How to Accept a College Admission

The college acceptances have arrived. You’ve narrowed down the options and made your decision. You know which school you want to attend. Now you just need to let them know you accept! But, just how do you go about accepting their offer of admission? While it may seem overwhelming, accepting an admissions offer is pretty simple. Let us break it down for you.

Log Into the College’s Student Portal

You likely set up an applicant portal with a school once you submitted your application. You can often accept admission within the portal.

Follow the Instructions Outlined in the Acceptance Letter

You will typically receive an admissions offer in the mail or, more frequently by email directing you to your applicant portal to view it. That letter, whether it be paper or electronic, will provide you with how to accept the offer. Simply follow those instructions. We recommend putting a checkmark next to each item listed in the letter to make sure you didn’t miss any acceptance requirements (Print it out if the letter is electronic).

Put Down Your Deposit

Part of accepting admission to a college is putting down your deposit, often referred to as the housing deposit. This cost can range anywhere from $100 to $500+ and is typically non-refundable. Paying this deposit secures your spot in the incoming class. You should be able to do this through your applicant portal as well.

Don’t Miss the Acceptance Deadline!

May 1st is known as National College Decision Day. This is the deadline colleges set for student replies to admissions offers. Ideally, you want to notify the college of your acceptance prior to this date. If you submit your deposit prior to the May 1 deadline, it would be appropriate to send an email to the other colleges admissions offices letting them know that you are declining their offer, since there are other students who will want to attend those institutions that have been put on a waitlist that may then receive an offer from that school.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

How to Turn Down a College Coach

You’ve worked hard, put in the time and commitment, and now it’s paid off. You have a group of college coaches wanting you to come play for them. They have all expressed interest in you being part of their team. Congratulations! This is what you have been dreaming of and striving for. While all the interest is surely exciting, you can only commit to one team.

So how do you turn down the offers from the other coaches? Politely.

You are probably feeling a bit awkward rejecting a coach’s offer. Having to reach out to this authority figure can be quite intimidating. But there is really no need to feel that way. College athletics recruiting is a business. Coaches are used to having players tell them they have chosen to attend another school. The important thing is for you to politely communicate with them and to do so in a timely fashion.

These coaches have spent time meeting and connecting with you. They have taken time out to watch you play, either in person or through film. The courteous thing to do is to:

Let them know how much you appreciate their interest
Thank them for their help through the process
Decline the offer by explaining why you are going in another direction
Wish them all the best.

Ideally, you should pick up the phone and call each coach. But, if that isn’t possible, send them each an email.

Don’t Drag Out Declining a Coach’s Offer

As you know, there are only so many open slots on a team roster. There could be other athletes waiting for offers to join those teams. You want to give the coach an opportunity to reach out to those athletes and fill your spot. Turning down a coach in a timely manner allows them to update their recruitment list.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

How to Prepare for College as a Sophomore

The college search and application process is incredibly important. The sooner you start preparing, the more successful and enjoyable this journey will be. There are plenty of things sophomores can be doing. Here are some tips on how to be proactive throughout 10th grade.

1. Cataloging Your Activities

When it comes time to fill out your college applications, you will need to provide a list of the activities in which you participated throughout high school. When you get to senior year, you may not remember everything you did in freshman and sophomore year and when you did it. To make completing the activities section of the application easier and less stressful, you should start informally cataloging your activities during your sophomore year, if you have not already started doing so. Be sure to include the name of the organization, a brief description of the activity you performed, the date, and the amount of time spent on the activity (Average hours per week and weeks per year). Keeping a running journal of these activities in a notebook or on a computer works just fine. Wondering what types of activities are important? Read What Do Colleges Look for in Extracurricular Activities.

2. Start Drafting Your Student Resume

Once you start tracking those activities, you should take it one step further and start drafting your resume. What is that? Well, it is a more formal document that highlights all of your activities and accomplishments – from honors and sports to leadership and volunteering to hobbies and jobs. As mentioned above, you will need to include this information on your college applications. And, if you do it as you go along, you may be able to copy and paste the information into the Common App, or other applications, when the time comes. Our article How to Make an Activities Resume for College Applications has some great advice to help you prepare for application time.

3. Begin to Research Colleges

You will want to start making a list of colleges that interest you. You can start by searching for colleges that have the major or interests you want to pursue. If you don’t know what you want to do, move on to location, size, demographics, activities, school personality, etc. Read What to Look for When Searching for Colleges for more detailed information. Once you have compiled a list, then take a deeper dive into each school. The goal is to find your SAFE schools – schools that match you Socially, Academically, Financially and Emotionally. Our article How to Find the Best College for Me takes a closer look at this concept.

4. If Possible, Go on College Visits

The best way to get a feel for a school is to step foot on its campus and to ask the right questions. Sophomore year is the ideal time to start visiting schools. Junior year will be a busy one and time will get away from you faster than you think! So take advantage of your free time during sophomore year and visit college campuses. If a school is too far to visit, or the pandemic is halting tours, virtual tours and information sessions are a great way to start to get a feel for the school. Our College Visit Planner, College Visit Checklist and Good Questions to Ask on a College Tour will help prepare you for your visit or virtual information session.

5. Focus on Your Grades

It is important that you keep up with your studies. The transcript is the first thing that a college will look at because it is the best trend of who you are a student. Don’t forget, you’re going to college because you’re going to be getting a degree. So admissions officers will be placing a strong emphasis on your grades.

These are just some of the main things you can do as a sophomore to prepare for the college search and application process.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

When Should You Start Visiting Colleges?

Visiting colleges is a really important piece of your college journey. You want to get a true feel for the school’s personality, and stepping foot on campus will help you do just that. There is no hard and fast answer as to when you should start visiting colleges. You can start as early as your freshman year of high school and continue visits into your senior year. Because junior year is such a busy year, we recommend that if you haven’t already started, that you begin visiting colleges at the end of sophomore year or the summer before junior year.

When It Comes to Campus Tours, the Earlier You Start, the Less Stressed You Will Be

In junior year, time quickly gets away from you – especially if you play sports. So start your research, make your list of schools, and schedule those college visits early. Research colleges online and make a list of schools that interest you based on majors, size, location, school spirit and more. Our article What to Look for When Searching for Colleges can help you get started.

In 9th grade you can certainly dabble in college visits. In 10th grade, you should definitely jump in and start taking tours and signing up for information sessions. It is important to get a flavor for what it is like to be on a college campus and what to look for – and the earlier the better. This will give you an opportunity to really cast a wide net, then narrow down your college search so you can find schools that fit you best.

And, by getting this head start early, you will be less stressed when it comes time for completing those college applications. You will have an idea of what you like and don’t like about the schools you were interested in. And, you may even have more time available to visit those on the top of your list a second time.

Fit in Visits in Your Spare Time

Free weekends, school vacations and holidays are the perfect time to schedule a college visit. If there are colleges in your local area, start there. When taking a trip or heading to a sport tournament, see if there are any colleges on the way or in the area where you are staying and fit in a tour. Some families even like to schedule their vacation time around schools they want to visit.

By 10th grade and early into your junior year, visiting schools starts to get a lot more serious. So I would definitely suggest during your sophomore year, and certainly the second half of your sophomore year, to start visiting schools, continuing to do so into your junior and ultimately your senior year. I always say, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today – and that applies to college visits.

Looking for help with the college search and application process?

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

Can You Appeal a College Rejection?

While you may be able to appeal a college rejection, the chances are incredibly slim that the school’s admission decision will change for the positive.

Every so often, I am asked by my students after all the admissions decisions are in, “Can I appeal a rejection from a school?” Honestly, if you have been declined from school, it is extremely rare that the rejection will ever turn into an acceptance, especially for those highly selective schools. To put it bluntly, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.

I’m always a realist. I tell the students and families that I work with, in the beginning when they contract with me, that I’m very real with you. In fact, that’s part of what they hire me for. So the few times I am asked this question, I am completely upfront with them. I tell them the chances of successfully appealing a college admissions rejection are very, very slim.

In fact, there are some schools that will absolutely not even entertain an appeal.

If you choose to appeal to a school that will accept your request, you should have a compelling reason for doing so and be able to back it up. Meaning, you need to provide the school with pertinent information about why they should accept you AND that information should be information that the school did not already have in its possession. You can’t just highlight information in your application. If you ask the college admissions office to re-evaluate its decision, and request that they accept rather than decline you, you need to provide the school with new information it didn’t have in its hands to consider previously, such as an incredibly extenuating circumstance.

So, don’t hold out hope that a college will change its mind. In reality, if you have received a rejection, the chances are excellent that the rejection will be the college’s final decision – even if you appeal it.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.

How Does a 529 Plan Affect Financial Aid?

A 529 plan impacts financial aid as it is considered in the determination of whether you qualify for financial aid, and the amount of aid for which you qualify. Below we outline just how it affects the aid amount.

A 529 Plan Is Treated as a Parental Asset on the FAFSA

When filling out the FAFSA, be sure to have your 529 Plan information handy. Although the child may be the beneficiary of the 529 plan, if the parent is the owner of the account it is considered a parental asset, along with your non-retirement brokerage accounts as well as savings and checking, amongst others. As such, you must include it in the parental asset section of the FAFSA.

But it isn’t just that child’s 529 plan you must disclose. You must also list the 529 plans for any other of your children of which you are the owner. Yes, you read that correctly. All of the 529 plans that you own are considered parental assets and must be listed on the FAFSA. If you have multiple children, that asset amount can add up quickly! Let’s say you have four children and you own 529 accounts for each child, with each account holding $25,000. Your parental asset would be $100,000, not the $25,000 you may have been thinking when you went to fill out the financial aid form.

How Much of the Funds in the 529 Plan Are Included in the Aid Calculation

The financial aid formula notes the difference between parental assets and child assets. Each is assessed at a different level.

A parental asset is assessed at about a 5% rate. So if all of your 529 plan assets total $100,000 your assessed amount would be $5,000. That $5,000 is what is included in the financial aid calculation and the total for your Expected Family Contribution. The Expected Family Contribution is what the federal government and/or institution says you can pay for your child’s college education for one year. There are some changes to the Expected Family Contribution on the horizon that do involve assets that you should take note of, which you can read about in our recent article on the changes to the FAFSA.

In summary, a 529 plan does affect financial aid – both whether you qualify and if you qualify, how much you will receive. This is because any 529 plans that a parent owns, even if they are for their other children, are considered parental assets. These parent owned plans are assessed on the FAFSA at a rate of about five percent and included in the Expected Family Contribution calculation. So be sure to have all of your 529 plan information on hand when you are filling out the FAFSA.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

Do Colleges Look at Disciplinary Records?

College admissions officers will look at disciplinary records IF a high school provides them.

Most college applications, including the Common App, inquire about disciplinary information. By disciplinary records, we mean suspensions – in school and out of school – as well as other infractions that violate school policies where the student has been disciplined.

This topic arises when I work with students who have disciplinary records. If this is the case, the student and parent will of course inquire if colleges will look at this information when making their admissions decisions. After all, it is something that can significantly impact whether a student is admitted to a college. I advise that if college admissions offices are provided with disciplinary information, they will review it, and can weigh it when making an admissions decision.

What to Do If Your Child Has a High School Disciplinary Record

If you have a child who has a record you are concerned about, the first thing you need to do is speak with someone high up in the high school about the privacy policies related to disciplinary records. That can be the head of guidance, the principal of the school, and/or the superintendent of the school district. This is a really, really important thing to do. I say this because many times with the students I have worked with that have a disciplinary record, the high school was not allowed to divulge that information. There is often a privacy clause that says they cannot release this type of information – even to colleges. So, it’s important that you understand the privacy piece of the puzzle before your child goes ahead and responds to any questions related to disciplinary records on college applications.

Once you have this privacy information in hand, you want to make sure that the guidance counselor who is going to be working on your child’s college applications clearly understands the legalities and the rules related to disciplinary records and release of that information.

Disciplinary Records and College Applications Takeaway

Are colleges going to look at disciplinary records? Well, they will only have the opportunity to look at them if they are given to them from the high school. That’s why it’s very important to understand from the high school’s perspective if they are even legally allowed or will divulge that information. This is a complicated issue and it’s something that needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.

Looking for help with the college search and application process?

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

What Percent of College Athletes Get Full Ride Scholarships?

There are a lot of myths about athletic scholarships. One of the biggest misconceptions is around full ride scholarships. I work with many high school athletes who go on to play a sport in college. These students and their families often ask me, “ What percentage of high school athletes get full scholarships in college?” The simple answer is very, very few. When I advise them of this, they then go on to say things like, “But Johnny is a great soccer player and we’re going to bank on getting athletic money to put him through school.” I advise them that they should not bank on that.

College Sports Scholarship Numbers

The vast majority of college athletes do not receive any scholarship money. Only about one or two percent of high school athletes are awarded any type of sports scholarships in college. A good percentage of those students receive very little money. And the number of those that receive a full scholarship is extremely minute. For these reasons, I always advise my students and families not to bank on their athletic abilities paying for college. If it ends up that the student receives scholarship monies for playing sports, wonderful, but the extremely vast majority of the time that is not the case.

Amount of Athletic Scholarships Is Tied to Specific Sports

Whether you receive an athletic scholarship is also directly related to the sport you play. For men’s sports, the big scholarship money is in football and basketball. And, that is where the full ride scholarships tend to be. For women’s sports, full scholarships are available for basketball, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics.

Which Division the College Falls In Impacts Scholarship Awards

Athletic scholarships are also limited to Division I and Division II schools, and there are requirements those schools need to follow when awarding those scholarships. Division III schools are not allowed to award athletic scholarships, but they can award merit scholarships and may consider extracurricular activities, such as sports, when doing so.

Great Article on College Athletic Scholarships and the Myths Around Them

There is a very informative article from U.S. News & World Report that takes a deeper dive into the subject of the scholarship monies available for college athletes, particularly full ride scholarships. I recommend you read it for more detailed information on this topic.

Again, the percentage of student athletes that actually get a full ride scholarship to college is very, very, very few. I recommend that high school athletes look at other avenues to pay for college and not bank on a sports scholarship.

So, being deferred just means that the decision on your admission is going to be considered again along with the regular decision applications.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

How to Ask for More Scholarship Money from a College

We are asked pretty frequently by our students and families how you go about requesting more funding from colleges, whether it’s in the form of financial aid or a scholarship. We have written a blog on negotiating financial aid awards, which you can read for further advice on that topic. Here, we are going to focus on asking for additional scholarship money. First off, you should know that it is always fine to go back and ask the college for more funds. There is no downside. But, you need to be prepared to have a school stay firm in their scholarship amount.

There are some schools that just flat out will not give you more money. They simply say that this is the award and it is all they are going to offer you. And, there are some schools that don’t even give any merit money at all. Remember, merit money is based on your credentials. If your credentials are not sufficient, you will not receive any scholarship.

When Asking for More Scholarship Money, You Need Proof to Support Your Request

When you go back and ask the college for additional scholarship money, you need to have some proof to support your request. What does that mean? Well, you need to show the college comparisons of scholarship awards from other schools. But, it is not the award amount itself that is considered. The college wants to know your actual net cost for each school. What is that? The net cost is the cost of the school minus the scholarship amount. So, if the school cost $60,000 and you received a scholarship for $15,000 your net cost is $45,000. They want to compare net cost to net cost. Before you request more money, be sure to have the net costs from all the schools that awarded you scholarships at your fingertips.

That, however, is not the only thing the school will consider when assessing whether to increase your scholarship award. They also look at the quality of the schools. The school wants to compare apples to apples. What do we mean here? We mean that if the college that you’re going back to ask for more scholarship money is pretty selective, you want to show scholarship amounts from other selective schools. You don’t want to ask a selective school for more scholarship money if you are towards the bottom end of the applicant pool and you are only providing proof of a school that’s not nearly as selective as that school. Doing so will not help your request. You need to show award letters for schools that are of equivalent “academic quality”.

Be Selective in Your Scholarship Requests

We suggest that the schools to which you are going back to ask for more scholarship money are close to the top of your list, that they are schools that you really want to attend. You don’t want to waste anybody’s time if you’re really not thinking about attending that school.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And that is true with scholarships. There’s no problem with going back and trying to work on getting more money. We have definitely had many students that have received additional funding as a result of their requests. Go ahead and plead your case.

So, being deferred just means that the decision on your admission is going to be considered again along with the regular decision applications.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.

College Planning & Financial Aid: What You Need to Know

Signature College Counseling:
College Planning & Financial Aid: What You Need to Know

This video presentation, hosted by Liz Levine of Signature College Counseling, offers parents and students all they need to know to successfully navigate the college prep process.

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