College Planning: The 3 Most Important Documents

College planning

We are currently meeting with many Sophomores and Juniors in High School.  Everyone has the same question before we meet: what do we need to bring to the meeting?  Here’s our answer for what we need to know for an initial meeting and generally what your family needs to start the college planning process.

  1. High School Transcript

Colleges look at the type of coursework a student has taken and how they have done in those courses.  The GPA is a quick snapshot but at the end of the day, it’s just a number.  To really understand and evaluate a college application, we need more details.  Did the student take Honors or AP work? Did they stick to the required coursework or take any electives? Did they continue with a foreign language beyond the requirement? How are the grades? Were there improvements or declines over the years? These questions tell us a bit more about the applicant, especially as we compare them to other students.

  1. SAT or ACT Scores

Honestly, most applicants and families focus too much on these scores but they are there for a reason.  Colleges are hoping they can compare students from across the country and world from different backgrounds with this one standardized measure.  However, we all know that they have their flaws because students who can afford tutoring can usually score higher. Many times, the real deal here is: does the score match up to the student’s grades?  So, a student who has a solid GPA and “matching” test scores make sense to an Admissions officer. A student with high grades but low test scores may appear to be someone who does not test well.  A student with low grades and high test scores can feel like a real red flag to an Admissions officer. We might assume that the student has potential but does not work hard. Again, it’s all about context.

  1. EFC Number

If your family has not already done so, please use the calculator for the Estimated Family Contribution here. This is the only way you will know how much you might be expected to pay for college.  Keep your latest tax paperwork handy as you do this form because you will need information from there. Once you know this number, the college planning process becomes much more manageable!  If you have a high EFC, your family will be looking for generous schools who give scholarships.  If your family has a low EFC, you will be looking for schools who meet financial need.  All of this makes more sense as you read and understand the process and our team is always happy to help explain more.

As you go on with the college planning process, you will realize that the student needs to write essays and ask for recommendations from teachers and counselors.  However, these 3 initial pieces of paper start the process going as you research schools.



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