Hey Seniors – greetings from the College Guy! Been a while since I’ve sent one of these to you so pay attention cause this will be long and contain a lot of useful advice.

First things first – the College Guy has a new email address: [email protected]. Due to an unexpected glitch with my Spectrum Cable and Internet provider my [email protected] email address no longer is receiving incoming mail. If you’ve tried sending something to me in the past month I have not received or seen it.

Please make this change in your address book or contacts list so future emails will get to me.

I used that Roadrunner address for 25 years – I was an original Time Warner customer and remember well my introduction to email after learning about it from a homeless teen in the Portland Public Library. He set me up with my first hotmail account back in 1995 (no kidding!), after which I signed up for the newly introduced TW Roadrunner. All things must pass.

For those of you have sent all your applications in to your colleges and are now playing the waiting game, congratulations and nice job! For those of you who have not gotten all your applications out yet – not to worry (unless you were planning on applying to a college with a January 1 or 15 deadline – then you’ve got tsouris). For many schools you’ve still got time to apply, but what the heck is holding you up? If you need some help getting organized and getting things done, give me a holler by phone or email. I’m happy to read and comment on essays, review your list of schools and answer questions you may have regarding the application process.

This email explains and elaborates on my idea of sending a “follow letter package” with supporting items to each of the colleges you’re still waiting to hear from. This is neither a required nor a commonplace thing to do, but I think it’s a smart and potentially helpful move which could increase your chances of getting accepted, and perhaps even being awarded merit money from the colleges who offer it.

Before jumping in to the follow package, here are four quick and important reminders:

  1. Confirm that all your sent applications have been received in their entirety at each of your schools, and set up your student “portals” for each one
  2. PARENTS: Make sure you’ve completed and filed all required financial aid forms, and don’t forget to add any additional schools where your student has applied lately to the FAFSA (and, if required, the CSS PROFILE)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGE the acceptances you’ve received so far, and show some humility, gratitude and appreciation even if you’re waiting on decisions from some more prestigious schools.
  4. Make sure you’ve properly notified your guidance office to send your mid-year grade reports

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1. If you’ve applied and have not received confirmation that your application materials have been received from each college within two weeks after applying, CALL THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE AND ASK THEM. Be nice and polite, but DO THIS! Things can get misplaced or misfiled – happens all the time. And most schools won’t begin reviewing your application until it’s complete.

If you call you should ask specifically whether the following things have been received:

– your high school materials (transcript, counselor’s letter and school report).

– your application and supplemental materials.

– SAT (and/or ACT) scores. Some schools will accept them if they’re on your official transcript; others require that they be sent by the testing agency – you can inquire about this.

– Letters of recommendation from each of the persons you asked to send them.

Only make this call after waiting two weeks from when you applied, by which time you will hopefully have gotten email or postal or on-line confirmation. If you do get notified that something is missing don’t panic, but deal with it immediately with a phone call, and if necessary bring it to your guidance counselor and get him/her involved. Chances are the missing items are hung up in the college’s intake system and will turn up, but the safest thing is to offer to fax them duplicate copies. Your guidance office will do this for you.

Each school should send you instructions to set up an online account (or “portal”) with a special ID user name and password. DO THIS! And make sure you regularly check in on each of your portals for status of your application and other possible “to do” lists.

If anyone runs in to a gnarly problem with any of the above give me a holler and I’ll help you solve it.

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2. All families who plan to apply for financial aid should have completed the 2020/21 FAFSA at this time. In addition to this form some schools require an additional form, either the CSS PROFILE or their own institutional form. To find out whether a school requires such an additional form (they ALL require the FAFSA), go to their web site and look under ‘admissions’ and find a link to ‘financial aid’, and read the instructions about how to apply.

Each of these forms ask for a family’s 2018 tax numbers, which you completed last winter or spring. Easiest way to report them on FAFSA is to use the IRS data retrieval tool.

Also note that schools which require the CSS PROFILE usually are going to require you to send or upload parent and student tax forms and W-2 forms – follow instructions to complete the “IDOC” if asked for.

Parents, if you aren’t crystal clear on what I’m talking about here or if you feel like you need help with this process, give me a call at the phone number below for instructions and support.

This stuff isn’t hard. Annoying, yes, but not difficult!

3. Many of you have already received acceptances from colleges where you applied early decision or early action (or via “Rolling” admissions) and hopefully you’ve all let me know that and I’ve offered you my sincere congratulations. Remember you have until May 1 to make your final decision so there’s no rush (unless you applied ED and got in, in which case you’re committed to attend UNLESS the financial aid package you received is not satisfactory to meet your needs – definitely contact me if you find yourself in this situation!). I’ll be happy to chat with you over the coming weeks/months about your options and how to go about making your final decisions.

For those of you who have been accepted to a college (or several) already, I think it’s a good idea to send a quick “thank you, I’m grateful and excited!” email to them. Address it to the person who signed your admissions letter and cc it to any other contacts you may have made along the way. Write something like this:

(Make the subject line read “A message from Accepted Student Derek  Jeter, student ID # xxxxxxx)

“Hi, I’m Derek Jeter from Portland, Maine and I’ve recently received my acceptance letter from ________. I’m writing to tell you how excited I am and (if you were offered a merit scholarship add) also how grateful I am to receive your generous offer of a University Achievement Grant for $______ per year (specify the name and amount of the award they gave you).

Please know that as I await word from the remaining schools I’ve applied to, ___________ is a school I’m very seriously considering and is high on my list of options.

Thanks so much for your confidence in me.

Sincerely, DJ

Writing this email is just plain smart, courteous, and good karma. Ya dig?

4. All colleges expect and in fact require mid-term grade reports. Your high school guidance office will send them providing you’ve let them know where you’ve applied (either through Naviance if your school uses that, or on a special transcript request form). Check with your guidance office about this particular task.  Those of you who attend schools which operate on a trimester basis won’t have mid-year grade reports, but your school will know what to do.

(Intermissions – have a stretch and a tall glass of water and then keep going…)

Okay, the rest of this email is devoted to what I call the “follow letter package”, which I suggest you put together and send at the end of this month to all the schools you’ve applied to and are waiting to hear from. I’ve included an example at the end of this email. Look it over, rework it in your own words, and if it makes sense to you, do it!

Hey, I know you’re busy, but this could be important, so give it your consideration. Read on…

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Now I know there are some of you who are snickering cause you’ve already gotten acceptance letters via early decision or early action from your first choice school, so you can take a hike and not read any further (but remember to write ’em a “thank you” and follow directions about submitting a deposit to reserve your space and any $$$ awards they’ve offered you.)

For the rest of you, I suggest sending a “follow up” letter to the colleges you’re waiting to hear from at the end of the semester. This is a “hi, how-you-doing-thought-I’d-check-in-with-you-and-remind-you-of-what-a-wonderful-person-I-am-and-what-an-injustice-it-would-be-if-you-don’t-accept-me!!” letter.

The timing is to send this letter when you receive your mid-term grades. For most of you that’s going to be over the next week or two.

The idea, as you’ll see, is to have an additional contact with the admissions folks, who are right now engaged in the process of reviewing applications. Mid-term grades are the excuse for your letter, but the real reason is to give them yet another slice of your personality – to impress them with:

a) how wonderful you are, and
b) how motivated you are to be accepted. Remember that colleges put great value on your “demonstrated interest” – how likely are you to come if they accept you?

I suspect some of you are saying you don’t wanna do this. Certainly it’s your call, but here are a couple things to consider:

It’s not that hard, it doesn’t cost you anything (other than postage), and believe me I’ve heard from many fine schools that a gesture such as this can make a difference by demonstrating your interest in attending that college.

So what exactly do you put in a follow letter/package of additional information?

I suggest you include at least two of the following items:

  •  a newsy update, where you share your mid-term grades (comment on them if necessary) and your new schedule, and whatever else of note may be going on in your life.
  • one or two additional letter(s) of recommendation the college hasn’t seen. Don’t send the letter(s) yourself of course, but have them sent by either the writer of the letter, or ask your guidance counselor to send it. Be creative here – ask a coach or an employer or even a peer (who can write a responsible but edgy/entertaining letter about you). The more interesting the letter, the better!
  • an additional essay. Remember those extra essays I suggested you do last spring, summer and fall? Plug one in here. Or use the odd supplement you wrote for Cornell or U. Chicago or some other school! If it’s good, now’s the time to recycle it to the schools who haven’t seen it already.
  • a ‘graded writing sample’ from a class. This is a paper you’ve done recently which reflects hard work and a sound effort on your part. Important thing here is for it to represent something you’re proud of.
  • a ‘show and tell’ piece – remember these? Some of you sent art work or poetry, an audio tape or film or photo essay or CD or a link to your web page at the time you sent your applications. Others wanted to do it but didn’t get around to making it happen. Here’s your second chance. Remember, ‘eye candy’ (or ‘ear candy’) can work by livening up your application – just make sure it’s tasteful and contributes to an understanding of who you are.

You don’t need to send all of the above items – just your grades and one or two additional things will be fine. On the other hand, if you’ve got something good they haven’t seen, use it!  Just make sure you write why you want the school to have that particular item.

Here is a PDF example of such a letter.
Rewrite it in your own words – the following is only to give you an idea of what you might say. Make sure to keep the idea I’ve expressed in the next to last paragraph – that you hope they will consider your letter and other material IF APPROPRIATE…

Okay, nuff said. Give me a call or email if you have questions. For those of you who haven’t checked in with me in a while, don’t be a stranger! And if you’ve already received acceptances from schools I’d appreciate hearing about them from you.

From your Application Avatar, your financial aid finesser, your academic aficionado, your marketing maven,

Gary the College Guy

P.S. I hear from many families this time of year about financial aid awards which are not sufficient. Before you “walk away from the table” and assume that particular college is not affordable, you should try to make an appeal. Contact me and I’ll tell you the right way to go about it.

Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
[email protected]
(207) 772-9711 w
(207) 318-7289 c
www.collegeplacementservices.org