College Preparatory Guidebook
College Planning Resources
College Planning FAQs
What is the PSAT Test and why is it important?
The PSAT/NMSQT will be given at VCS during the school day. This is one of the most important standardized tests that a student takes. The PSAT is the official test for qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship Program. While this score is not officially part of the college admission process unless a student is a National Merit Scholar, many colleges subscribe to PSAT lists by group scores. They can request a mailing list from the College Board for anyone scoring higher than the equivalent of a 1200 SAT score on the PSAT. The PSAT will be available to sophomores as well as juniors at VCS. ALL juniors will automatically be registered to take the test; only interested sophomores need register. Letters will be sent home to parents with details of fees, time of test, etc.
How many times should the SAT and/or the ACT Tests be taken?
Carefully check your admission information from prospective colleges and universities to verify what tests are required and scores for admissions. You should plan to take your SAT I or ACT testing during your junior year, once during the fall of your senior year and possibly once in the spring of your senior year in preparation to apply to schools in your senior year. Colleges like to see at least 2 test scores to see a “pattern” in your testing. If the college requires “official” test scores, it will be necessary for the student to have the test scores sent directly to the colleges. Both SAT and ACT registration bulletins provide information on how to send “official” test scores.
How do I register for the SAT and/or the Act tests?
The SAT(Scholastic Aptitude Test) can be registered on line. The College Board will contact you with information about the test site. The registration booklets have the necessary information.
The ACT(American College Test) can also be registered on line. Again, check your particular college’s guidelines and requirements.
The school code for Vandalia Christian School is 341-631.
What is the best way to begin researching college options?
The Internet provides a plethora of information regarding the college selection process. It is possible to complete college searches to determine size of school, geographic locations, costs, scholarships, other financial aid information, and majors offered, and even take a virtual campus tour. Great sources to use for such searches are as follows:
Should I visit the college before I commit to attending?
Absolutely yes! Being on campus for a few hours will tell you much about you and the college. VCS College days for juniors and seniors are a privilege to be enjoyed visiting an out-of-town campus. Seniors will get 3 days and juniors 1 day to do so. This is with family and does not include any school-sponsored trips. **Remember to fill out approved forms and return them to the office one week ahead of the time you will be gone in order to qualify for an excused absence, along with a note from the college counselor after you return. To get the most from your visit, you should have completed your study of the college via the Internet and hard copy materials. The visit is to verify that your impressions are accurate.
What questions should I ask while visiting the college campus?
- What percent of applicants are accepted?
- Freshmen class size? Student/teacher ratio?
- What percent of first year students return as sophomores?
- What percent of entering students actually graduate?
- What percent of graduates who apply to law school are admitted? Med school? MBA programs?
- What percent of first year classes are taught by graduate assistants versus professors/full-time faculty?
- Stop several students and ask them about the school and their programs. Ask them if they were choosing a college today would this college be their first choice? Watch for their facial expressions and any hesitation in their voice.
- Ask about internships and overseas study in your major field.
- What are the three most popular majors on campus?
- What are the demographics of student body?
What is the difference between Early Action versus Early Decision?
After making your campus visits, if there is one school that is at THE TOP of your list, you might want to think about applying Early Decision/Early Action. The difference in the two terms: Early Decision is a legal binding contract meaning, “I pick you, if you pick me, I’m coming!” You may only pick ONE school for Early Decision. Take this step very seriously. Early Action is declaring your serious consideration of this school, but you may apply to more than one school on Early Action.
How do I select a college major?
While it is not necessary to determine your life vocation before applying to college, you may want to make an introspective study. Your guidance counselor can help guide you keeping in mind your interests, values, skills, personality, and past job experiences in order to help determine possible college majors and career direction from a Biblical stewardship approach. Once you are admitted and planning to attend, your school will assign you an academic advisor who will help you make decisions about majors and course selection. It is not uncommon for students to take a couple years of General Education classes that will expose you to various departments to help with the major declaration.
Where can I begin to search for scholarship assistance?
The best source for scholarships will be within the college that you ultimately attend. It may be necessary to apply for scholarships at several different institutions before making a final decision. In addition to the sources affiliated directly with each college, there are private sources. There are many ways to locate available scholarships on the Internet. Some of the following links are good resources:
How and when should I apply for financial aid through FAFSA?
Financial Aid is based not on merit but on need. You must file a FAFSA(Free Application for Federal Student Aid) after January 1, of your senior year in order to be considered for Financial Aid. This is a lengthy process! The forms say that you can estimate your tax information and then after you have filed your taxes you can update on the FAFSA web site. Filing early is important. Once the grant money is given away, it’s gone!
Once I complete the FAFSA, when should I expect to hear if I have been approved?
Once your FAFSA is on file at your college financial aid office they will evaluate it and notify you about programs for which you qualify. It is possible that financial aid packages by individual colleges/universities will be based on academic record as well as need. This is to say a quality student with genuine financial need may be awarded a generous aid package. You will not know until you apply. Colleges do not usually commit to financial aid until your admission file is complete. Often, the final decisions on college financial aid packages come in the spring, beginning late March to early May. It is really a “wait and see” process with surprises and sometimes disappointments in the mailbox weekly during the end of the senior year.
College Planning Checklist
- Chat with your guidance counselor about what you can do to get the most out of high school.
- Get involved with some extracurricular activities. Colleges love well-rounded students.
- Meet with your guidance counselor to sketch out your schedule for the rest of high school.
- Get used to standardized tests by taking the PLAN (a preliminary version of the ACT), the PSAT / NMSQT (preliminary SAT), or, if you think you’re ready, the “real thing” – the ACT or SAT.
- Check out some options by going to a college fair. (Go to fairs.naccap.org to see when Christian College fairs will be near you.)
- If you haven’t done it already, discuss your college plans with your guidance counselor.
- Take another look at your long-term class schedule. Make sure you’re meeting college entrance requirements for math, science, foreign language, etc.
- Look into Advanced Placement courses that could earn you college credit.
- Add to your resume’ and your savings account with a part-time job.
- Take the PSAT / NMSQT, even if you took it last year. High scores can qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship.
- Start a file for mail from colleges that interest you.
- Collect more information on specific schools by research or consulting your guidance counselor.
- Register for the spring ACT and/or SAT. Decide which schools you want to send your scores to.
- Take the ACT and/or SAT.
- When you receive your ACT or SAT scores, meet with your guidance counselor to see which schools and scholarships you may qualify for.
- Double-check your senior year course schedule to make sure you’re not leaving anything out.
- Visit the colleges you’re most interested in.
- Look into pre-college programs for the summer, where you can earn college credit and get an inside look at life on campus.
- Get up-to-date catalogs from your top 10 schools.
- Look for specific information on financial aid that will help you make your decision.
- Put together a list of courses taken, awards received, and activities both on and out of school. This list will help when you fill out applications.
- Write down answers to questions like “What are my strengths and weaknesses as a student?” and “What do I hope to get out of college?” These answers will help you fill out application questions and prepare you for admissions interviews.
- Narrow your list of college choices to no more than five, and apply to each of these schools.
- Ask selected adults to fill out any recommendation forms required by your chosen schools.
- Write drafts of your application essays. Ask your parents and a teacher to edit them.
- Send in early admission applications (Many are due as early as November).
- If you’re unhappy with your earlier scores, retake the ACT and/or SAT.
- Keep asking your guidance counselor about scholarships, and apply for the ones you’re eligible for.
- If possible, schedule longer visits at your top two or three schools.
- Complete and send in your remaining college applications.
- Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1 as possible.
- Continue to apply for scholarships.
- The acceptance letters have arrived and you’ve chosen your school. As a courtesy, contact those schools you’ve decided not to attend. This allows them to cross you off their list and pursue other candidates.
- Wear a T-shirt with your new college’s name on it. Now everybody knows your college plans!