As a part of the Roland Park Country School College Counseling office comprehensive approach to helping our students and families we have included resources to help in the college search and application process.
- School Profile
- Four Year College Matriculations
- Standardized Testing
- Personal Essays and Resumes
- Visits and Interviews
- Financial Aid and Scholarships
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As a complement to the student’s academic record and transcript, standardized test scores are intended to help admission officers determine whether students can do the work academically in the first year of college. Although more and more colleges and universities have acknowledged that they can make good admission decisions about whom to admit without using test scores – and more than 850 institutions have adopted a testing-optional policy (www.fairtest.org) – testing does remain an important part of the application process at a majority of schools today. It is important to emphasize, however, that it is only one component of a complex equation where the primary focus remains centered on each student’s classroom performance.
“TOP FIVE LIST” OF THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT COLLEGE ADMISSION TESTING:
1. There are two options for students: the SAT and the ACT. We recommend that students try one of each, and then focus on preparing for and taking whichever test suits them best.
2. Colleges strongly prefer to receive test results (SAT, ACT) directly from the testing services. Students are responsible for having their results sent directly to their choice of colleges, which is done online through their College Board or ACTStudent account.
3. Many colleges and universities will “superscore” test results, combining the highest subsections from all sittings for a best overall result. Colleges that do not “superscore” choose from among submitted scores the single test date on which a student achieved her highest results.
4. When forming a list of colleges to which she will apply, each student should make a note of which schools require Subject Test scores (sometimes referred to as SAT II scores). Some colleges will request specific subjects while others will allow you to choose. Unless a specific test is requested by the college, students should elect to take Subject Tests in areas of strength. It is also helpful to coincide test-taking with the completion of that subject in school.
5. When considering whether or not to apply test-optional to a college or university offering that plan, students are best served by comparing their results with the range of scores reported by the college. Students with scores that fall below an institutions middle 50% range might consider having a conversation with their college counselor about the possibility of withholding their results. A complete list of test optional colleges can be found at www.fairtest.org. Students are best served by choosing to apply to colleges where their scores fall within or above the reported middle 50% range when score reporting is required.
SENSIBLE SEQUENCE FOR STANDARDIZED TESTING
Specific circumstances vary for each child and our college counselors advise students regarding what they consider the best testing timeline.
For a majority of students, the arc of learning that needs to be completed in order to hit the target for these tests doesn’t reach it’s end point until spring of junior year. Thus, some students might not see the results that they might hope for on their junior PSAT because it’s simply too early for them to have a complete understanding of the material that will be covered on the test, especially in math.
For students who have an accelerated track in math or who have particularly strong aptitude for reading and analyzing what they’ve read, PSAT results may reveal that they could attempt a timeline that begins with SAT/ACT testing in fall or winter of junior year.
College counselors will provide advice and guidance regarding how to prepare, and the frequency and timing for standardized testing.
The College Counseling office at Roland Park Country School offers multiple workshops throughout the year to help students navigate the application process. Workshops include topics such as:
- Preparing college essays and resumes
- Students will also develop a customized to do list to keep their college process moving over the summer months
- Learning all the necessary steps to update and prepare their Naviance account for their application
- Sstudents will register and complete a large portion of the Common Application
THE COLLEGE ESSAY
Most college-bound students approach the task of writing a personal essay for college admissions with some trepidation and a few questions: How important is the essay? What do colleges look for? How is it used? Who reads it? Here are a few facts and tips that may put the essay into perspective and help you to produce your best effort.
According to one admissions director, "The essay makes the facts in the student's folder come alive for us."
The essay is your opportunity to add character to your application and to provide information that may not appear elsewhere in the other elements that you submit for review. It allows you to reveal your intelligence, talent, sense of humor, enthusiasm, maturity, creativity, expressiveness, sincerity, and writing ability--traits that personalize the admissions evaluation.
Editorial suggestions when it comes to writing college essays, from expert Peter VanBuskirk's well-respected "Best College Fit" website.
The Hamilton College Writing Center offers a slightly humorous take on the major tenets of good grammar, usage, and syntax.
Though many colleges offer websites with tips on writing a compelling college essay, Carleton College has distilled these pointers succinctly. We strongly agree with the advice found here.
Many colleges have a similar offering of information on college essays "that worked." This means that these samples served the applicant well in presenting their personality and interests in a compelling way. Here is one example of such a site, prepared by Tufts University. Keep in mind while reading that it was not necessarily the topic of the essay that impressed the college admissions officers, but the way in which the student handled and presented the information.
Recommendations for a Beneficial College Visit
• Know some basic information about the colleges that you are visiting before you go.
• Make a reservation for your visit. This can be done on line or by phone or internet. Confirmation information will usually provide specifics about parking, arrival time, and what to expect during your visit.
• In addition to the formal aspects of the visits such as the information session and tour, plan to spend some time on your own visiting the bookstore, eating a meal, or simply walking through the campus to soak up the atmosphere of the campus.
• If possible, visit while students are on campus. If that is not possible, summer visits can still be worthwhile to give you an overall feel for the size, location and academic programs offered at the school.
• While you are visiting the campus, feel free to ask questions! (link to questions below) Current students love to give you their opinions about their school.
• Pick up a copy of the campus newspaper to read.
• If possible, introduce yourself to the admissions representative who visits RPCS.
• Dress appropriately. Comfortable walking shoes are a must! No sportswear from other colleges!
• As a senior, you may choose to schedule an interview or class visit. Your college counselor can help you decide about how to approach those decisions. The College Counseling Office offers a mock interview program to help you prepare.
• If you meet with anyone from the admissions office be certain to send a thank you email to that person.
• If you are several colleges on one trip, limit yourself to two colleges per day and mix in some non-college activities along the way.
• Take some pictures and make note of your immediate impressions when you finish a visit. This will help you remember the details of your trip long after you have returned.
• Update your college counselor about your impressions when you return home!
The College Counseling Office serves as the centralized location for information on counseling about financial aid investigation and procedures. There are two primary types of aid: need-based aid and merit-based aid.
Need-based aid is the most common type of financial aid and is awarded based on a family’s financial ability to pay for college. Merit-based aid can be awarded for academic, athletic, service, artistic, or personal talents.
Eligibility for need-based financial aid stems from filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and for some colleges and universities, the CSS Profile. Once aid is determined, it can be awarded in the form of loan, grant, and work-study.
Merit-based scholarship can be awarded by individual colleges and application for those awards will vary based on the institution. Other scholarships through community-based organizations and businesses are also available and the college counseling office maintains a database of current scholarship opportunities.
The financial aid process can be confusing and difficult. We are happy to answer questions and we encourage families to utilize the resources offered by the college financial aid offices where your daughter applies. Information sessions on financial aid are held in the spring during the AIMS college fair and in the fall in a program that RPCS co-sponsors with other AIMS high schools.