Frequently Asked Questions
Below are several of the most frequently asked questions about the college admission process:
How many college applications should I plan to send?
- If you are planning to attend a four-year college, we suggest you apply to at least six colleges with a good balance of the “admission risk factor.” For financial reasons, you might choose one to apply to as a "financial safety" school.
- Many ETHS seniors file between six and eight applications. While there is no limit to the number of applications you may send, remember that limiting your choices in the fall will make the decision easier in the spring, and will force you to identify colleges that are the best fit for you personally.
Should I bother to apply to a college we can't afford?
- YES! The “sticker price” is not what you will pay. Take advantage of tools like the net price calculator and FAFSA 4caster to gain a clearer understanding of cost of attendance and eligibility for financial aid.
- Remember, many private colleges have endowments that are used to help offset the cost of attendance.
- Merit scholarships and non-need based university grants are generally awarded with the acceptance letter.
- It is wise to diversify your list with a variety of cost options.
When do I start applying to colleges?
- College application deadlines vary. Pace yourself so you won’t have to rush to complete all your applications at once.
- Submit your state school applications early. Remember, the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign application has an Early Action deadline of November 1st.
- Apply early to colleges to give yourself the best chance at being admitted. Remember that after you submit your request to your counselor, it will be up to four weeks before your transcript & other school documents are submitted to your schools.
- Note: As you apply, you'll often need to send an official copy of your test scores to each college if you did not do so when you took the ACT or SAT. (ACT: www.actstudent.org; SAT: www.collegeboard.org).
One of my college applications requires me to write an essay. Where can I get help?
- While writing a personal essay can be more challenging than a paper for a class, the same principles of good writing apply. Here are some tips to help you.
- Allow yourself time to complete an essay section of a college application.
- Review your essay.
- Have someone (English teacher, College & Career Services staff, or your counselor) read over your rough draft to make any suggestions.
- Proofread! A misspelled word or grammar error can ruin your efforts.
I need a teacher letter of recommendation. What do I do?
- First, ask a teacher if they are willing to write a letter for you. Then, make a request in SchooLinks.
- In most cases, you should request your letter from a junior teacher from a core course (English, Math, Science or History/Social Science).
- Provide only the letters being requested.
- Always give your recommender a minimum of two to three weeks to write the letter! Don't assume that they will, or even can, drop everything for you! Supply your recommender with a list of your grades, extracurricular activities, work experience and goals.
- Check back with your recommender in a couple weeks as a friendly reminder so that they don’t forget to write the letter. And always send a thank you for their efforts on your behalf.
Waive or do not waive?
- Generally, not waiving your right displays a lack of trust for your recommender. Your recommender may choose not to write for you if you indicate “do not waive.” Note: Those who choose to write a recommendation letter for you will not be negative!
When do I apply for financial aid?
- In order to be considered for any federal aid programs, the student must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid Form (FAFSA). The FAFSA is filed and submitted online as soon after October 1 as possible.
- Do not forget to create your FSA ID before you begin the FAFSA form; it only takes a few minutes and could prevent processing delays.
- Note: Your college may have a separate institutional form or require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. These typically have a fall deadline.
- Watch for specific college application deadlines that must be met to be considered for institutional financial aid.
I've been accepted to three different colleges. How do I let each of them know if I am attending or not attending? What if I'm not sure?
- It is your responsibility to inform all the colleges, to which you have been accepted, about your decision. The college you are planning to attend must be notified of your decision by May 1 at the latest. Sending a deposit to a college confirms your acceptance of a college's offer of admission.
- You should inform colleges that you will not be attending next fall by sending them a short note, which thanks them for the offer of admission but informs them that you will not be attending. If you are unsure about whether you will attend a particular college (you're waiting to hear from your #1 choice college, or you're waiting to hear about financial aid), simply write a note to the college(s) telling them that you are unsure but wish to remain in the applicant pool until you have decided where you will attend.
- In any event, it is your responsibility to let a college know what your plans are. You expected the colleges to reply to your application quickly; grant them the same courtesy!
If you have any other questions, please connect with your counselor, the College & Career Services staff, or call the college's Admissions Office.