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Tips for Applying to College 2016-2017

Every year there are trends that impact students applying to college. Here are the five most important things to know RIGHT NOW about the 2016-2017 admissions process: 

1. Don't let delayed test scores hurt your chances of admission.

Last year there were significant delays in students' test scores arriving by Early Decision and Early Action deadlines. To ensure scores arrive on time, make sure to do the following:

1.) Self-report test scores on the application. While this is optional and won't be considered official for admission purposes, this can provide the college with a placeholder if the official scores are delayed.
2.) Don't wait until the application is submitted to send test scores through the College Board or ACT websites. Students can send official score reports BEFORE they submit their application. College admissions offices will save the score reports until they are matched up with the student's application. 

2. Use free score reports.

If the student plans to apply to a Rolling Admissions program early in the fall, an Early Decision program, or an Early Action program, they should use the four free score reports when taking September, October, or November standardized tests. By listing one of the colleges with an earlier deadline to receive one of the free score reports, the student increases the odds of the fall scores arriving at the college in time. The college will receive the scores the same day as the student if they follow this approach. While this option takes the control out of the hands of the student in being able to view the scores before the college does, it increases the likelihood that the scores will arrive sooner. 



3. Fill out the FAFSA early.

The FAFSA, the federal form required by colleges for financial aid, will be available much sooner than in previous years. Families applying for aid used to have to wait until January 1st to fill out and submit this form. Starting this fall, the FAFSA will be available on October 1st and families will use what is called "prior-prior year tax information" instead of the previous year's information which was hard to gather in the timeframe provided. Submitting financial aid materials early is key. If these forms arrive late, there is a chance that the student may not receive financial aid.

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4. Plan time to fill out multiple applications.

If a student is applying through the Common App, most colleges still require the main college essay and an institutional-specific supplement. Students should plan plenty of time to fill out applications, write essays, and complete each college's supplement. 

5. Read the fine print when applying to Early Decision and Early Action programs.

In some but not all cases, a student can apply Early Decision and submit applications to multiple Early Action programs. Other colleges have Single Choice Early Action programs and do not permit students to apply to additional "early" programs. The trick is to carefully read each college's policy. If a student is unsure, they should reach out to the admissions office. Offers of admission can be rescinded if a student violates the "early" policy.