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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.

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Stevenson High School welcomes colleges to visit our students during the fall semester. Colleges wishing to schedule a rep visit can contact us at

College Career Center Staff

Postsecondary Counselors
Sara English / 847-415-4505

Dan Miller / 847-415-4509

Stevenson to College Program Interim Manager
Aileen Aragones / 847-415-4469

Career Exploration Program Manager
Diane Willock / 847-415-4125

College Career Center Administrative Assistant / 847-415-4517


How to Log In:

  • Type in your Stevenson 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:
  • 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.

About Naviance
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.

Rep Visits


Stevenson High School welcomes colleges to visit our students during the fall semester. Colleges wishing to schedule a rep visit can contact us at

Each fall, the College Career Center welcomes more than 200 professional college admission representatives to Stevenson from early September until mid-November. The college reps will be visiting at their convenience during all school periods, but not before or after school. Only current juniors and seniors are able to request permission from their classroom teacher to be excused for a college rep visit. The visits typically take place in the CCC (Room 1123). Bigger rep visits will be moved to larger locations to accommodate more students. 

A complete list of rep visits can be found on our Naviance site and is updated twice per week; students should get in the habit of checking Naviance and then arranging to secure a pass to visit with these reps.

Procedures to Sign Up
1) Find the list of upcoming college visits on your Naviance page. 
2) Sign up for the specific college on Naviance. 
3) Print the sign-up confirmation page.  
4) Put your ID# on the page. 
5) Have the page signed by your classroom teacher at least 2 days prior to the visit and bring it to the College Career Center on the day of the visit.

During the rep visits, students can expect to learn a lot about that college/university. Topics that might be covered include academic divisions along with relevant majors/minors, student life, housing, the location of the school along with current details about the admissions, scholarships, and financial aid process. These rep visits are almost always very informal, which allows for ample time for Q&A.  

Besides learning about the school, the college rep visit is also important because the admissions rep who visits Stevenson is often the same person who will be evaluating your potential application! Having the opportunity to make a personal connection with an application reader provides an additional way for students to “demonstrate interest.”

During each SHS college rep visit, Mr. Miller or Ms. English will join the session to facilitate the conversation. During the college rep’s presentation, they will also be taking notes during the session. Notes taken during the session will cover requirements for admission (including the application process and admission statistics), financial information including direct total costs and scholarship information, academic highlights, popular majors, campus highlights, student life and housing information. These notes will be published concurrently during the presentation, which SHS families can access anytime. The month/year of the most recent college rep visit is noted at the top.


National ACT Dates for 2019-20
Date Location Register By
Sept. 14 Stevenson Aug. 16
Oct. 26 Off Campus Sept. 20
Dec. 14 Off Campus Nov. 8
Feb. 8 Stevenson Jan. 10
April 4 Stevenson Feb. 28
June 13 Off Campus May 8
July 18 Off Campus June 19

Test dates at Stevenson are listed in bold. Stevenson's test center code is 143550.
Note: Students who want to take the April 4 ACT at Stevenson should sign up as soon as possible.

The cost of the ACT exam is $50.50. For those who want to take the ACT with the optional Writing test, the cost is $67. Students may register online at the ACT website.

National SAT Dates for 2019-20
Date Location Register By
Aug. 24 Stevenson FULL
Oct. 5 Stevenson Sept. 6
Nov. 2 Off Campus Oct. 3
Dec. 7 Off Campus Nov. 8
March 14 Off Campus Feb. 14
May 2 Off Campus April 3
June 6 Stevenson May 8

Test dates at Stevenson are listed in bold. Stevenson's test center code is 143550.

The cost of the SAT exam is $49.50. The SAT exam with the optional Essay portion is $64.50. 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.


Do Colleges Prefer the SAT or ACT?

No, colleges/universities do not have a preference between these two tests anymore. All colleges/universities treat these tests equally in terms of admission.

Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

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.

What's the Difference Between the SAT and ACT?

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.

Do Illinois Colleges and Universities Only Take the SAT?

No! Both scores are considered equally for admission and scholarship consideration.

Should We Sign Up to Have Free Score Reports Sent?

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).

How Does Khan Academy Work with SAT?

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:

What Other Test Prep Options Are Available?

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.

CCC Calendar

College Career Center Calendar of Activities 2019-20


Senior Parent Night
Monday, Aug. 26, 2019 - Performing Arts Center, 7-8:30 p.m.
During this presentation we 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. The presentation will be using a web-based program called Peardeck, so families are encouraged to bring their SHS iPads or an electronic device connected to a Gmail address. There also will be a special session for parents and guardians of students with IEP/504 plans from 6:30-6:50 p.m. in the Recital Hall, which is adjacent to the Performing Arts Center.


NCAA Eligibility Evening
Monday, Sept. 9, 2019 - Wauconda High School, 7-8:30 p.m.

Student-athletes who aspire to play college sports, and their parents, are invited to the NCAA Eligibility Workshop. The evening, sponsored by North Suburban Conference schools including Stevenson, and the Northern Lake County Conference, will provide insights on NCAA academic requirements and recruiting.

National Portfolio Day
Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 - Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

National Portfolio Day is an event specifically for visual artists and designers. It is an opportunity for those who wish to pursue an education in the visual and related arts to meet with representatives from colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Representatives will be available to review your artwork, discuss their programs and answer questions about professional careers in art. More information can be found here:


Financial Aid Evening
Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 - Performing Arts Center, 7-8 p.m.

This presentation is meant primarily for families who have current juniors or seniors. Details about the FAFSA process, how eligibility is determined, and types of aid that exist will be highlighted.

National College Fair
Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 - McCormick Place, Chicago, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019 - Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee, 3-6 p.m.

At the National College Fair, families can visit with hundreds of college representatives. Students should register ahead of time at

Illinois Regional College Fair
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 - College of Lake County Physical Education Center, Grayslake Campus, 6-8 p.m.

Juniors and seniors and their parents or guardians can learn about nearly 175 colleges and universities, and also get financial aid questions answered. The fair will be held in the Physical Education Center, Building 7, on the CLC Grayslake Campus. Parking is available in lots 2 or 3, on the north side of the CLC campus, closest to the Washington Street and Lancer Lane entrance, 19351 W. Washington St. College financial aid information sessions, presented by staff from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, will be held in Room 706 of the Physical Education Center from 6:30-7 p.m. and 7:15-7:45 p.m. For information, call 847-543-2588 or visit for a list of colleges that will be represented. A second regional college fair at CLC is scheduled for March 12, 2020.

FAFSA Completion Night
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 - East Resource Center, 4-7 p.m.

Senior families who have specific FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) questions can meet individually with trained staff to complete the process. Families are encouraged to have obtained their FSA IDs and to have started the FAFSA.

National Portfolio Day
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 - School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

National Portfolio Day is an event specifically for visual artists and designers. It is an opportunity for those who wish to pursue an education in the visual and related arts to meet with representatives from colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Representatives will be available to review your artwork, discuss their programs and answer questions about professional careers in art. More information can be found here:

CHOICES College Fair
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 - New Trier High School (Northfield campus), 6-8:35 p.m.

College-bound students with an IEP or 504 plan are invited to attend. The evening begins with breakout sessions at 6 p.m. and 6:50 p.m., followed by a college fair.

Performing and Visual Arts Fair
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 - UIC Forum, 7-9 p.m.

A fair for students who are interested in pursuing a college degree in music, theater, art, dance or other related disciplines. Use this link to register in advance.

First Generation to U.S. Undergraduate Admission Night ** NEW **
Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 - Performing Arts Center, 6:30-9 p.m.

Information to come


Junior Families College Night
Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 - Performing Arts Center, 7-8:30 p.m.

This must-see presentation is the true kickoff to the college search and selection process. This presentation is meant for current juniors and their families. General topics includes details on how you choose a college and how a college chooses you. There also will be a special session for parents and guardians of students with IEP/504 plans from 6:30-6:50 p.m. in the Recital Hall, which is adjacent to the Performing Arts Center.


Gap Year Fair
Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 - New Trier High School, Winnetka, 1-3 p.m.

A fair for students considering a gap year after high school. Students can find more information at:


“Planning Your Future” for Sophomore Families
Thursday, March 5, 2020 -
 Performing Arts Center, 7-8:30 p.m.
Ms. English, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Willock will discuss Naviance, Career Exploration, and what families can expect during the junior year as they embark on the college and career exploration process. Students are strongly encouraged to attend with their parent(s)/guardian(s). We ask families to bring their student's iPads and network login for an interactive experience. A special session for parents and guardians of students with IEP/504 plans will take place before the main presentation. The special session will run from 6:30-6:50 p.m. in the Recital Hall, which is adjacent to the Performing Arts Center.

Illinois Regional College Fair
Thursday, March 12, 2020 - College of Lake County Physical Education Center, Grayslake Campus, 6-8 p.m.

Juniors and seniors and their parents or guardians can learn about nearly 175 colleges and universities, and also get financial aid questions answered. The fair will be held in the Physical Education Center, Building 7, on the CLC Grayslake Campus. Parking is available in lots 2 or 3, on the north side of the CLC campus, closest to the Washington Street and Lancer Lane entrance, 19351 W. Washington St. College financial aid information sessions, presented by staff from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, will be held in Room 706 of the Physical Education Center from 6:30-7 p.m. and 7:15-7:45 p.m. For information, call 847-543-2588 or visit for a list of colleges that will be represented.


“Looking Ahead” for Freshman Families
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 -
 Performing Arts Center, 7-8:30 p.m.
Freshman students and their parents will learn more about making the most of their SHS experience. We will touch upon some milestones that will be coming up over the next few years in regards to the post-secondary planning process. There also will be a special session for parents and guardians of students with IEP/504 plans from 6:30-6:50 p.m. in the Recital Hall, which is adjacent to the Performing Arts Center.

Options Fair
Thursday, April 23, 2020 -
 College of Lake County Physical Education Building, Grayslake Campus, 6-8 p.m.
A transition fair for high school students and their families. The goal of the Options Fair is to connect students and their families with resources that are essential for their future. Agencies and organizations will have representatives on hand to provide information on educational opportunities, employment services, vocational day programs, government programs, health services, legal resources, recreational opportunities, referral sources and information, residential programs, and transportation resources. More information can be found at:

Documents and Downloads

Junior/Senior Timelines

Parent/Family Night Presentations

Financial Aid Documents

First-Generation Night Session Documents/Links

Other Documents

Applying to College

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). 

Types of Admissions Plans

Early Decision (ED)

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.

Restrictive Early Action (REA) or Single Choice Early Action

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.

Early Action/Priority Admission

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.

Regular Admission

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.

Rolling Admissions

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?

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.

Can I Apply Early Decision to Two Schools?

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.

Do My Senior Year Grades Matter?

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.

Do Colleges Look at Seventh-Semester Grades?

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).

Should I Delay Applying to Work on My Grades?

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.

Essays for College Applications

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?

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.

Can I Use Humor in My Essay?

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.

What Type/Tone of Writing Should My Essay Have?

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.

Are There Any Topics That Are Off-Limits?

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.

Can I Use the Same Essay for Multiple Schools?

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.

Should Someone Proofread My Essay?

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.

Should I Complete an Optional Essay?

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.

How Should I Respond to the "Why Us" Topic?

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.

Highly Selective Admissions

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!

Letters of Recommendation

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:

  1. 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, Math, 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

  4. 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).

  5. Follow up with a thank you note (handwritten is particularly thoughtful)!


Can I Ask a Freshman Teacher?

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. 

Do I Need to Ask a Teacher Who Gave Me an A?

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! 

How Many Letters Should I Send to a College?

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.

Does a Teacher Have to Write My Letter?

It is most important to follow the college’s instructions found on their application checklist. If they ask for an academic teacher, be sure to include one. Sometimes colleges will allow for an “other” recommender. If that is an option, you can certainly include a letter from that person.

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.


Stevenson Alumni
Request Your Transcript From Parchment

Current Students
Keep Reading

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 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 non@students.d125 email account, since this login can be used for many years.

Creating a Parchment Account (PDF)

transcript graphic


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 or 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 It is also available in blog form at 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:
• College
• U.S. Department of Labor CareerOneStop Scholarship Page

Financial Aid

Financial Aid Links

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):

Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC):

Additional Resources Regarding Financial Aid:

Financial Aid FAQ

Who is Eligible to Complete the FAFSA?

• Be a citizen or eligible non-citizen of the United States
• Have a valid Social Security number

I'm Not Eligible for the FAFSA. Does This Mean No Aid is Available?

No, but students cannot receive U.S. federal-based aid. Students may still be eligible for other assistance directly from colleges. This will vary from college to college, and should be a question families ask admissions and/or the financial aid departments at the respective colleges.

When Do I Complete the FAFSA?

The FAFSA opens up on October 1 of a student’s senior year. We will host a Financial Aid Night and a FAFSA Completion Workshop (by appointment) for our families in early October. Please refer to our calendar for the detailed dates. 

If Parents Are Divorced/Separated, Who Completes the FAFSA?

• 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.

What Type of Aid is Available? How Much Can I Receive?

• To learn about how aid is determined, please visit this web page.
• To estimate what your aid may be, visit the FAFSA4caster free financial aid calculator.

What About Incoming Changes After Filing the FAFSA?

If your income has changed, families should contact the financial aid department at the college or university they are interested in attending. Please note, this may be multiple schools. 

What is the CSS Profile? Do I Need to Complete It?

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.