the handful of priorities listed below to identify possible candidates and undesirables. For additional priority suggestions, read The College Search Frenzy: Finding the Perfect Fit For You.

Tuition Cost

Typically, tuition cost is a number one concern for most students. Identify financial resources such as grants, scholarships, and loans to bridge monetary gaps for tuition and college expenses. Calculate an estimate for the amount of federal student aid you will be eligible for using FAFSA4caster. Estimate your potential student loan payments using FinAid’s Loan Payment Calculator. Also, visit College Pencilpedia for additional online resources relating to financial aid and scholarships.

Location

Use Google Maps to calculate the distance between home and the colleges you are considering applying to. How long will it take to travel home and what mode of transportation either train, plane, or automobile will you employ? Also, decide how often you want to return home to visit family and friends. If necessary, calculate the cost of keeping a car on campus.

College Size

The rule of thumb for assessing college size equates to small, medium, and large. Small is less than 5,000 students, large is more than 15,000 students, and medium is nestled between the two extremes. The threshold of tolerance for undergraduate populations varies significantly amongst students. While one student may consider a 20,000 undergraduate population large, another may consider it small. This is where college visits are useful for determining your population preference because visiting a campus with 40,000 undergrads may not seem overwhelming at all, or it may feel like you are walking in a sea of students feeling anonymous. We recommend visiting a variety of colleges to experience the differences between small, medium, and large campuses to discern where your comfort zone begins and ends.

3. Preparation

You are an amalgam of your traits, experiences, and accomplishments. Sift through this patchwork prior to your School Counselor meetings and gather the items listed below to begin the process of revealing your strengths and weaknesses for your college applications. When speaking with your School Counselor, this information will be at the ready for quick reference.

Summary of Activities

If you have not developed a resume, begin the process by creating a summary of your extracurricular and volunteer activities. Based on your activities and accomplishments, create a resume for your college applications. When you attend your meeting, ask your School Counselor to critique your resume. Though it may be a rough draft, it will serve as a solid start to preparing your college application documents.

Grade Point Average

Make sure you know your overall grade point average prior to your School Counselor meeting. Your grade point average has a tremendous influence on the colleges you may be admitted to. Be aware that some colleges will recalculate your grade point average based on their standards because there is a lack of consistency among high schools. Some high schools weight grades for honors and advanced courses differently than others, consequently, colleges level the playing field by removing the weight and recalculating your grade point average based on their formulas.

Standardized Test Scores

You should have a plan for taking your standardized exams. Also, make sure you have the results from all of the standardized exams you have completed. Some colleges no longer require standardized exams for the application process, but this trend is confined to a minority of colleges thus far.

School Transcripts

Prior to your meeting with your School Counselor, request a copy of your school transcripts. If you took honors classes in middle school, you should request a copy of your middle school transcripts as well. Also, confer with your School Counselor to confirm you are meeting all of your graduation requirements during the allotted timeframe.

4. College List

Create a list of colleges to apply to based on your major and priorities. For each college on your list, write a brief summary of how each college meets or exceeds each of your priorities with a breakdown of pros and cons. Make sure you include at least two safety schools on your application list. A safety school is a college where your academic credentials such as your standardized exam scores and grade point average are above the college’s range of the freshman class profile. Safety schools should meet the following criteria; you are confident you will be accepted to this school, you are sure you want to attend this school, and you know you can afford the school’s tuition. For a more detailed explanation about safety, match, and reach schools visit our Free Resources.

Penny for Your Thoughts

Before embarking on this challenging task consider the following advice. Don’t set your entire focus on one college because you may not be accepted to your “dream school”. Keep an open mind and explore many different options. Your mission is to find a sprinkling of schools satisfying your top priorities. Once your acceptances arrive, evaluate your opportunities and choose the best fit for you.

Conclusion

You may feel a sense of urgency to meet with your School Counselor, but try to remember School Counselors are incredibly busy and their time is limited. During your meetings, take notes and create a timeline for your college application plan. Your prep work and note-taking will minimize the number of meetings you schedule with your School Counselor and reduce the stress associated with completing your college applications. For more great tips and a step-by-step approach to preparing for your School Counselor meetings, purchase “The Ultimate College Application Guide” on Amazon today.

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