The College Career Center is located in Room 1123 (West Building) just south of the Wood Commons. The CCC is best accessed from the outside by way of the Forum (“point”) entrance, off parking lot B.
Follow the CCC on Facebook
Stevenson High School welcomes colleges to visit our students during the fall semester. Colleges wishing to schedule a rep visit can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
College Career Center Staff
email@example.com / 847-415-4505
firstname.lastname@example.org / 847-415-4509
Stevenson to College Program Manager
email@example.com / 847-415-4469
Career Exploration Program Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org / 847-415-4125
College Career Center Administrative Assistant
email@example.com / 847-415-4517
How to Log In:
- Type in your Stevenson student e-mail address, which is the first six letters of your last name and last number of your graduation year. For example, Steve Patriot (Class of 2020) would type: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Your Naviance password is System Password.
- You are encouraged to change this password after your initial log-on to Naviance.
- You are also encouraged to use the e-mail address that you plan to use on your college applications.
Naviance is an online tool to assist Stevenson students with college planning. Once logged on, students will find numerous functions to help them with the college search and selection process:
• My Game Plan helps focus your college search by asking a series of questions that you may not have yet considered about college. Knowing more about yourself will help you find schools that fit. This insight can further assist your counselor in helping you develop a game plan to achieve your goals.
• College Search enables you to create a target list of schools in terms of size, location, major, etc. from a pool of more than 3,600 schools. (This feature is active only for student accounts.)
• My Colleges provides you (and your counselor) with an electronic list of colleges that you are interested in. This component of the program compares your academic data to Stevenson High School graduates who were accepted to the schools on your list.
• Scattergrams will help you learn from the past. Admission decisions (accept/deny/defer) from college-bound Stevenson graduates have been loaded into Naviance. These decisions have been plotted on graphs (2 axes--GPA and ACT), so you can assess your admissions chances at hundreds of SHS collegiate destinations.
• My Resume is a place to keep a tally of your activities. This feature will help you to complete the activities portion of some college applications in addition to serving to keep your counselor apprised of your accomplishments.
Career Exploration in Naviance
We encourage all of our students to begin their reflection about the classes they like along with areas they do not enjoy as much. Taking classes throughout high school is an excellent way to think about potential areas of study during college. Students can think about aspects of classes that they enjoyed over others. For example, some questions to consider might include:
What topics covered in the course(s) were particularly challenging? interesting?
What instructional methods do you prefer (i.e., group work or projects, labs, hands-on learning, teacher lectures, activities, homework assignments, etc.)?
Identify a few areas of study that you might to explore in the future?
What hobbies or other interests do you have outside of school?
What have you learned in co-curricular activities that might apply to your future career?
In Naviance, there are many excellent career exploration resources:
MI Advantage – This tool assesses multiple intelligences based on learning differences, along with strengths and challenges for students. The results provide suggestions on how students can further develop all of their intelligences. In addition, it pairs their intelligences with careers that match. Naviance uses occupational information network, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Learning Style Inventory – This assessment gives students insight to how they learn and their preferences. Students can increase self-awareness about their needs.
StrengthsExplorer – This assessment gauges students’ talents and skills. Students will learn their top three “themes” and how to maximize their successes. In addition they will learn suggested next steps. Please note, this assessment can only be taken once.
Do What You Are – This tool matches a student’s personality type to careers. This is similar to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, but is designed for high school students. The results will match their personality to careers and career clusters that they may find rewarding and satisfying.
Career Cluster Finder – This online questionnaire helps students discover career clusters that are most interesting to them.
Career Interest Profiler – This profiler uses Holland’s Code (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) to match careers to students’ interests. Students can view matching occupations, explore possible majors and colleges.
Roadtrip Nation – 3,500+ video interviews chronicling the diverse personal stories of leaders who have turned their interests into their life’s work.
Resume – This feature is especially helpful for students to organize their activity list and accomplishments. In addition, it can help keep your counselor apprised of your awards and involvement.
Be as honest as you can with your answers, because these assessments are all about you.
Virtual College Rep Visits will begin on September 1, 2020. These visits are intended for only current SHS Juniors and Seniors to attend (interested parents are encouraged to reach out to colleges for virtual visit opportunities.)
Each visit will be facilitated, via Zoom, by a Post Secondary Counselor. Some college rep visits may be recorded and published on Canvas, to allow for greater access to SHS Juniors and Seniors.
Interested Juniors and Seniors are required to sign into their Naviance account to sign up for individual sessions. Students must request permission to attend college visits by their teacher, at least two school days prior to the scheduled visit. View a summary of the College Rep Visit Schedule for fall 2020 (please note, this visit schedule will be updated continually August through November):
Interested college reps should contact CCC Administrative Assistant Michele Doczi at email@example.com.
Stevenson provides school-day testing and also serves as a host for ACT and SAT national test dates. This is an overview of the 2020-21 school-day testing schedule:
*On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 there will be an optional PSAT/NMSQT offered for Juniors who did not test in Oct. 2020
* Advanced (AP) Exam Dates and Fees
Note: Stevenson’s ability to host national ACT/SAT testing will depend upon the status of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stevenson students register and pay for these exams on their own. Some exams are held at Stevenson and some are held at other high school locations.
|Sept. 12||Stevenson*||Aug. 14|
|Oct. 24||Off Campus||Sept. 18|
|Dec. 12||Off Campus||Nov. 6|
|Feb. 6||Stevenson*||Jan. 8|
|April 17||Off Campus||March 12|
|June 12||Off Campus||May 7|
|July 17||Off Campus||June 18|
* Pending status of COVID-19 in Illinois. Changing COVID-19 safety guidelines and governmental mandates may impact our ability to administer exams in person.
Test dates at Stevenson are listed in bold. Stevenson's school code is 143550.
The cost of the ACT exam is $55. For those who want to take the ACT with the optional Writing test, the cost is $70. Students may register online at the ACT website.
National SAT Dates for 2020-21
|Aug. 29||Stevenson*||July 31|
|Sept. 26||Stevenson*||Aug. 26|
|Oct. 3||Stevenson*||Sept. 4|
|Nov. 7||Off Campus||Oct. 7|
|Dec. 5||Off Campus||Nov. 5|
|March 13||Stevenson*||Feb. 12|
|May 8||Off Campus||April 8|
|June 5||Stevenson*||May 6|
* Pending status of COVID-19 in Illinois. Changing COVID-19 safety guidelines and governmental mandates may impact our ability to administer exams in person.
Test dates at Stevenson are listed in bold. Stevenson's school code is 143550.
The cost of the SAT exam is $52. The SAT exam with the optional Essay portion is $68. Students may register online at the SAT website.
Note: Sunday administrations of the SAT exam usually occur the day after each Saturday test date for students who cannot test on Saturday due to religious observance.
COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS and INFORMATION - FOR EXAMINEES
Examinees will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire and have their temperature taken on test morning before entering Adlai E Stevenson High School. Any examinee that has a fever, is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, or provides answers to the health screening questionnaire that indicate possible COVID-19 exposure or illness will be denied admittance. Examinees that are unable to test must contact College Board or ACT for information about receiving a refund or rescheduling testing.
Examinees are required to wear a properly-fitting mask at all times while on the Adlai E Stevenson High School campus.
Examinees must provide their own mask.
Examinees are expected to maintain social distancing and keep at least six feet apart from others while on the Adlai E Stevenson High School campus.
Examinees who do not follow the above health and safety guidelines will be dismissed from testing.
While Adlai E Stevenson High School is taking measures to help create a safe testing environment, it isn’t possible to entirely remove the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Examinees choosing to take the SAT or ACT exam at Adlai E Stevenson High School acknowledge that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic, understand the contagious nature of COVID-19 and that it can lead to serious illness or death, and voluntarily assume all risk of COVID-19 exposure or illness.
Adlai E. Stevenson High School follows all guidance put forth by the Governor, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Lake County Health Department. While Stevenson intends to administer these exams, current public health conditions may require test administrations to be changed or canceled.
- Do Colleges Prefer the SAT or ACT?
- Should I Take the SAT or ACT?
- What's the Difference Between the SAT and ACT?
- Do Illinois Colleges and Universities Only Take the SAT?
- Should We Sign Up to Have Free Score Reports Sent?
- How Does Khan Academy Work with SAT?
- What Other Test Prep Options Are Available?
In Illinois, all juniors must take the SAT for a graduation requirement. This test is offered during the school day usually in April. Some students may score better on the ACT than on the SAT. It is a good idea to take both (even if they are just practice tests), to determine if the ACT highlights a student’s abilities better.
The SAT has two sections, Evidence Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math Section, and an optional Essay test. The Math section is broken into two parts, calculator, and non-calculator. They also have open-ended questions for Math. The two section scores are added together to provide the total (out of 1600 total). There is no longer a penalty for guessing, and compared to the ACT, students have more time per question overall. The reading level of the SAT tends to be higher.
The ACT has four sections, English, Reading, Math, and Science, and an optional Writing test. The four subsection scores are averaged together for students to receive a composite score (out of 36). Students can use their calculator throughout the whole math section and all answers are multiple choice. Students tend to have less time per question than on the SAT, but the reading level tends to be not as high.
Compare ACT and SAT Scores
Would you like to know what your score would be on the other test? Check out this document.
This is a personal decision. We encourage students to take advantage of the four free scores ACT and SAT provide when registering for the exam, and consider sending them to colleges/universities where they are more certain of admission (though colleges will consider the highest overall score that is sent to them). College Board does allow students to send the free scores within nine days of taking the SAT (before students receive the scores, but it allows the student to see how the test felt). Some colleges/universities require students to send all of their test scores, so sending them ahead of time can save families money.
If students qualify for a test fee waiver, College Board allows for unlimited SAT score fee waivers and ACT allows for 20 score fee waivers (after students receive their scores).
Khan Academy provides, free, customized, test prep for students. Students are able to connect their College Board account, with a Khan Academy account. Khan Academy will then take their current scores and provide support in areas that are needed. Use this link for SAT tips and strategies:
Stevenson offers a five-day summer school test prep class for the ACT and/or SAT. Students will take a practice test on the last day of the class. Families can check out the offerings on the summer school web page.
SAT provides an app for daily practice, more info can be found here:
While SHS does not endorse any test prep companies, the CCC has compiled a list of local options.
- Dec. 9, 2020: College Night for Junior Families
- Nov. 16-20, 2020: Trades Week
- Oct. 22, 2020: FAFSA Completion Night Workshop
- Oct. 8, 2020: Undergraduate College Admission Process for Families who are First Generation to the United States
- Oct. 1, 2020: Financial Aid Evening for Junior and Senior Families
- Aug. 31, 2020: Senior Parent Night - Applying for College
Students are heavily encouraged to attend with their parent/guardian.
The night is a kickoff to the college search-and-selection process for students in the Class of 2022. Postsecondary Counselors Sara English and Dan Miller will discuss how to choose a college, how a college chooses its students, and the overall timeline for the search and application process over the next 18 months. Career Program Manager Diane Willock will discuss ways students can further explore career options.
Families needing interpreter assistance can reach out to Michele Doczi, at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to Wednesday, Dec. 2.
The College Career Center will be hosting a virtual “Trades Week” the week of November 16th. Students are invited to listen and learn about local apprenticeships programs and careers in trade areas such as HVAC, plumbing, welding, automotive, cosmetology and esthetics, real estate and more. Students can access this Google Doc to see the schedule and Zoom links. These meetings will be held during school hours and students must get prior approval from teachers at least 2 days in advance if they will miss a class. Please make sure to check the schedule frequently as it will be updated as we add new events.
FAFSA Completion Night Workshop on Oct. 22:
The College Career Center will hold its annual FAFSA Completion Night from 4-7 p.m, via Zoom on Thursday October 22. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Families interested in attending are asked to make an appointment prior to Oct. 22 by calling Michele Doczi at 847-415-4517, or via email by email@example.com. If families need an interpreter, please reach out by Oct. 15.
Zoom links will be provided once registration has been received.
The FAFSA Workshop will utilize Zoom, and the breakout room feature, to allow families private conversations directly with representatives from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, who are trained in the specific details of the FAFSA.
Families are strongly encouraged to create their Federal Student Aid identification numbers prior to the appointment and to begin the FAFSA. A separate FSA ID is required for a parent and for the student. Families can use the following links to get started: Create a Federal Student Aid ID | Steps on Filling Out a FAFSA Form
Please see the Program Link for the First Generation to College Night to participate.
Stevenson is hosting its second annual college night on Thursday, Oct. 8 to specifically support students (and their families) who are first in their family to navigate the undergraduate college admissions process in the United States. This includes students that are the first in their family to attend a four-year college or students whose parents have not received an undergraduate education in the United States.
Families from all backgrounds and grade levels are welcome. The event will held virtually, Zoom links will be available on this page late next week. Families can select from a variety mini-sessions based on their personal needs. The sessions are an introduction to the topic that will be explained more during our future events. Below is a schedule of the events and session topics.
6:30 – 7:10 p.m. Session 1
7:15 – 7:50 p.m. Session 2
7:55 – 8:30 p.m. Session 3
8:35 – 9:10 p.m. Session 4
Session topics that families can pick from will be:
Financial Aid/Scholarships Overview
Highly Selective Admissions
Role of the Community College
4-year Admission Overview
Senior Session (for those who are just starting)
Role of Visiting
Making the Most of What SHS has to Offer
Naviance & Resources
Navigating Admission as a Non-Citizen/non-Permanent Resident
Underrepresented Students of Color Panel and Resources
Drop-In Question and Answer Room
Families wishing to have an interpreter please contact Barb Whalen at 847-415-4504 , or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The College Career Center will hold its annual Financial Aid Night at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct.1 via Zoom. Post-secondary counselors, Sara English and Dan Miller will partner with Jerry Cebrzynski, Associate Vice President for Financial Aid at Lake Forest College, for this presentation, which is meant primarily for families who have current juniors or seniors. Details about applying for college financial assistance through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be discussed, along with the types of financial aid available, and how eligibility for aid is determined. Families typically complete their FAFSA forms in October. Please utilize the Zoom link to attend online.
Parents who missed this event can view one of two recordings. This is the video of the program from 7-8:30 p.m. and the pre-program is posted at the end of this post.
The College Career Center will hold its annual Senior Parent Night from 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31 via Zoom. The event is free and open to all parents and guardians of seniors at Stevenson.
During the presentation, postsecondary counselors Sara English and Dan Miller will discuss how to apply to colleges. Topics to be covered include types of applications (Common App, for example), admission plans (including Early Decision), deadlines, obtaining a transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, essays, and scholarships.
Parents can access this presentation through the Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/98006670532
There will be a special session for parents and guardians of students with IEP/504 plans from 6:30-6:50 p.m. Families can join this pre-session through this zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/96655274708.
Families who have a student with IEP/504 plans can watch a recording of the presentation below.
Download a List of College Career Center Calendar of Activities 2020-21
Aug. 31 IEP/504 Mini-Session, Senior Parents, 6:30-6:50 pm, Zoom
Aug. 31 Senior Parent Night, 7:00-8:30 pm, Zoom
Sept. 10 North Suburban NCAA Evening, 7:00-8:30 pm, Stevenson HS
Oct. 1 Financial Aid Evening, 7:00-8:00 pm, via Zoom
Oct. 8 First Generation to United States Undergraduate Admission Night
Oct. 18 National Portfolio Day, 11:00 am-3:00 pm, Chicago/Milwaukee (TBD)
Oct. 20 CHOICES Virtual College Fair, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 FAFSA Completion Night, 4:00-7:00 pm, TBD
Nov. 16-20 Trades Week, students can access this Google Doc to see schedule and Zoom links
Dec. 9 IEP/504 Mini-Session for Junior Families, 6:30-6:50 pm
Dec. 9 Junior College Night for Junior Families, 7:00-8:30 pm
TBD Gap Year Fair, 1:00-3:00 pm, New Trier High School - Winnetka
March 4 IEP/504 Mini-Session for Sophomore Families, 6:30-6:50 pm, Zoom link to be communicated
March 4 “Planning Your Future” for Sophomore Families, 7:00-8:30 pm, Zoom link to be communicated
TBD Illinois Regional College Fair, 6:00-8:00 pm, College of Lake County
April 7 IEP/504 Mini-Session for Freshman Families, 6:30-6:50 pm, Zoom link to be communicated
April 7 “Looking Ahead” for Freshman Families, 7:00-8:30 pm, Zoom link to be communicated
April 21 Options Fair, 6:00-8:00 pm, Mundelein High School, 6:30-8:30pm
PAC – Performing Arts Center (East Building)
•• Hosted at Stevenson or hosted virtually
Parent/Family Night Presentations
- Senior Parent Night Presentation Slides 8-31-20
- Senior Parent Night Video Recording 8-31-20
- Senior Parent Night IEP-504 Presentation Slides 8-31-20
- Senior Parent Night IEP-504 Video Recording 8-31-20
- Junior Family Night Presentation Slides 12-9-20
- Junior Family Night Presentation Video Recording 12-9-20
- Junior Family Night Handout 12-9-20
- Junior Family Night Pre-Session for BPAC Families Slides 12-9-20
- Junior Family Night Pre-Session for BPAC Families Video Recording 12-9-20
- Junior Family Night IEP-504 Presentation Slides 12-9-20
- Junior Family Night IEP-504 Video Recording 12-9-20
- Sophomore Family Night: Planning Your Future 3-5-20
- Sophomore Family Night handout on Naviance
- Freshman Family Night: Looking Ahead 4-9-19
NCAA Information for Prospective Collegiate Athletes
Financial Aid Documents
- Financial Aid Night Presentation - October 2020
- Video Recording of Financial Aid Night - October 2020
- Financial Aid Tips 2020-21
First-Generation Night Session Documents/Links
- Testing - ACT/SAT/Subject Tests/TOEFL/PSAT-NMSQT
- Community College - role benefits
- Financial Aid/Scholarships - how to search/overall process
- Highly Selective Admissions - admission plans
- 4 Year Admission Overview - public/private/guaranteed admission/admission plans/holistic/in-state schools
- Parent Panel
- Role of Visiting
- Career Exploration
- 504/IEP Accommodations
- Seniors (What Steps Do I Need To Take Now)
- Making the Most of SHS; Inside and Outside of the Classroom
- Undocumented VISA/Non-Citizen
- Naviance/Technology Research Resources
- Underrepresented Students of Color Panel and Resources
- 2020-21 Stevenson HS profile
- Class of 2022 P-SCoPE Worksheet 12-16-20
- 2019 College Planning Worksheet
- ACT-SAT Preparation Resources
- Applying to University of California Tip Sheet 2020-21
- Applying to the University of Illinois 2020-21
- Class of 2020 Report
- Coalition Application Tips
- College Application Requirement Worksheet/Checklist
- College of Lake County Secondary School Reference Form
- Common Application Tips 2020-21
- Counselor Recommendation Form ("Brag Sheet”)
- Creating a Parchment Account
- Illinois State Universities Admission Requirements 2020-21
- Naviance Overview 2017
- NCAA Eligibility Information
- Summer Essay College Workshop 2018
- Teacher Letter of Recommendation/Reflection Sheet
- Undecided on a College Major?
- Notes from the CCC's Interview Workshop
Application Deadlines and Admission Plans
Different colleges offer different types of application plans and deadlines. Below are Stevenson’s recommended internal deadlines and the basic type of admission plans explained.
Note: All U.S. colleges must treat students’ applications equally until Oct. 15 of their senior year. Therefore, submitting an application on Aug. 15 is the same as submitting it on Oct. 15.
At Stevenson, we encourage students to use our internal deadlines to simplify the application process, to ensure their application is submitted without danger of a unexpected power outage or server crash, and to optimize the scholarship and admission potential.
SHS Internal Deadlines
Oct. 15 - is our recommendation for students to complete any college application for a public school and/or any school (including private) for which you are using an “early” plan.
Nov. 30 - is our recommendation for students to complete any private college application where they are not using an “early” plan (typically a rolling or regular decision plan).
- Early Decision (ED)
- Restrictive Early Action (REA) or Single Choice Early Action
- Early Action/Priority Admission
- Regular Admission
- Rolling Admissions
This is a binding agreement between a student and the college. You are deciding on attending this school with your application (if admitted). If school X admits you, you have agreed to attend. If admitted, you must withdraw all other applications within 48 hours of acceptance.
Schools who offer ED expect families to research the cost and know this is an affordable option. Families can use the net price calculator found on the school’s website (required by federal law) and/or contact the school’s financial aid department.
Students can only enter into one Early Decision agreement at a time. There may be two rounds offered at various schools. The benefits of using this pool can be a smaller pool of applicants or a higher acceptance rate at the school. The drawbacks can be the inability to review financial costs at multiple schools and comparing the offers.
Examples of schools that offer Early Decision are: Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Washington University (Wash U, Duke University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
This is a non-binding agreement that restricts how you can apply to other schools. Students are not committed to attending the school under this plan.
Each school that offers this plan may have their own caveats. All schools that offer an REA plan do not allow you to apply to another school Early Decision. Some schools may restrict the Early Action pool. Most will allow a student to apply Early Action to a public school. Students should consult the school’s site directly to adhere to their policy.
A few schools that offer this plan currently are: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Notre Dame and Boston College.
This plan is not binding or restrictive, and is the plan most students tend to use. Students are applying earlier than other plans the institution may offer, and it is often connected with scholarship deadlines. We heavily encourage students to use this plan when applying to public institutions in particular.
Schools that offer this plan include: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Indiana University, The Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Michigan.
This plan is usually a later plan than some of the other plans a school may offer. Students apply and they will notified of admission at a later date. Schools that offer an ED, REA, or EA pool will often also offer a Regular Admission plan.
Schools that also offer this plan include: Northwestern University and the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign.
Schools that offer this plan notify students on a rolling basis of their admission. Approximately 3-8 weeks after a student applies, the student should receive a decision. Students are still encouraged to complete these applications in October to optimize their admission and scholarship opportunities.
Schools offering this plan include: Marquette University, University of Iowa, Mizzou (University of Missouri - Columbia), and Northern Illinois University.
- When Do I Have to Decide?
- Can I Apply Early Decision to Two Schools?
- Do My Senior Year Grades Matter?
- Do Colleges Look at Seventh-Semester Grades?
- Should I Delay Applying to Work on My Grades?
May 1 is the National Candidate Reply Date. This means, outside of Early Decision, if a college offers a student admission, the student has the right to wait up until May 1 to make a deposit. The college must hold the spot for the student until May 1 so they can compare financial aid offers and have time to make an informed decision. After May 1, the spot may not be guaranteed. Families may want to consider a housing deposit prior to this date if the student has a preference for housing.
Students cannot enter into two ED agreements at the same time since they are committing to attending the school if admitted. Some schools offer two Early Decision Plans (ED and an ED II). ED II is designed so a student will hear back from an ED school prior to entering into an ED II agreement. Students cannot enter into two ED agreements at the same time, but they can apply using an ED II plan if they were not accepted to their ED school (this includes deferred). Typically, students will hear back from the ED plan in mid-December. ED II plans have deadlines in early to mid-January.
Yes! When you submit a transcript, or self-report your academic record, your senior year courses are included. In addition, some schools may want to see your first-semester grades (aka “7th semester grades”). The college to which you commit will also want your final high school transcript. And, although rare, if you changed your senior year courses without notifying your school, or your grades are not consistent with your previous academic performance, the college could rescind admission.
This depends on the school. Some schools will ask for mid-year/seventh-semester grades. Some students may also choose to send this information informally through an email to an admission office. Some schools will not consider your seventh-semester grades at all (e.g., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
This also depends on the school. In general, it is best to apply earlier and to follow up with your seventh-semester grades, but there are a few schools that may encourage you to wait. If you fall into this situation (where you had a rockier start to SHS and have a stronger first semester of your senior year), it is best to check with each college you are interested in applying.
Many colleges will ask for you to write to a prompt. The prompts can vary from “Why did you decide to apply to our school?” to “Discuss your interest in your major,” to “Any additional information you would like to share?” to “What's so odd about odd numbers?” Ultimately, the school wants to learn more about you. This is the first time they have a chance to hear from you, about you. Though the admission counselor will notice if you have typos and spelling errors (so be sure to proofread), their focus is learning more about who you are, why you are a “good fit” for their school, and what you may bring to their school. Typically an admissions counselor will spend about 5-15 minutes reading your essays when reviewing your file.
Here are some tips when writing:
Start early ... but not too early. We do not want you spending your entire summer on essay writing, but we do recommend that you spend some time writing prior to starting your senior year. The essays are the most time consuming part of your application. Once you start school, you will be busy with your senior year. Starting during the summer will allow ample time for your proofreader as well. Giving your proofreader only a week before the deadline to review your essay may not give you (or your reader) enough time to polish it.
Spend some time brainstorming topics. Pre-write, and don’t be afraid to go in a completely different direction after writing an essay. Just because you write it doesn’t mean you must use it. Check out our brainstorming worksheet here.
- Answer the prompt. This might sound silly, but many of the essays we read we find students veer off the prompt. Sometimes this is a result of using another essay and trying to morph it into a different prompt. Don’t be afraid to start fresh.
- Remember the essay is for the school to learn more about you. One-third of your essay should be about the “topic” and two-thirds should be about who you are because of it, and how you will be at the school (analysis and self-reflection). An example of this can be shown through the essay prompt “tell me about a significant person in your life.” Let’s say you write about your grandmother. At the end of your essay the reader should want to admit you, not your amazing grandmother. Be sure to include examples of her (no more than one-third of the essay), and how that has translated and inspired you in your life.
- Use the “additional information” prompt to share about a hiccup on your transcript or factors that are important for admission counselors to know. It is important to not make excuses, but to discuss what you learned from the experience and how you have grown. If it applies to you, this is also a great section to discuss an IEP or 504 plan if you choose to disclose it.
- Proofread and have someone else proofread. Spending so much time on your essay makes it easy to miss the errors. Having someone else read for content and grammar is a great idea. Consider perhaps a non-family member or close friend. Sometimes having someone who doesn’t know you well read your essay can be very insightful. They can tell you what they learned about you from your writing (which is the ultimate goal). Look in our FAQs for help we offer at SHS.
- On the flip side, do not have too many readers. The more people who read, the more opinions you will receive, and the more confused you will likely be with the direction of your essay.
- Don’t lose your voice (this goes along with the prior points). You may have some well-intentioned help in the process with people assisting with your edits. It is important that you are the one re-writing and that it is your voice and words. Admission counselors can tell the difference in writing within various parts of your application. They expect the writing to look like that of a 17- or 18-year-old. If it doesn’t “sound” like you, it might actually hurt your application.
- How Long Should My Essay Be?
- Can I Use Humor in My Essay?
- What Type/Tone of Writing Should My Essay Have?
- Are There Any Topics That Are Off-Limits?
- Can I Use the Same Essay for Multiple Schools?
- Should Someone Proofread My Essay?
- Should I Complete an Optional Essay?
- How Should I Respond to the "Why Us" Topic?
Most essays will provide you a word or character limit. Be sure to stick within the limit (some applications will even cut you off mid-sentence if you exceed the limit). Do not feel like you need to hit the limit, though. As long as you have answered the prompt, and you have some substance in your response, your response is perfect. We actually find, though, that students struggle more with staying within the limit. 650 words is less than you think. Do not worry about the word limit initially. Write until you feel like you have said what you wanted, then go back and make edits. This is a great time for your proofreader to make suggestions on edits, too. Often times they are able to provide more insight since they are not so close to the writing.
Humor can be used in essays, but remember that you do not know the person reading your essay. They could be male or female, 25 or 65, conservative or liberal, etc. If you are trying humor for the first time, this may not be the best place. If you are including humor in your essay, we recommend that you share it with several different people (diversify the type of people). If they all laugh, then great! If not, then perhaps go in a different direction.
Students often struggle at first with the tone of the writing. This may be the first time you are writing informally. It is okay, and expected, to use “I” and write in first person. Being detailed and descriptive with all senses can pull the reader in, but remember that you have a word limit and ultimately, the admission counselor wants to learn more about you. Finding the balance with the tone and content is important.
Well ... no ... but there are “cliche” topics. We hear them described as the three “Ds”: Death, Divorce and Disease. This doesn’t mean not to write about one of them if it is significant to you, but you may want to use caution. Also, we know some of you have been through some significant experiences or life events. It is important you remember that a stranger(s) is reading this. It is also important that you have had the chance to fully process your feelings. The topic may be too premature, or too deep/emotional, to share for your college application. It can be therapeutic to write about it, but then perhaps pick another subject. This is another great discussion to have with your proofreader or counselor.
If you are using Common Application or the Coalition Application, they will have a list of prompts and you will need to pick one. This essay will be sent to all of the schools to which you are sending your application. Be sure not to personalize it to a particular school. Each school will probably have you write to a more individualized essay. Though there may be some overlap in the prompts between schools, you will probably need to personalize them. Often we see students trying to use an essay they wrote for one school in another school’s application. This practice may not fully answer the prompt or be specific enough to the school. Though it may seem like more work, it may be easier to start fresh than try to take an essay and morph it into another prompt.
Yes! As we mentioned previously, having a proofreader who is not related to you, or a close friend, can be very beneficial. This person is more removed from your life and can give you a more honest, unbiased opinion of your writing. We encourage you to stick to one person because the more people who proofread, the more varying opinions you will receive, and the more confused you may be with your edits. There are a few different places where you can receive help at SHS:
• Mr. Miller or Ms. English in the CCC (Room 1123). Stop in and schedule an appointment to see us.
• Lower ILC
• An English teacher with whom you have a relationship
We recommend scheduling time with your reader at least 2-3 weeks prior to a deadline. If you wait until the week before the deadline, we may have limited availability to meet.
Probably. Optional, in this case, is not really optional. If it is for a college that you are confident you will be admitted to because you meet the published admission requirements, than it may be okay to not write the essay. But if you are on the bubble for admission (you may meet some requirements, but not all), or it isn’t a guarantee that you will be admitted, then you should complete the essay. Completing this optional essay shows the college that you are a serious candidate and have genuine interest in the school.
This essay topic is meant to be very personalized to the school. You should not be able to copy an essay from another school and use it. This essay is a way to demonstrate interest. The college wants to see that you know about their school and why you might be a good fit. We recommend referring to your notes from your campus visit, from the admission rep visit at SHS, and from what you learned on their site. Look to see what the school values in an applicant and the type of student on its campus. Learn about unique programs and missions that support you and your potential major. Each school offers something unique, so treat this essay as a small research project. Investigate and discover why this school is a good fit for who you are. Many colleges tell us they find this essay invaluable.
2018-19 Common Application Essay Prompts
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Colleges and universities that admit students at a 25% rate or lower can be classified as “highly selective.” This classification for certain institutions typically receive tens of thousands of freshman applications and employ “holistic” admissions in their evaluation process. This means the school will consider all parts of the submitted application materials for admission. In other words, the school will not have a definitive formula or minimum qualifications for offering admission.
Highly selective admissions is extremely unpredictable due to its competitiveness with students from around the world applying. For example, some public schools in California have recently received more than 100,000 applications for admission. Due to this statistical uncertainty for admission, we strongly encourage our students to diversify their applications for admission. Diversifying an application list means that students can certainly apply for schools that are highly selective, which are often referred to as “reach” schools. It is important, though, for students not to limit themselves only to reach schools as potential options. Students should also include “target” schools for admission where students are competitive for admission. Alternatively, “safety” schools includes colleges where admission is almost or may be guaranteed based on their published minimum admission requirements.
Highly selective colleges also typically offer different admission plans. Early Decision and Restrictive Early Action Plans are typically a smaller applicant pool and sometimes a bit less selective than Regular Decision. Be sure to visit the linked page in this paragraph to understand the downside of these plans.
In addition to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), many highly selective schools also require the CSS Profile. For more information, visit our Financial Aid page.
Some colleges offer evaluative interviews to applicants as part of their admissions process. Keep in mind that very few colleges currently require an interview for admission. If interviews are offered, there should be a section on the admissions website detailing the process for requesting an interview either on-campus or near SHS.
On-campus interviews are almost always conducted by professional admissions counselors or trained students who work for the admissions office. On average, interviews will most likely last about 30 minutes. While this might be the first interview you might experience, think about the “interview” as a conversation with the interviewer. The interviewer’s job is not to grill you on academic knowledge you have learned throughout school. Rather, the interviewer’s job is to get to know you and see if you might be a good fit with their school. The interviewer’s job is also there to answer your questions! There should be an opportunity to ask them about their experiences working for and/or attending that college/university. Be prepared with a few questions beforehand and consider writing down a few questions during your conversation.
Also, keep in mind that colleges who offer interviews typically only conduct interviews for 10-20% of their applicant pool. For example, if a college receives 20,000 applications, the admissions office might only interview 2,000 applicants during the fall semester. While interviews are helpful for the college to get to know you and for you to get to know the college, interviews should not be considered as a necessary part of the admissions process. Most students offered admission do not go through an interview at most institutions!
If interviews are not offered, you can always contact the admissions office (we recommend contacting the SHS admissions rep found in Naviance) with questions or concerns not easily found online. They are employed to help you during the entire process. We are all here to support you as you navigate this journey and feeling informed is key!
Teacher Letters of Recommendation
You may need letters of recommendation (LORs) for your application to particular colleges. Colleges are looking to learn about how you are as a student, group member, and a peer in an academic setting. These letters will help them understand how you may be in a college classroom and as a member in their community. Clear and early communication with your recommender can lessen the stress and anxiety with the process (for you and your recommender). Here are the steps to take in order to obtain letters of recommendation:
- Students should have a firm list of colleges to which they are applying prior to asking a teacher. Once you are certain you are applying, then look at the application checklist found on each school’s website to see if they require/accept LORs. Not all schools will accept letters (e.g. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign shreds every LOR it receives). Typically, if a school asks for a LOR, it will only want 1- 2 from a core academic teacher (English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies or World Languages) that you have had in the past year or so. Just think of how much you have changed since your freshman year! Colleges want to have a better idea of who you are now.
- Once you know that you need a letter, complete a Teacher Letter of Recommendation Reflection Sheet. This will help your teacher write a more thorough letter of recommendation. The sheet can be found on our website and in the College Career Center (Room 1123). A separate reflection sheet should be completed for each recommender.
- Prior to “inviting” your teacher to write for you electronically, seek them out and speak to them directly, in person. Provide them with the reflection sheet and make time to speak to them about your post-secondary plans and why you have asked them in particular. Remember to give them at least 3-4 school weeks to write your letter. Let them know options on how they can send their letter, and ask if they have a preference (some teachers may still prefer to snail mail their letter).
- Send them the “invite” either through the Common App (most often the case), through the school-specific application, or provide them with a self-addressed envelope. Follow up with an email from you ensuring they received the link if you sent it electronically (it is easy to misspell their email or for it to land in a spam filter).
- Follow up with a thank you note (handwritten is particularly thoughtful)!
- Can I Ask a Freshman Teacher?
- Do I Need to Ask a Teacher Who Gave Me an A?
- How Many Letters Should I Send to a College?
- Does a Teacher Have to Write My Letter?
Ultimately, it is your decision on whom to ask, but typically, colleges want to have a good idea of who you are as a student and peer now. Most likely, you have grown academically and personally since your freshman year. Pick a teacher who you have a good relationship with and can speak to your strengths. Do I need to ask someone in an area that I would like to study? No, not necessarily. If it works out that way, that is great, but if you are interested in studying business, but you had a great connection with your chemistry teacher, feel free to ask them.
No, not necessarily! Often times a teacher who has seen you struggle and work through challenges can speak better of your character and resilience. Do not be afraid to ask a teacher of a class where you had to work really hard and ask for help. This a great trait to have and shows colleges you are not afraid of a challenge, and that you can seek out help and support on your own!
This is the one time we will tell you optional really means optional. Remember these are human beings who read your file. They read hundreds, if not a thousand, files in a short amount of time. If you decide to send more than the minimum, be sure the teachers will have different things to say about you. If there isn’t a compelling reason to add another letter of recommendation beyond the minimum, it is better not to send it. Never send more than the college allows; this may show that you cannot follow directions.
Counselor Letter of Recommendation
Certain colleges will also ask for a counselor letter of recommendation. This letter is different than your teacher’s letter of recommendation. Where teachers focus more on your performance and interactions within their class, your counselor provides a bigger picture. They can highlight parts of your transcript, add contextual knowledge of your activities and achievements, and discuss how you have grown over the past three years.
Counselors will want you to complete a Counselor “Brag” Sheet. This can be found on our website or in the CCC (Room 1123). Students should make an appointment to speak to their counselor to discuss the letter and to turn in the “brag” sheet. Counselors will be writing for most of their seniors; just like your teachers, counselors should be given 3-4 school weeks of notice prior to the deadline. If your counselor has changed, or you are newer to the district, do not worry. Counselors will spend some time speaking to you when you turn in the “brag” sheet during your appointment.
If/when you email a link for your LOR to your counselor, or invite them through an application, be sure to follow up with a direct email to ensure they received it. Be sure to meet with them in person prior to sending the link.
Request Your Transcript From Parchment
When to Send Transcripts to Colleges
We encourage seniors to wait until after Labor Day to send transcripts. This allows all summer school courses and schedule changes to be listed accurately. Since your senior schedule is printed on your transcript, if you send your transcript to a college, and then make a change, you will need to notify all schools. All colleges must treat students equally in admissions, through Oct. 15.
When applying to colleges there will be three ways you could send your transcript initially. The process is outlined below:
Common App – If you are applying to a school using the Common App, your counselor will upload your transcript into the portal. For initial transcript requests, you will not need to utilize Parchment. When sending your final transcript after graduation, you will need to initiate your request through Parchment.
Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR) – Many schools have moved toward students self-reporting their transcript. This allows for faster processing time during the application period. If you are self-reporting a transcript, you will not need to use Parchment initially. Just like Common App, in order to send your final transcript, after graduation, to the college you are enrolling, you will need to utilize Parchment.
Parchment – Parchment is an online transcript delivery service. If you are not applying to a college via Common App, or self-reporting your transcript by the college’s request, you will need to place an order in Parchment. Students should go to www.parchment.com and create an account. Below you will find a PDF and video that will walk you through the process of creating and requesting your “credentials” (transcripts). Students should use a email@example.com email account, since this login can be used for many years.
Creating a Parchment Account (PDF)
Students can search for scholarships in a variety of ways. Our number one suggestion is to not pay money for a service to search for you. Scholarship money exists because companies and organizations want the exposure and great press! We recommend the following to help you in your search:
1. Registering with a free database like www.fastweb.com or www.cappex.com/scholarships. These databases will require students to create an account. We recommend that students use an outside email since there will be a lot of emails generated from these accounts. These sites do a great job scouring the national scholarships that exists.
2. Checking weekly in Naviance. Naviance has a scholarship section under the “college” tab. As we receive scholarship information in the CCC, we are updating this information. We recommend students to look regularly, since this will be updated continually throughout the school year.
3. Subscribe to the Daily Digest (and read it daily). We will push out more specific scholarships (often more local) in the DD. To receive the DD by email, send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available in blog form at https://shsdailydigest.com. You can also see scholarship notices on the Student Announcements page.
4. Check into your community. Many employers, credit unions, religious organizations, and community-based organizations offer scholarships. Be sure to ask the groups you are connected with to see if they offer scholarships.
5. Complete the Stevenson Foundation Scholarships application organized by the Stevenson Foundation. This comes out during the month of January of the student’s senior year. There were about two dozen scholarships last year that were specific to Stevenson seniors. This page describes all the local scholarships provided by the Stevenson Foundation.
6. Research the schools to which you are applying. Lots of colleges offer scholarships that are merit- or talent-based. Many will review your eligibility from your initial application, some may require a separate application. Students can initially look at our notes within Naviance on each college, but should also look at the colleges’ websites to see what options are available to them.
Additional resources for scholarship searches:
• ROTC programs: http://todaysmilitary.com/training/rotc
• College Greenlight.com
• U.S. Department of Labor CareerOneStop Scholarship Page
- Who is Eligible to Complete the FAFSA?
- I'm Not Eligible for the FAFSA. Does This Mean No Aid is Available?
- When Do I Complete the FAFSA?
- If Parents Are Divorced/Separated, Who Completes the FAFSA?
- What Type of Aid is Available? How Much Can I Receive?
- What About Incoming Changes After Filing the FAFSA?
- What is the CSS Profile? Do I Need to Complete It?
• If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months.
• If you lived the same amount of time with each divorced or separated parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months, or during the most recent 12 months that you received support from a parent.
For more information in determining which parent should complete the FAFSA and the role step-parents may play, please visit this U.S. Department of Education web page.
The CSS Profile is another type of financial aid application that some schools may require. This profile, through the College Board, provides a deeper, in-depth, exploration into your family's income and assets. Since there is a fee to the CSS Profile, it should only be completed if your college requires or accepts it. Families can refer to a college’s financial aid website for more information. This website has more information, including a list of colleges that currently use the CSS Profile.