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Facebook Live Recap and Bonus Questions: Ask America's College Counselor (3.19.17)

In case you missed it, here's a recap of my recent Facebook Live Rapid-Fire Q&A!

I love answering your questions live from the comments section during my rapid-fire FB Live Q&A called Ask America's College Counselor. As always, we covered a range of topics important to both parents and students during this past session. If you didn't get to see my most recent live stream, you can watch the video below. And don't forget to scroll down to the BONUS section for even more information!


Letters of Recommendation

  • When getting letters of recommendation from teachers, should you get them from the teachers/classes that fit their major?
  • Do you pick the teachers that you know will write the best letters of recommendations?
  • How many letters of recommendation are appropriate to send to colleges?

Choosing a College and the College Admissions Process

  • How much time do you have to make an Early Action or Restrictive Early Action decision? Does the date vary depending on the school or is it a set date across the board?
  • Do college tours have any effect on admissions?
  • Is it worth spending more money to go to an elite college, or is better to attend a safety school and keep your debt low?
  • Where can I find information on GPA and test score ranges for different majors/schools within a college/university?

Financial Aid

  • What is the best way to ask for a financial aid appeal ? What are the key points to note in a letter?
  • Is it true that highly selective colleges give more need based grants than state universities?
  • Can you appeal a financial aid package?
  • Is it worth talking to the financial aid office about your financial situation? Will they care?
  • How does EFC (expected family contribution) get split for twins both attending college?

College Preparation While in High School 

  • What should freshmen and sophomores be doing right now?
  • Is it true admissions officers like to see students take the SAT or ACT multiple times?
  • If a schools says they do not require SAT subject tests, should you send them anyway?
  • Is it true that a poor ACT score can be deleted if it hasn't been reported to any colleges?


1. If a student will not qualify for financial aid, is there a need to fill out the FAFSA? Could filling out the FAFSA lower the amount of merit based scholarships?

Colleges will tell families that if there's any chance they might need aid, they should fill out the FAFSA. But for some colleges that are "need aware" (meaning they give students who don't apply for financial aid preference in the admissions process), this could work against a student. The mere fact of just filling out the FAFSA sometimes triggers the admissions staff at these need aware colleges that money is going to be a factor for the family, and this could scare them off a bit. So, if you know that you won't qualify for need based aid, I'd say not to submit the FAFSA. You don't need to fill out the FAFSA to get merit based aid.

2. When do you begin applying for grants?

Grants are usually given out by the college as part of the financial aid award. They are need based so the family would need to fill out the FAFSA (and any other financial aid forms that are required). Scholarships can be given out by colleges, but also organizations (national and local). The scholarships from the college are distributed in the financial aid award (just like the grants). But students can apply for local and national scholarships usually in the summer/fall/winter of senior year (there are a few for juniors too). If the student receives an outside scholarship, that can reduce the EFC (expected family contribution) which can make the cost of college more reasonable.  

3. How much do alumni interviews really help? Is the interviewer's report meaningful or just a checked box to an admissions officer?

The alumni interviews at highly selective colleges tend to reconfirm everything in the student's application. Honestly, though, almost every interview report is positive so it tends to not have the same influence as the other pieces of the application. And, because most colleges can't guarantee that every student will get an interview, they can't put too much emphasis on them. I see the power of the interview report dwindling even though colleges will never admit this. If a student is applying to small, liberal arts colleges, the interview tends to matter a little more as it is usually conducted by an admissions staff member.