- Students and parents should talk with their advisor about future plans (the next four years of high school, college, career). The courses that a student might want to take in his or her junior and senior years may require prerequisite classes that should be taken as a freshman or sophomore. However, parents should be careful not to micromanage their children in an attempt to create the “perfect” college applicant. Each student should be allowed to grow at his or her own pace, and some courses or activities may be inappropriate for an individual student.
- Students and their families should explore opportunities to get involved in non-academic programs such as clubs, sports, community service and part-time employment. Try out for a sport, and attend Club Day convocation and Club Day sign-up. A part-time job can also provide an opportunity to save some money to apply towards college expenses. Parents should not approach their children’s extracurricular activities solely as stepping stones to college, but as opportunities for students to develop important personal characteristics, such as teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and a strong work ethic.
- Members of the College Counseling Staff will meet with students during Life Management Skills class. Students will discuss the elements of a Bolles transcript and begin working on a résumé.
- Parents should plan to attend the College Counseling 101 program, typically held in March.
- As summer approaches, students and parents should remember that any jobs, camps, or special programs can be included on the résumé.
- In mid-October (typically on the morning of the PSAT), students will meet with the College Counseling Staff in group settings to discuss information about the colleges search process and to review “scattergram” data on college admissions.
- Students will take the PSAT as practice for the SAT. Since the tests are geared for juniors, they should be regarded as only a dry run.
- Parents should plan to attend the College Counseling 201 program, typically held in February.
- Students and parents should review course selection to be sure that the appropriate prerequisite classes are being taken for the curriculum you might want to take as a junior or senior.
- In a few instances, a student might take a May or June SAT Subject Test if appropriate. Check with your teachers and advisor.
- Over the summer, a family may want to include a few college visits in their vacation plans.
- Students should update their résumés to reflect recent awards, activities, and extracurricular involvements.
- A strong junior year can be an asset in a college application, so students should study hard. When colleges begin reviewing a high school transcript, junior year will be the last year-long set of grades they see.
- During the fall, students may wish to meet with a few visiting college representatives to learn more about the admission process.
- In October, students will take the PSAT to prepare for the SAT and to be eligible for National Merit Scholarship competition.
- Parents should plan to attend the College Counseling 301 program, typically held in mid-October.
- Parents interesting in pursuing need-based financial aid can begin filling out the FAFSA and (and the CSS Profile, if required), using the prior year’s tax data.
- Early in the second semester, students will attend Junior Day and a number of follow-up programs to begin the formal college counseling process.
- Students should meet with their newly assigned college counselor. At these meetings the college counselor will begin to get to know the student, help develop a list of prospective colleges, and help plan the student’s senior schedule. As they outline a senior schedule in conjunction with their college counselor, students should think about what they might like to study in college, and keep in mind that a strong senior schedule is very important for college admission.
- Students should take both the SAT and ACT. As appropriate, they should take the SAT Subject Tests or AP Exams (they should check with teachers and college counselor).
- Students and their families should plan to visit colleges over Spring Break. This is a good time to visit; a family meeting with the college counselor may be useful as plans are set.
- English teachers will assign an introspective essay that will help students begin to think in the mode of a college essay.
- Students should do a thorough job filling out the Junior Questionnaire they were given during Junior Days.
- Parents should arrange to meet with their son or daughter’s college counselor, preferably before the end of the school year. They should also fill out the Parent Questionnaire mailed to them after Junior Day.
- Students should contact (via e-mail, or the college’s web-based sign-up form) their prospective colleges and request information. This contact places them on college mailing lists, and they will begin receiving information from the colleges.
- Students should continue to update their résumés.
- If at all possible, students and parents should visit colleges on “the list.” Go on campus tours, meet with admission counselors, attend information sessions. Students should keep a journal of the visits, as the colleges will begin to blend together. The journal should include first impressions, significant facts and figures, and any other information deemed important. (The College Counseling Office’s “yellow sheets” can be useful for these notes.)
- If they have not already done so, parents should arrange an initial meeting with their son or daughter’s college counselor. Depending on parental or counselor preference, the meeting may include both parent(s) and student, or just the parent(s). In all cases, we prefer to meet with the student first.
- In August, students should consider attending one of the Application Boot Camp sessions before the start of school. Before starting any application essays, students should meet with their college counselors to discuss ideas before investing a great deal of time in writing—very often good essays arise from topics students consider mundane or uninteresting, but that their counselor recognizes as a potentially good topic.
- Students should update their résumés to use with college applications.
- A soon as possible after classes begin, students should meet with their college counselor to discuss their progress. At this point students should begin finalizing the list of colleges to which they plan to apply.
- Students should make a list of each school’s application (admission and scholarship) deadlines.
- Students may want to visit colleges for the first or second time (many schools have special programs for high school seniors).
- Students, with input from their college counselor, should identify which teachers they would like to have write their recommendations.
- Students should meet with visiting college representatives.
- Students should begin submitting college applications (deadlines will vary). All forms should be given to teachers and counselors at least two weeks prior to the application deadline.
- Students should submit any scholarship applications (deadlines will vary).
- Students should re-take the SAT and ACT. They should also take SAT Subject Tests, if required.
- Students should prepare for college interviews (if required).
- Students should continue to study hard. Some colleges will ask for first-quarter grades; virtually all colleges will be sent first-semester grades.
- Students accepted under Early Decision/Early Action programs should withdraw applications from other schools, as appropriate.
- In December, eligible students should initiate the application process for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, even if the student does not currently plan to attend a Florida college or university. (For a variety of reasons, many students return to the state to finish college, and the Bright Futures Scholarship must be applied for as a high school senior.)
- In January or early February, parents should submit the FAFSA and any institutional financial aid applications.
- In March and April, students should respond (accept/decline) to offers of admission and scholarships/financial aid.
- Students might want to make final colleges visits to help in making their decision.
- Students should maintain their records of solid academic achievement. If colleges see a significant drop in second-semester grades, they will demand an explanation (and it had better be a good one!).
- Once they settle on a college they should confirm their final choice of college and request that a final transcript be sent.
The Bolles College Counseling Office is happy to provide resources to help make your job of selecting a college or university an easier one. Below you may find sample resumes or other forms and reading that may assist you as you progress through your search and the college process.
FAQs for the College Search and Application Process
- Is it important to visit colleges before applying? (See also the question below.)
- Will visiting or not visiting have an impact on whether my son or daughter is admitted?
- Where do I find information about visiting?
- How much credence should I give to college rankings?
Absolutely. For most juniors, a college is just an abstract idea, an image in their minds that over time has become associated with a name. Even if a student has been going to Gator or Seminole football games from the time they were small, they probably have only a very limited perspective of campus life. When students (and parents) formally visit a campus, however, they experience a concrete reality that goes far beyond pretty pictures on the website, Saturday afternoon games, or what friends may have said about it. Each campus has its own personality, its own ethos, and if a student is to find the college that best fits him or her, a campus visit is crucial.
At some schools, yes. As colleges face increasingly unpredictable applicant pools (see “What is ‘yield’?” below), many of them are seeking ways to gauge the extent of a student’s “demonstrated interest” in attending. Hence, they have begun tracking the number of “contacts” a student has with their particular institution—through campus visits, meetings with admissions representatives here at Bolles, attending local admission functions, participating in online “chats,” etc. While most large state universities have too many applicants to track contacts, many private colleges and universities keep careful records of the number of contacts a student has with their institution. As decision time draws near, students who have not visited campus can be at a distinct disadvantage.
Very little. Consider this: Several years ago, the editors of U.S. News decided to alter their formula to something that they believed offered a better reflection of educational quality. When a number of Ivy League colleges did not appear at the top of the list, they reverted to their old formula. The moral of this story is not that the Ivies and other highly selective colleges are “better” or “worse”; it’s that we must understand that the rankings are carefully designed to sell magazines and clicks, not evaluate educational experiences. The bottom line is this: your child’s college choice should be based upon the best fit for him or her, and very often the best fit and the most highly ranked college are not the same.
- How many colleges should my son or daughter apply to?
- What’s the difference between Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED)?
- What is “Rolling Admission”?
- What is “Early Admission”?
- What’s a “hook,” and why is it important?
- What’s “yield,” and why is it important?
The number of applications will vary by individual, but Bolles students apply to an average of between 5 and 6 colleges. We recommend that each student apply to anywhere from 2 or 3 to no more than 6 or 8 carefully chosen colleges. Especially as “demonstrated interest” (see above) plays an increasing role in the admission process, it is better for students to apply to fewer colleges and “show those colleges the love.”
Early Action programs are non-binding and enable the student to learn of an admission decision relatively early in the senior year (usually December) without committing to a particular college or university. Early Action applications are typically due in November. A handful of schools have Restrictive or Single-Choice Early Action (REA) programs. Under such a plan, the student agrees to submit only one Early Action application to that school and no other, yet without committing to attend the college if accepted. Other applications can be submitted for Regular Decision.
Early Decision is a program in which a student makes a binding commitment to attend the college or university if accepted. Early Decision applications are generally due in November of the senior year, and the student will receive one of three decisions (admit, defer, deny) in December. Since the deadlines are so early, it is vital that a student applying under Early Decision have done a great deal of research and be absolutely convinced that the college is an ideal match. While an applicant gains a statistical advantage by applying under an Early Decision plan, he or she risks committing to a college in October when, six months later, a very different choice might be made. Early Decision II programs are also available at many colleges, in which the application is not due until January and a decision is rendered in February.
Most large state universities, and many private colleges and universities, notify their applicants of the admission decision on a “rolling” basis. This means that, a few weeks after the application has been submitted, a student will receive a decision. However, the student does not have to commit to attending the college until May 1.
Not to be confused with either Early Action or Early Decision, Early Admission is for a student who believes that he or she is fully prepared for the rigors of college academic and social life by the end of his or her junior year, and so would seek to skip the senior year of high school and enter college after the 11th grade. Very few students are ready for this step; indeed, most colleges and universities discourage it. Any junior considering applying for Early Admission should begin discussing it with his or her Advisor immediately.
In admissions parlance, a hook is a student attribute that meets a college’s institutional need at a particular time. The hook could be anything from athletics to development (a family’s ability to add a new wing to a building) to an under-represented ethnic group to the arts (playing an oboe, for instance, when the college orchestra needs an oboist). When admissions officers at the most highly selective colleges and universities say “We could replace our entire admitted group with students from the Wait List and no one could tell the difference,” what they mean is that there are so many outstanding candidates that they must make hair-splitting (and seemingly arbitrary) distinctions among them. When that is the case, a “hooked” student has a significant advantage.
After “net tuition revenue” and “size of entering class,” yield is the most important term in an Admission Director’s vocabulary. Yield is the rate at which students who have been offered admission at a particular college actually decide to enroll there. For example, if there are 1,000 offers of admission, and 400 students decide to enroll, then the yield for that year is 40%. While Harvard maintains the highest yield (around 80%), most highly selective colleges anticipate a yield in the 35-45% range. However, since more students are filing more applications, it becomes increasingly difficult for Admission Directors to accurately predict their yields. For this reason, admission offices often look for signs of “demonstrated interest” (see “Will visiting or not visiting have an impact on whether my son or daughter is admitted?”).
- When should my son/daughter take standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT?
- I’ve been hearing a lot about the “new” or “redesigned” SAT that began to be offered beginning in March of 2016. What’s “new” about it?
- How can we anticipate that the redesigned SAT will be used by colleges?
- What is the ACT, and should my child take it?
- What are the SAT Subject Tests and should my child take them?
- Are there colleges that do not require standardized testing for admission?
- Should my son or daughter take a test prep class?
- What about the redesigned SAT and test prep?
We urge students to take the SAT and ACT no earlier than December of the junior year. The tests are designed with spring-semester juniors in mind, and thus taking them prematurely can give a family a misplaced (usually lower) sense of what a student might potentially score. In rare instances, students may wish to take an SAT Subject Test after the sophomore year (see “What are the SAT Subject Tests and should my child take them?”), but they should do so only after consultation with a college counselor. Parents should also keep in mind that students will have taken the PSAT during both the sophomore and junior years, and those results will provide a barometer of where the student’s standardized testing scores might eventually be.
Over the years there have been many changes to the SAT, but the “redesign” is certainly the most significant revision yet. The Critical Reading section has been replaced by an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section, the Math section now focuses more on data analysis and algebra, and the Writing section is optional. The first two sections continue to be scored on a scale of 200-800 points, but the Writing will be scored on a scale of 2-8. (Thus, the new exam reverts to the old 1600-point scale.) Significantly, there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers, as there was in the past.
The new test focuses much more on the types of analytical and critical-thinking skills that students use in the classroom on a regular basis—and for that very reason, we at Bolles are confident that our students will continue to perform quite well on the redesigned test (as they have thus far). For instance, students are now required to analyze significant historical documents (e.g., Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”) and evaluate how certain words or ideas are developed in context. These are precisely the types of exercises that our students are accustomed to doing in the classroom. Similarly, the new Math section will require more analysis of graphs and charts, and it will include multi-part questions in which the data is analyzed from a series of perspectives.
At present (October of 2018), we are hearing mixed and sometimes conflicting reports about how different colleges will use the redesigned SAT. Some colleges will require the optional Writing section; an increasing number of colleges won’t. As always, however, the SAT will continue to play an important role in admission at colleges that require it; very often, it is among the top two or three items in importance. (Some colleges do not require standardized testing for admission; see “Are there colleges that do not require standardized testing?”)
Along with the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test used in the admission process, usually interchangeably with the SAT, and we highly recommend that students take both tests. The ACT has four categories and a variety of subscores. There is an optional Writing Test that lasts an additional 30 minutes. The four categories are Reading (including both social studies and science), English (with emphasis on writing style in addition to traditional grammar), Mathematics, and Science Reasoning (combining all the physical sciences). The test is scored on a scale of 1-36.
Since the ACT and SAT are structured differently, some students will perform better on the ACT than the SAT (and vice versa). In fact, in recent years we have seen some Bolles students score the equivalent of 200 points (4-5 points on the ACT) higher on the ACT than on the SAT. Thus it makes a great deal of sense to take both tests; many students have qualified for Bright Futures, for instance, on the ACT but not on the SAT.
SAT Subject Tests are one-hour examinations that measure a student’s knowledge of specific subject areas (e.g., Chemistry, French, U. S. History, etc.). Only a few colleges nationally require one or more Subject Tests for admission, while others recommend them, so unless your child is seriously considering applying to a handful of very highly selective colleges, they almost certainly will not need to take SAT Subject Tests. If your son or daughter does need to take Subject Tests, please consult both the College Counseling Office and the subject-area teacher to determine the most appropriate time to take the test(s).
Yes; in fact, the number keeps growing (and growing). Colleges to which Bolles students frequently apply that are test-optional include American, Furman, George Washington, Rollins, Sewanee, the University of Chicago and Wake Forest. Visit the website www.fairtest.org for an up-to-date list of all the colleges that are test-optional.
That depends on a host of factors. We can say two things for certain about preparing for a test: (1) it behooves anyone to be familiar with the format and content of a test before taking it; and (2) there is little independently documented evidence that test prep courses deliver the dramatic results that many in the industry claim. Students (and families) can make a significant investment in test prep
; yet in some cases their scores go up, in some their scores don’t budge, and in some their scores actually go down. We have found the same of students who have not taken test prep courses. With all that taken into account, here are a few guidelines to consider:
- If your child decides to enroll in a course, choose the format (size of class, frequency of meeting, etc.) that works best for him or her.
- Don’t let the test prep take up so much time that it lowers your child’s
GPA.GPA (along with quality of curriculum) is still the top factor in virtually all admission decisions, and anything that lowers GPA is ultimately counterproductive.
- If your child is prone to test anxiety, be very careful about enrolling him or her in test prep. A growing number of educators are coming to believe that test prep can actually raise test anxiety, and thus have a negative effect on a child’s scores. Over the years we have worked with a number of students whose scores went down during test
pep, and then actually went up once they got out; we speculatively attribute this phenomenon to increased anxiety created by the test prep.
- Try to time the test prep so that it occurs shortly before an actual examination date. However, don’t allow the test prep to force your child into taking the SAT earlier than December of the junior year. The test is designed for spring-semester juniors, and we have witnessed a number of students who have taken the test prematurely and then gotten spooked by their scores. In effect, these students allowed a low test score to become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, and they never earned a score much higher than their initial results.
- If test prep is detracting from your child’s GPA or ability to participate in meaningful extracurricular activities (or maybe even cutting out the little free time they might have), it is becoming counterproductive.
Again, we neither encourage nor discourage students’ taking test prep courses, and we do not endorse any particular program or company. It must be an individual decision.
Because the new test more closely mirrors the skills taught in Bolles and other high school classrooms, it is designed to reduce the (perceived?) need for test prep. That said, the College Board has reached an agreement with Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) to offer free online test prep. A recent study by the College Board found that students who invested 3 hours per week of study via Khan Academy for a month prior to the test raised their scores by an average of 100 points.
- We’ve seen how much college costs today, and we think we might have financial need. Is there any way we can find out if we qualify? (See also the question below.)
- I’ve heard about “Prior-Prior Year” (PPY) and the FAFSA. What does that mean for our family?
- What are the Net Price Calculators that I see on college websites?
- Will my son or daughter qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship?
- Can a Bright Futures Scholarship be used at a private college or university?
- Will my son or daughter be able to receive a Bright Futures award if they also have a Florida Prepaid college savings plan?
Yes. There are a number of financial aid calculators on the internet that provide a ballpark Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). These web-based calculators include the following:
It is important to understand that there are two methods (“methodologies”) of calculating aid: (1) federal methodology, which is based on the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA); and (2) institutional methodology, which is based on both the FAFSA and the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. Generally speaking, public institutions and most private institutions will require only the FAFSA, but many well-endowed private colleges that supply millions of dollars of their own institutional funds to need-based aid will require the CSS Profile as well. The first website above is for the FAFSA, the second for the CSS Profile.
Keep in mind that, even if a student does not qualify for federal need-based aid, any student is eligible for a low-interest federal Stafford Loan. However, a FAFSA must be submitted to participate in the Stafford Loan program.
Beginning in 2016, the federal government has changed procedures for applying for need-based financial aid at colleges. Referred to as “Prior-Prior Year” (or PPY), the calendar for applying for financial aid and submitting forms has changed rather significantly.
Traditionally, need-based aid calculations had been based on the prior year’s tax returns and other financial information—in other words, in the past a student entering college in the fall of 2017 would have used tax and financial data from 2016. Consequently, families could not begin to fill out and finalize the paperwork for need-based financial aid until the current calendar year closed.
However, because that process left many families unable to predict need-based financial aid packages until late in the student’s senior year, the new guidelines instruct college financial aid offices to use the “prior-prior year’s” tax and financial data, with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opening on October 1. Thus, families of seniors applying for need-based financial aid for the fall semester of 2019 will use 2017 tax and financial data (not 2018 data), and they can begin filling out the FAFSA now, a full three months earlier than in previous years.
The new rules should expedite the process for families to apply for need-based aid, and as they fill out the FAFSA they can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to populate portions of the FAFSA with information from the family’s 2017 tax returns. While many colleges have not moved their deadlines to apply for financial aid earlier, they are welcoming earlier submission of the FAFSA, and they are pledging to get their financial aid packages to families earlier in the process. Likewise, for colleges that use the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA, the Profile is now available as well. While in years past a family might not have received a need-based aid package until March or April, now they will be able to get them much earlier. And as always, if a family’s financial circumstances have changed—either in 2017 or in 2018—or if you have any other questions, we urge you to contact the college Financial Aid Offices directly and work with them on the specific circumstances of your family’s case.
Another relatively recent change in the financial-aid process is the Net Price Calculator (NPC). The federal government requires all colleges receiving federal financial-aid funds to post NPCs on their websites. More student- and institution-specific than the calculators listed above, NPCs can factor in merit-based awards or other scholarships that a college will use in producing a financial-aid package. For students and parents, these can be a great tool for comparing college costs among multiple institutions even before applying.
For example, a family can go to College A’s NPC (they are typically located on the Financial Aid pages of a college website), enter the requested data, and receive an estimate of what first-year costs would be, with scholarships, grants, and loans all taken into account. Then they could go to College B, enter data into its NPC, and compare what the cost of first-year attendance might be there. If College B offers a substantially better package than A, then the student might choose not even to apply to A because the costs exceed the family budget. (Speaking privately, however, a number of colleges have urged us to tell parents to contact the college’s financial aid office directly if an NPC figure appears inconsistent.)
It is worth noting, moreover, that all NPCs are not created equal. Some colleges have invested in highly nuanced NPCs that effectively tailor a package to a specific student’s circumstances, while other colleges are opting for more mass-marketed products that are not as sensitive to individual situations. Further still, the aid analysis is only as good as the data that are entered—the most accurate net price predictions are the result of thoroughly entered personal financial data. As always, if your family has unusual circumstances that financial-aid calculators do not seem to be addressing, we encourage you to contact the Financial Aid Offices of the specific colleges you are considering.
For Florida residents, Bright Futures offers two levels of scholarship with different sets of criteria. Both scholarship awards can be used at any Florida public or private college or university. At present (October of 2018), the Medallion Scholars Award requires a 3.00 GPA as Bright Futures calculates it, a best combined score of 1170 SAT (based on the combined Critical Reading and Math sections only) or best composite score of 26 ACT (excluding the writing section), and 75 hours of community service. A second scholarship, the Academic Scholars Award, requires a 3.50 GPA as Bright Futures calculates it, either a 1290 SAT or 29 ACT, and 100 hours of community service. Award requirements for future high school graduates are subject to change with each legislative session. Additional information regarding award amounts can be found on the Bright Futures website.
Yes, a student will receive all of the money awarded to them by either (or both) programs; one program’s disbursement will not cancel out the other. Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid are both centralized programs, which means that the funds from each are disbursed separately. Colleges (specifically colleges within the state of Florida) have access to the data from both programs and receive reports that list qualified students and their individual disbursement amounts. Typically, Bright Futures sends their awards to the colleges earlier than Florida Prepaid, so a Bright Futures Award is often applied to a student’s bill first. If a student’s tuition bill is less than the amount of their Bright Futures award (if, for instance the student received an academic scholarship from the university that covered a significant portion of their tuition), then the remaining balance of the bill is disbursed to the student in the form of a check. When Florida Prepaid is applied to a student’s bill the same thing happens. If the student’s tuition has already been covered completely or partially (perhaps at this point by Bright Futures), then the balance is disbursed directly to the student in the form of a check. Some colleges may offer the student the option of applying that “left-over” money to the rest of their total bill, but the colleges must disburse any remaining funds from either Bright Futures or Florida Pre-paid to the student.
If you have other questions about Florida Pre-paid that are specific to your type of plan and what it will cover, contact the Pre-paid program directly. The award amounts vary widely based on the type of plan selected and when it was purchased. The Florida Prepaid website can be found at www.myfloridaprepaid.com.
In response to COVID-19, we will be hosting virtual rep visits for the 2020-2021 academic year and we are now using SCOIR to schedule these visits. Just as when you may have visited campus in years past, a member of our team will be available to meet with you during your virtual visit.
Please reference the link to SCOIR to schedule your visit. If you do not see a time that works for you, please contact Carol Deane Williams, College Counseling Administrative Assistant, by email at email@example.com for assistance. We appreciate your flexibility this year and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the future.
Weekly Notes From College Counseling
The Office of College Counseling is excited to bring you important information each week on the college application process and upcoming programming. This is the archive of these messages that have gone out.
Letters of Recommendation: Some colleges require letters of recommendation when a student applies. These are typically from a student’s college counselor and one or two teachers. In most cases, teacher letter of recommendations come from a junior or senior year teacher in a core academic subject; however, with the pandemic, some colleges are permitting teachers from sophomore year to write letters. A student works with their college counselor to determine which teacher to ask. Colleges want a teacher who knows the student well and can speak about them as a person and as a student. Letters provide context as to what the student is like in the classroom and their work ethic; they reveal aspects about a student that grades and test scores do not. Recommendation letters provide extra support for the student both academically and personally in the application process. Our Bolles policy is that by the end of junior year, students will request their teacher letter of recommendations.
Celebrating College Admissions Decisions: It’s that time of year when students are swept up in the excitement — and sometimes the confusion or disappointment — that comes with the release of admissions decisions. We are celebrating their wonderful admission offers and students are making a plan for where to enroll in time for National College Decision Day, May 1. To formalize this important college choice commitment, students are asked to respond in their applicant portal with their intention to enroll and submit an enrollment deposit, which holds their place in the first year class.
Service Academies: If your student is interested in one of the service academies, it is important to begin the application process early during their junior year. The United States Air Force, Coast Guard Academy, Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy and Military Academy are not only excellent choices for undergraduate studies, but also are fully funded with the promise of military service post-graduation. These academies look for students who meet certain standards for academics, leadership, physical wellness and a strong extracurricular profile. If applying to one of the academies, students must obtain a congressional nomination from a local congressman, one of the State Senators or the Vice President of the United States. This is done by contacting the office of the local congressional representative or the office of the state Senator or Vice President. Students will need only one nomination from any of these sources, but this is the first step for considering a student’s application. During the application process, candidates must have letters of recommendation, strong transcripts and pass a physical examination and fitness test. It is important to communicate with a student’s college counselor early on in the process if considering an academy so we can assist in planning and collecting the necessary documents.
Activities Lists and Resumes: We encourage all Grade 9 and 10 students to begin keeping a running list of all of their activities and service hours. Service hours can be logged in each class’s specific service hour record form. Please contact your student’s Advisor for a link to this form. Beginning junior year, students will formalize their activities lists into a format needed for their college applications. In the meantime, we simply suggest that all students have a record of all their activities, including extracurricular engagements, sports, clubs and service. Please reach out to College Counseling or your student’s advisor for questions on this. For the junior class, the College Counseling Office will be hosting a workshop on finalizing the activities list on Thursday, March 25 during Activities Period. The presentation will be held via Conferences on the "Class of 2022" Schoology group.
Interview Tips: Some colleges and universities offer interviews as part of the application process. It is important for students to note if the interview is being conducted by an admissions officer or by an alumni representative. It also is good to know if the interview is informational or evaluative in nature. College Counseling provides interview training and advice and can also conduct mock interviews for students. Please reach out to College Counseling with any questions! J
Visiting Colleges and Universities Updated: While we encourage all students to relax and recharge over spring break, it can also be a great opportunity to visit some colleges and universities, either virtually or in person. If you select a virtual tour, check if the college is hosting students on campus. Simply search the name of the school and college visit in order to view their visit calendar and what options are available. If you are able to book an in-person visit, check your email for pre-event logistics, such as parking, location, maps, etc. Be sure to arrive early to your appointment and wear comfortable clothing. It is always good to get a current student's perspective, so perhaps reach out to former Bolles students as well who are attending that particular university. Feel free to reach out to College Counseling for any questions or tips on college visits!
Athletics in College: For students interested in pursuing athletics in college, our College Counseling Office recommends utilizing the expertise and knowledge of our own Bolles coaching staff first and foremost. We recommend completing the prospective student athletic questionnaire online, which can be found on the athletics website for each college. College coaches will check the recruitment questionnaires and contact potential student athletes.
Visiting Colleges and Universities: Visiting colleges and universities is an important tool to not only learn about the respective school but also to see if a student would be a good fit for that particular institution. While many college campuses are still closed to visitors, some campuses are offering on campus tours and information sessions. Be sure to consult the Admissions website for the colleges and universities to see what they are offering. In lieu of campus visits, there are also virtual information sessions and programming. We encourage students to register with our college platform SCOIR for these opportunities to connect with schools.
Pursuing the Arts in College: Throughout the spring, College Counseling offers a variety of seminars for the junior class on various topics. Our first Junior Seminar was held on February 4 and was focused on the performing arts in college. It was hosted by Mrs. Laura Rippel, Department Chair for the Fine Arts. We encourage students to utilize the faculty within our Fine Arts Department for guidance on exploring colleges for the fine arts, majoring in the arts and developing portfolios.
Communicating Interest: As students begin to explore colleges and universities, it is important to note some colleges account for students’ level of demonstrated interest in their school during the college application process, in addition to evaluating their academic profile, extracurricular engagement, letters of recommendation and writing. Students are able to showcase demonstrated interest in a variety of ways. In lieu of campus visits, all colleges are offering virtual information sessions and programming. We encourage students to register for these opportunities to connect with schools. We also suggest students sign up to be on a college's mailing list and receive information from them, such as emails and paper mail. If a student has a question not answered on the website or in a presentation, they can also correspond via email with the admission officer whose assigned territory includes Bolles. Please reach out to the Bolles College Counseling Office should you have any questions.
Second Semester: As the new semester begins, it is always a good time to start fresh academically and extracurricular wise. By the end of junior year, students will be determining which teachers write their letters of recommendation for college. We encourage students to take time at the beginning of the semester to get to know their teachers if they are starting a new class and/or re-connect with their yearlong teachers. Make it a point to start the semester strong and exhibit a good work ethic. Continue to work hard in your classes and complete homework. In terms of extracurriculars, while many sports and clubs are not active right now due to the pandemic, students have discovered new hobbies and ways to get involved. Ensure students are pursuing activities they are passionate about and exploring their interests. Keep a running list of activities a student has been involved in to remember everything when the time comes to create a resume with their advisor. These efforts will ultimately prepare students for college and strengthen both their academic profile and resume.
Volunteering: While we recommend that students use Winter Break to relax and recharge, all Academic Advisors have a list of virtual volunteering opportunities available for students who are looking for something to do. Please reach out to your student's Advisor to obtain a copy of this list of alternatives to volunteering in-person.
SAT Tests: SAT Subject Tests are administered by the College Board in 20 different subject areas ranging from Math, Science, English, History and Languages. In response to COVID-19, many colleges have adopted test optional policies and these policies also apply to SAT Subject Tests. In fact, for the graduating class of 2021, no college requires SAT Subject Tests. Before deciding to take SAT Subject Tests, please consult with your Bolles College Counselor.
Standardized Tests: In terms of standardized testing, there are two tests students can take when applying to college: the SAT or the ACT. Both are accepted by all universities in the United States and neither is favored over the other. We recommend students take both tests in January or February of their junior year. Students can gauge from the results of their SAT and ACT which test is better suited for them to take again.
Applying for Financial Aid: The Bolles School College Counseling's Guide for applying to financial aid is available HERE. Please let College Counseling know if you have any questions on the process of applying for financial aid. In researching colleges and universities, our suggestion is not to let the cost of attendance deter you from applying. Every college and university is required by the federal government to feature a net price calculator on their website, where you can enter in basic financial information and receive an estimated family contribution, what your family would be expected to pay in the first year. These net price calculators are a helpful tool to gage what type of scholarships and financial aid are available.
Financial Literacy Presentation: Thank you to everyone who joined us for our College Financial Literacy presentation. For those who could not attend, HERE is the link to the video recording of the presentation. As a reminder, there are two main types of scholarships: need-based financial aid and merit based. Need-based financial aid is determined from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and/or CSS Profile. Merit Scholarships are funds awarded on the basis of factors other than financial need, such as academics, talent, or service. More information will be sent out in the coming weeks on financial aid and scholarships.
Bright Futures program: The state of Florida has changed some of the requirements for the Bright Futures Scholarship. The new criteria are: 3.5 GPA/29 ACT or 1330 SAT/100, service hours for the Florida Academic Scholarship (100% of in-state tuition) or 3.0 GPA, 25 ACT or 1210 SAT/75, service hours for the Florida Medallion Scholarship (75% of in-state tuition). More information can be found in the online handbook HERE or with your college counselor.
College Essays: Students typically write one main college essay, which is included in the application package they send to colleges and universities. The list of essay prompts is available HERE. Some colleges also ask students to write supplemental essays, which are short essays around 250 words, answering questions directed towards that particular school. Check out our writing resources document HERE for tips and ideas on how to approach the essay and supplemental questions.
Seniors: As seniors are navigating application deadlines, we often hear the question: “What is the difference between Early Action and Early Decision?” Both imply that a student submits their application “early” (typically by November 1). Early Decision is a binding commitment the student makes ensuring that if they are admitted, they will enroll at that particular school. Early Action is non-binding.
Bolles offers a comprehensive College Counseling program designed to help students identify colleges that fit their interests, abilities, skills and values. Our program is based upon two fundamental beliefs:
- The college choice is a process which requires well-honed research and decision-making skills.
- The college choice should be geared to the individual, and student and college should be appropriately matched.
To accomplish these goals, we offer a range of innovative programs designed to help students and their families make informed, well-reasoned college choices, and we encourage students and parents to take advantage of these opportunities. For example, all Bolles juniors take both the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory to help them identify key personal characteristics and possible career interests, both of which can play an important role in the college search. Similarly, at each grade level parents are invited to a series of programs (College Counseling 101-401) designed to introduce them to important elements of and appropriate attitudes toward the college search and application process. With College Counseling 301, for instance, we invite admissions officers from around the country to campus to discuss with parents of juniors some of the key factors and developments in college admission. (Recent guests have included Admissions Deans and Directors from Duke University, Florida State University, Macalester College, Swarthmore College, the University of Alabama, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Florida and Wake Forest University.)
We invite parents and students to explore the College Counseling Timetable and other information below to become acquainted with both the four-year process and our various programs.
Hours: The Williams Guidance Center is open each school day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We maintain those hours during the summer as well (closed during the month of July).
Our staff consists of professionals who have admissions, counseling, and advising experience at both the high school and college levels. To facilitate the college search and matching process, each year we visit dozens of campuses across the country, including colleges as regionally diverse as Colby College (Maine), Northwestern University (Illinois), Trinity University (Texas), the University of Southern California, and Washington University in St. Louis. All of us are active in college admissions and counseling professional organizations, and staff members have led and participated on panels at professional meetings at both the regional and national levels.
Director of College Counseling
Assistant Director of College Counseling
Carol Deane Williams