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The college search, application, and selection process can be daunting and intimidating.  The following activity is designed for students and parents to sit down and discuss desired criteria for potential colleges.  Nothing in this activity should be set in stone.  In fact, as you continue through the process (especially with college visits), many things may change.  Keep this as a reference and consider what your “non-negotiables” will be when selecting a college or university.  Anything that is unknown to you on this worksheet is an example of a great item to inquire about with the college’s admissions office.

  1. Potential Careers of Interest/Related College Majors

  2. College Characteristics (Ideas to Consider)

Location and Environment

  • In-state / Out-of-state
  • Urban Campus / Rural Campus
  • Small Class Size / Large Class Size
  • Proximity to City / Walk-ability of Campus
  • Public/Campus Transformation Available / Distance to Social Options


  • Top Majors / Your Major Offered?
  • Major/Minor Options
  • Internship/Co-op Opportunities?
  • Unique Programs/Experiences?
  • Study Abroad Options?
  • Additional Requirement for some Majors?
  • Grad School/GA Options?
  • Average Class Size
  • Classes taught by TA’s or Profs?
  • Prestigious programs?    
  • Job Fairs/Networking/Career Center? 
  • AP/CCP Credit Accepted?

Student Life

  • Religious Affiliation    
  • Desired Clubs/Activities
  • Unique On-Campus Events   
  • Greek Life
  • Student Center
  • Recreation Center
  • Dining Hall Options
  • Varsity Sports
  • Club/Intramural Sports
  • Desired Student Organizations
  • Library/Labs/Learning areas
  • Dorms/Off-campus housing
  • Outside of the classroom
  • Service Opportunities
  • ROTC (Army/USAF/Navy)

Admissions Requirements

  • Average ACT/SAT
  • Average GPA
  • Deadlines 
  • Additional Requirements
  • Admissions Events/Days   
  • Required Essay
  • Visit Procedure    
  • Free Application

Expenses and Financial Aid

  • Tuition/Room & Board
  • Books/Fees
  • Work-study Opportunities
  • Meal Plan Options
  • Scholarship Contests
  • Availability of Jobs in the Area

3. Other Ideas/Interests to Consider



Now that you have some ideas of what you are looking for in a college or university, it is time to choose a list of specific schools you are interested in contacting and visiting.  Use the following worksheet to begin to compile your list.

College Criteria: What are your non-negotiables in your college search?

Academic Criteria        Student Life Criteria

_______________        _______________

_______________        _______________

_______________        _______________

_______________        _______________


Potential Colleges List

Level I: Dream Schools- If you could go to any schools, what would they be?




Level II: Solid Candidate Schools- What schools are you a solid candidate for?




Level III: Safety Schools- What schools will you apply to as a back-up plan?




At the beginning of your senior year, it is time to request teacher recommendations. Think of 2-3 teachers who you know would write you a solid letter of recommendation. You want to ask teachers who know you personally, who can speak to your ability in the classroom, and who also have knowledge of your extracurricular activities and work outside of school. It is your job to make sure that you make your letter writers aware of ALL of your leadership experiences, extracurricular activities, awards, and work outside of school. Anything that you have done in your high school years is fair game. Middle School activities are not powerful speaking points for college admissions.

The more information you provide to the teachers writing your letters of recommendation, the better the letters will be.  You may not end up using all of the letters, so if you choose 2-3 teachers, you will at least have 1-2 letters you will submit to colleges.

(Do not skip this step)

  1. Login to Naviance
  2. Navigate to the “About Me” tab on the top right-hand side of the screen (drop down menu)
  3. Select the “resume” link.
  4. Fill in all appropriate areas of the resume to provide a snapshot of your activities and accomplishments in high school (not limited to school activities; provide employment and service information as well)
  5. In the middle of the screen, click on the “colleges” link and a drop-down menu will appear
  6. Under “Apply to College” select the “Letters of Recommendation” link
  7. Click “add request” and select the teacher or staff member who will be your recommender
  8. “Select All” colleges unless you want the specific recommender to send the letter to only one or two specific schools
  9. Hit the “submit request” button


  • **Please allow 2-3 weeks for teachers to write your letter of recommendation**  
  • Ask the teacher for a letter of recommendation in person, NOT only via Naviance.  Let the teacher know why you are asking him/her specifically.  This personal touch will result in a better letter.
  • If you find an error in the teacher’s recommendation letter, be tactful when addressing errors with the teacher.
  • After you receive your letter of recommendation, write your teacher a ‘thank you’ note.  A handwritten note, not an email, is a true sign of appreciation.  A letter of recommendation takes time and consideration to write, so a true sign of gratitude is appropriate.

Note: The college counselor will write you a letter to go along with your admissions materials (required by most admissions offices), you need to have at least one teacher recommendation for most colleges, and then another letter can be beneficial. This can be from any adult you have worked with during your high school career (non-relative).

Examples: Coach, Part-time job Supervisor, School Administrator, Service Supervisor, Church member, Distinguished family friend

If you are not sure what letters to include, or who to ask, make an appointment to meet with the College Counselor

  1. When you know that you are interested in a college or university, the first step in to make contact with the admissions office.  This can be done via email, and here are some items to include:
  • Your Name and Contact Info
  • A Little Bit About You (High School, Grade Level, Extracurricular Activities)
  • Intended Major/Academic Area of Interest
  • Sports/Extracurricular Areas of Interest
  • Ask to be placed on the School’s Mailing List
  • Ask for information about your Intended Major/Program

2. Once you have made contact with the admissions office, set up a college visit.  

Appearance/Image Tips

  • Dress professionally (not a suit, but look “business casual”)
  • Bring a Resume
  • Bring a folder/binder to collect materials/take notes
  • Don’t hang out in the background during tours- Stand near the front of the group, appear interested, ask questions


  • Speak up!  Ask questions about the school in general and your specific major
  • Student take the lead- Parents DO NOT ask all of the questions
  • Good posture
  • Be enthusiastic

3. Personalize The Visit

  • Ask to speak to a professor in your intended area of study
  • Eat the food
  • Ask random students on campus about the school experience
  • See the dorms (ALL dorms)
  • Ask about off-campus housing
  • View all of the facilities you intend to use:
    • Library
    • Computer Labs
    • Science Labs
    • Writing Lab 
    • Athletic Facilities
    • Rec Center
    • Student Center
    • Food Court(s)
    • Communications/Radio Station
    • Career Center
    • Fraternity/Sorority Houses
    • Chapel/Church
    • Green Areas/Outdoor Recreation Areas

4. After the Visit:

  • Send a “Thank You” card
  • Send a follow-up email with questions that went unanswered
  • Request a personal interview (speak with the College Counselor if you are not sure)
  • Stay in touch with the school’s admissions rep.  The more proactive you are, the more you will get the “benefit of the doubt” in terms of admissions and scholarships

NOTE: Juniors and Seniors are able to take an excused absence from school to visit colleges.  

Juniors: 1 excused absence
Seniors: 2 excused absences

The Guidance Department suggests scheduling college visits during scheduled days off of high school (when college is in session). Summer visits to college campuses are great but visit again when school is in session…the experience may be very different.  

Also, you can visit a school after you have been admitted. In fact, a second visit in the spring may be a great way to decide between two schools. You have until May 1st to make your final decision, so keep a spring visit in mind. Schedule all college visits away from Lake Catholic with the Lake Catholic Attendance Office.


A rigorous course schedule - High school grades/GPA and ACT/SAT scores are very important, but your course schedule is another critical factor in the admissions process. As you consider what classes you are going to take at Lake Catholic, challenge yourself. You need to take the hardest classes you can be successful in (A or B).

Genuine interest in the college or university - If you make it know that a school is your top choice (even if it isn’t) they are more likely to want you. Colleges are looking for enthusiastic young people who will add to the overall campus experience. If a college knows you want to be a part of their environment, this can translate into greater admissions/scholarship opportunities.

An interest in learning - Are you passionate about your intended major? Do you want to make a difference in your career? Do you have a passion for learning? A demonstrated interest in learning gives you an admissions advantage!

Willingness to lead - Will you create a new club in college? Will you participate in internships or service opportunities? Will you network and lead in your future career? Colleges want to admit leaders who will eventually make their institution look good now and in the future.  

ONE - Determine the type of college you want to attend. Small, large, private, public, residential, technical, 2-year, 4-year, urban, suburban, rural? Can you picture yourself at the school? There are many factors to consider!

TWO - How far are you willing to travel? Do you want to be able to travel home on a regular basis, or just a few times per year? Can you afford the extra expenses associated with travel? A warm climate shouldn’t be the sole basis for your decision.

THREE - Have an honest discussion with your parents. Do your expectations match your parents’ expectations? What is truly affordable for you and your family, especially in respect to your future career?

FOUR - Consider your academic and extracurricular interests. Do you know what you will study? If not, don’t worry! A third of all college freshman are undecided and another third change their major within one year. BUT, the sooner you know what you will study, the more “ahead of the game” you are. What extracurricular activities are important to you? Does the prospective school offer what you are looking for? College should be a springboard into your career!

FIVE - Research, research, research! Attend college fairs, utilize Naviance and the internet, speak with counselors, friends, and alumni. Then, create a list of schools you want to visit and hit the road! (Call college admissions offices to schedule an appointment)

IMPORTANT- Make sure you are aware of all deadlines!  

This is true for applications and scholarships. A general rule of thumb is that all college applications should be submitted prior to Thanksgiving break. But some programs and Early Action/Early Decision deadlines may be earlier. Our recommendation would be to turn in all college applications by November 1st.

FAFSA (Federal financial aid application) opens on October 1. It is our recommendation that you complete this (for each college student) by DECEMBER 1st. However, please be aware of any school-specific deadlines.

Organization is important.  Make yourself a college search calendar and folder.


Where can I find college applications?

  • Create a Common App account (and link it to your Naviance account).  More and more schools are using this form of application.
  • Find the application on the college’s website
  • Attend a college visit of college fair and learn about special applications you may be able to complete “on the spot”
  • Complete an application on a college visit.  Sometimes, colleges will even waive the application fee since you visited. It is OK to ask if the college has a chance to apply for free.

NOTE- Guidance will help you with all applications, essays, resumes, etc. If you need help, please ask via email, phone, or in person at the guidance offices. 



How to Apply

The Common App
  • Navigate to
  • On the top, right hand corner of the website, choose “Login”
  • Choose “First Year Student”
  • First time user, select: “Create an account”
  • Select “First Year Student”
  • Follow the registration directions
  • Search for colleges you would like to apply to
  • Once you find your college (if the school is on the Common App) choose the “add” button
  • Navigate to the “Common App” Tab and begin to complete the Common App
  • Under the “My Colleges” tab, complete additional questions for your college
  • See Guidance with questions
School Application
  • Go to the link/school website to find the college application
  • Complete the college application in full
  • See Guidance with questions
  • Log in to the Naviance
  • Choose the “Colleges” tab
  • Select the link “Colleges I’m applying to” under the heading “Apply to College”
  • Complete the information requested to link your Common App account to Naviance. (email/DOB) **For this, Find the PINK banner with the ‘Match Accounts’ tab and follow the process
  • Complete the FERPA Release Authorization
  • Select the “Request Transcripts” tab
  • Select “Initial Transcripts” link
  • Invite Recommenders for letters of recommendation
  • Select the College Home tab
  • Scroll down to “Apply to Colleges”
  • Select the “Add Request” tab
  • To Help your recommender write you a great letter, please complete a resume on Naviance. Navigate to the “About Me” tab and select the blue “resume” link under the banner reading “My Stuff”
  • Log in to or and send your scores to all of the colleges you have applied to (Lake Catholic will not send your scores to colleges)

Let the admissions office see your personality through your essay

  1. Be careful when re-using essays or portions of essays: You can carefully re-use essays that answer the exact same question, but please re-read the essay to make sure all aspects of the recycled essay are applicable to the current application.  Tailor-make the essay for the specific college and college application (this is less important with the Common App).  Slightly off-topic essays demonstrate a lack of effort, attentiveness, or ability.
  2. Don’t Overextend: Don’t take on too big of a topic and don’t adopt a “preachy” tone.  The admissions office does not want a lecture.
  3. Be yourself: Choose a topic that is meaningful to you.  Speak in your own voice.  Write more of what you feel and less of what you think the admissions office would like to hear.
  4. Accentuate the positive: You can describe negative experiences, but emphasize the lesson learned and how the experience made you a better person.
  5. Write in the Active Voice: The passive voice implies that things happened to you, instead of you taking charge in your life.
    Example- Incorrect: I have been taught many lessons about life through volunteering.
    Correct: I learned many life lessons through volunteer work.
  6. Captivate your audience: Your essay should be engaging and memorable.  Draw the reader in with a quick, enticing introduction and give them a reason to finish reading the essay.
  7. Ask people for input: Ask a teacher, counselor, friend or parent, or anyone else you respect.  Does your essay “hit the mark” or is it confusing or boring?
  8. Leave time for rewriting: Write a first draft and let it sit for a few days.  Look for weak or dull spots and spelling/grammatical errors.  Never use your first draft as your final draft.
  9. Revise/Reword: Put your draft into shape through various rewrites.  Read the essay aloud to find awkward sentences or problems.
  10. Pursue Perfection: Utilize the writing lab.  Have your teacher look the essay over.  Quadruple check the spelling.  Put your best foot forward!

NOTE- These tips also apply to Scholarship Essays

Goal: Impress the admissions office with your preparation and confidence. Counselors will happy to conduct mock-interviews by request.

  1. Research the school and your intended program: Read through the school’s website and brochures.  Research using Naviance.  Learn as much about the college as possible before you meet with the admissions representative.
  2. Practice your answers to possible questions: Common questions include…
    Why are you a good fit for this school?
    What will you add to the campus environment?
    What have you learned through failure?
    What is your greatest weakness (call it your ‘opportunity,’ i.e. ‘an opportunity for improvement is that sometimes I am too passionate’)?
    What are you most proud of?
    What was your most rewarding moment of high school?
    How do you overcome adversity?
                                  Be prepared to tie in your own academic and extracurricular highlights!
  3. Be prepared with questions: You never want to end an interview without asking a few questions.  Take some time to prepare and ask a few solid questions (two is probably enough, unless you legitimately have more things you’d like to know).
  4. Consider a Mock-interview: Speak with your counselor about scheduling a mock-interview.  This is a great way to practice your skills and experience less stress during the actual interview.
  5. Following your interview, ALWAYS send a “thank you” note to the person who interviewed you.
The benefits and drawbacks of applying early

Early decision (ED) and early action (EA) plans can be beneficial to students — but only to those who have thought through their college options carefully and have a clear preference for one institution.

Early decision versus early action

Early Decision (ED) plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early Action (EA) plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1. 
Approximately 450 colleges have early decision or early action plans, and some have both. Some colleges offer a nonbinding option called single-choice early action, under which applicants may not apply ED or EA to any other college.

ED applicants
  • Apply early (usually in November) to first-choice college.\
  • Receive an admission decision from the college well in advance of the usual notification date (usually by December).
  • Agree to attend the college if accepted and offered a financial aid package that is considered adequate by the family.
  • Apply to only one college early decision.
  • Apply to other colleges under regular admission plans.
  • Withdraw all other applications if accepted by ED.
  • Send a nonrefundable deposit well in advance of May 1.
EA applicants
  • Apply early.
  • Receive an admission decision early in the admission cycle (usually in January or February).
  • Consider acceptance offer; do not have to commit upon receipt.
  • Apply to other colleges under regular admission plans.
  • Give the college a decision no later than the May 1 national response date.
Who should apply early?

Applying to an ED or EA plan is most appropriate for a student who:

  • Has researched colleges extensively.
  • Is absolutely sure that the college is the first choice.
  • Has found a college that is a strong match academically, socially and geographically.
  • Meets or exceeds the admission profile for the college for SAT/ACT scores, GPA and class rank.
  • Has an academic record that has been consistently solid over time.

Applying to an ED or EA plan is not appropriate for a student who:

  • Has not thoroughly researched colleges.
  • Is applying early just to avoid stress and paperwork.
  • Is not fully committed to attending the college.
  • Is applying early only because friends are.
  • Needs a strong senior fall semester to bring grades up.
The benefits of applying early

For a student who has a definite first-choice college, applying early has many benefits besides possibly increasing the chance of getting in. Applying early lets the student:

  • Reduce stress by cutting the time spent waiting for a decision.
  • Save the time and expense of submitting multiple applications.
  • Gain more time, once accepted, to look for housing and otherwise prepare for college.
  • Reassess options and apply elsewhere if not accepted.
The drawbacks of applying early

Pressure to decide: Committing to one college puts pressure on students to make serious decisions before they've explored all their options.
Reduced financial aid opportunities: Students who apply under ED plans receive offers of admission and financial aid simultaneously and so will not be able to compare financial aid offers from other colleges. For students who absolutely need financial aid, applying early may be a risky option.
Time crunch for other applications: Most colleges do not notify ED and EA applicants of admission until December 15. Because of the usual deadlines for applications, this means that if a student is rejected by the ED college, there are only two weeks left to send in other applications. 

Does applying early increase the chance of acceptance?

Many students believe applying early means competing with fewer applicants and increasing their chances for acceptance. This is not always true. Colleges vary in the proportion of the class admitted early and in the percentage of early applicants they admit.
Higher admission rates for ED applicants may correlate to stronger profiles among candidates choosing ED. Students should ask the admission office whether their institution's admission standards differ between ED and regular applicants, and then assess whether applying early makes sense given their own profile.


Local and National Scholarship possibilities that come into the school are listed on the Naviance website.  To find them, follow these steps!

  1. Logon to Naviance
  2. Choose the “Colleges” tab
  3. Scroll down and choose “Scholarship List”
  4. Browse the scholarships for opportunities
  5. Internet links, when appropriate, will be provided. Otherwise, hard copies of applications can be obtained from your counselor or Mrs. Brainard.

Please remember that the Guidance Office will help compile all necessary materials and assist in any way. BUT, it is the responsibility of the students to adhere to all deadlines, and to notify the college counselor in a timely fashion.

NCAA recommends that prospective college student athletes register with the NCAA at the beginning of the senior year.

The website to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse is:

You will need a credit card or follow the instructions for other payment methods.

Please request a transcript to be sent to the NCAA via Naviance.

Test Scores - The NCAA will not accept test scores that come from schools. They must come directly from the SAT or ACT. You will request these scores just as you were requesting them for a college.

IF you are interested in serving in the US Armed Forces, please see Mrs. Brainard ASAP so she can put you in touch with an appropriate recruiter. There is a lot to the process, so the sooner you see Mrs. Brainard, the better.

Lake Catholic High School has numerous recent alums at the Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and West Point. We can also help make you the best-possible ROTC candidate or assist with general enlistment. Mrs. Brainard is able to speak to all of the military options and help you choose the right path for you.

If you are very involved in work and extracurricular activities during your high school years, you should consider including a resume with your application.  Normally, you will be able to add the resume as a document on your application.  Or, you may want to send it directly to your college admissions representative.  Regardless of the delivery, if you are active in work, service, and extracurricular activities in high school, you should consider including a resume to make yourself stand out among the crowd of applicants.

Key Words for your Resume

Action Words

Actively, Accelerated, Adapted, Administer, Analyze, Approve, Coordinate, Conceived, Conduct, Completed, Control, Created, Delegate, Develop, Demonstrate, Direct, Effect, Eliminate, Established, Evaluated, Expanded, Expedite, Founded, Generate, Increased, Influence, Implemented, Interpret, Improve, Launched, Lead, Lecture, Maintain, Manage, Motivated, Organized, Originated, Participated, Perform, Plan, Pinpointed, Program, Proposed, Proved, Provided, Proficient, Recommend, Reduced, Reinforced, Reorganized, Revamped, Responsible, Revise, Review, Schedule, Significantly, Set up, Solve, Strategy, Structure, Streamline, Successfully, Supervised, Support, Teach

Self-descriptive Words

Active, Adaptable, Aggressive, Alert, Ambitious, Analytical, Attentive, Broad-minded, Conscientious, Consistent, Constructive, Creative, Dependable, Determined, Diplomatic, Disciplined, Discrete, Economical, Efficient, Energetic, Enterprising, Enthusiastic, Extroverted, Fair, Forceful, Imaginative, Independent, Logical, Loyal, Mature, Methodical, Objective, Optimistic, Perceptive, Personable, Pleasant, Positive, Practical, Productive, Realistic, Reliable, Resourceful, Self-reliant, Sense of humor, Sincere, Sophisticated, Systematic, Tactful, Talented


John Smith
210 Church Street
Mentor, OH 44060
(440) 578-1020

To gain admission into the Pre-Law program at a selective college or university

Lake Catholic High School                                                                         Mentor, OH
Graduation Date: May 28, 2017 
GPA: 3.67
ACT Composite: 26
SAT: 1100

Academic Activities and Honors:
National Honor Society                                                                                       2015-

Latin Club                                                                                                              2014-

Student Life Committee                                                                             2014-2016

Prom Committee                                                                                         2015-2016
Actively coordinated and managed the efforts of students and 
adults in planning “Lost at Sea” 2016 Spring Prom

Extracurricular Activities:
Varsity Football                                                                                                    2014-

Varsity Basketball                                                                                                2014-
Player of the Year (Sophomore Year)

Oklahoma, School Play                                                                                        2015 
Lead male role

Work Experience:
Longhorn Steakhouse                                                                                         2015-
Server, managed the needs of customers in a corporate restaurant setting


Letters of Recommendation Available Upon Request

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