Hey Seniors – greetings from the College Guy!
Hope everyone had a safe and restful Holiday break. Winter seems to be playing peekaboo with us here in Maine, the Patriots are “one and done” but my man Tom Brady continues to defy father time and may be on his way to yet another Superbowl with a new team. But like the college admissions process, ya never know! (See how deftly I segued the topic of this Rant in to my opening? Yuk yuk!)
Most of you have sent all your applications in to your colleges and are now playing the waiting game. For those of you who have not gotten applications out yet – not to worry (unless you were planning on applying to a college with a January 1 deadline – then you’ve got troubles). For most 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’ve already applied to. This is neither a required nor a commonplace practice, but I think it’s a smart and potentially helpful thing to do (in terms of getting accepted, and being considered for merit money from the colleges which offer it) . Some call me crazy and I agree: crazy like a fox!
Before jumping in to it, three quick reminders:
- Confirm that all your applications have been received in their entirety by each of your schools, and follow directions to set up your “portal” at each college you’ve applied to.
- PARENTS: Complete and file all required financial aid forms, and be prepared to interpret financial aid offers once junior gets his or her acceptances.
- Make sure your high school knows where to send your Mid-Term Grade Reports.
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, etc.).
- your application and supplemental materials.
- SAT (and/or ACT) scores. Some schools will accept them if you listed them on the Common App, or if they’re on your official transcript; others require that they be sent officially by the College Board and/or the ACT – 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.
Look for an email from each college with instructions for setting up your “student portal”. Really important you do this, and check it weekly to make sure everything is as it should be. Colleges will let you know if you need to do anything via your portal.
If anyone runs in to a gnarly problem give me a holler and I’ll help you solve it.
2. All families who plan to apply for financial aid should have completed the 2022/23 FAFSA at this time. In addition to this form some schools require an additional form, either the CSS PROFILE or their own institutional form. That should be filed by now as well. 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 2020 tax information, which you all have completed by now.
Parents: If you haven’t yet filed these forms and hope to received financial aid you need to get on the stick here. Fill these forms out now! 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. All colleges expect and in fact require mid-term grade reports when your semester is over. Your high school guidance office will send them providing you’ve let them know where you’ve applied. Check with your guidance office about this particular task.
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 still 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, do it!
Hey, I know you’re busy, but this could be important, so give it your consideration. Read on…
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 your schools 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 toward the end of the month. (Those of you who attend schools which operate on a trimester basis won’t get grades in late January, but you can ask teachers for progress reports and do the same thing with them).
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 the letter, but the real reason is to give them yet another slice of your personality, and to impress them with:
a) how wonderful you are, and
b) how motivated you are to be accepted.
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 your high school when they send your official mid-term grades to each of your schools. Be creative here – ask a coach or an advisor or an employer, or even a peer who would write a responsible but edgy letter about you. The more interesting the letter, the better!
- an additional essay or writing sample. 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 one of the U. California prompts. If it’s good, now’s the time to recycle it to the schools who haven’t seen it already.
- your resume (remember that?) to the schools where you didn’t upload it directly with the application.
- 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 reference 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. A show and tell piece could also be 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.
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.
Click here for an example of such a letter. Rewrite it in your own words – the following is only to give you an idea of what to 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 authority, your marketing maven, your activity enumerator, your additional information inspirer, your anxiety alleviator (I hope!),
– Gary the College Guy