Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Some Last Minute Details Before December 1

By Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

As seniors head for the December 1 application deadline, it’s time for counselors to remind seniors, juniors, and even themselves about some important details they may have overlooked.

Testing, Testing  December is the last month most colleges will let seniors take the SAT or ACT and send those scores as part of their application.  Some seniors may not realize that ACT now requires all test-takers to download a picture of themselves when they register for the test; they still have to produce photo ID at the test site, but they also have to submit a picture to ACT as part of the sign-up process.  The deadline for submission of the photos is December 4th—if nothing is loaded by then, the student can’t take the ACT in December.

There’s a good chance some December ACT seniors last took the ACT in June, when they didn’t have to download a picture—so now is the time to let them know.  It’s probably a good idea to tell all juniors as well; some juniors take the December ACT so they can get an item analysis of their test (this is also available with the April and June tests), so make sure they’ve sent in a picture…

…and if you have December SAT test-takers, they can relax; SAT will require downloaded pictures beginning with the March 2013 test administration, so they just have to take photo ID to the test site.

Money for College  While you’re telling your students to hurry up and make one deadline, you have to remind parents to slow down to make a different deadline.  The FAFSA is the primary financial aid form nearly every family has to complete as they begin their quest for college cash, but it can’t be submitted until January 1.  For now, parents can go to the FAFSA Web site to get the PIN they need; they should do this with their senior, since the student has a different PIN.

After writing their PINs down in a safe place, the whole family should take a look at the updated US Government financial aid Web site,  The Department of Education reduced about 15 financial aid Web sites into this new streamlined presentation, and it’s great; the introduction to financial aid is a must-read, as are the articles about managing student loans and scholarship scams.  There’s plenty of December reading to prepare you to file the FAFSA on New Year’s Day.

You’ve Made the List, Now Check it Twice  This is also the right time for counselors to find that 25th hour in the day and review the college plans of every one of their seniors.  Many counselors are reporting students have put together very aggressive college lists this year; while it’s great to boldly apply where others many not attend, it’s also possible students have no “sure fire” schools on their list—or they told you they would apply to one or two, but haven’t.

The time to fix this problem is before it becomes a problem.  Close the office door, review every senior’s list, and make sure they have a “go to” school they’re happy with.  If they don’t, it’s time for a quick call, text, e-mail, or meeting, so the student can develop a Plan B.  It isn’t easy to find the time for all this, but it’s easier than finding a college in April that has openings for a disappointed student.

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