September 12 - 16, 2011

This week


Applying to college: The basics

College applications can seem daunting, because there’s so much at stake and because — depending on how many colleges have attracted your interest — you might be filling out quite a few. Fortunately, colleges tend to request the same types of basic information from their applicants. Here is a quick rundown of what you’ll likely be expected to provide as you begin applying.

About you
Applications require basic information, including your Social Security Number (or other federal identification number, if you don’t have a Social Security Number), mailing address, telephone numbers, and other contact information.

About your family
Relevant information about your family may include your parents' names, mailing addresses, and other identifying information. An application may also ask whether anyone else in your family currently attends or has previously attended that particular school.

Educational background
Information about your educational background includes the schools you attended, along with attendance years, your specific course of study, number of classes taken, when you graduated or will graduate, and other similar information.

Test scores
Schools will likely ask for your scores on the ACT, SAT, or other college entrance, placement, or related academic tests. As you take these tests, you may want to indicate that your scores be sent to your preferred schools so that they have an official record.

Academic or extracurricular experience
Information about other academic or extracurricular experiences may be requested, including:

  • Leadership positions,
  • Organizations and clubs,
  • Volunteer work,
  • Athletics and academic awards, and
  • Your participation in various projects.

Many schools request that each applicant submit a personal essay. Essays are requested for two reasons — they provide insight into your background and experiences, and add dimension to the school’s picture of who you are; and they also demonstrate your ability to write.

Some schools may ask that you submit recommendations, either as part of your application or mailed separately by person who is recommending you. As you approach your senior year, think about teachers, coaches, family friends, religious leaders, or others in your community that you may want to ask to write a recommendation for you.

Transcripts are a record of your performance in high school. Although some of the information provided can vary, most transcripts offer basic lists of courses taken, grades received, honors and awards, and other supporting information.

For a handy checklist to help you with preparing your application, read through AIE's College Admissions Checklist.


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Your turn

Essay writing tips

Next to public speaking, writing is probably one of the least-liked activities for many people — students included. However, there are several tips you can use to improve your writing. Use the following guidelines when preparing your essays.

Put your ideas on paper

Forget about writing perfect sentences in your first attempt. Just write down your ideas. Prepare an outline and shuffle your ideas around. Think about what you want to say and how you want to organize your thoughts on paper.

Draft paragraphs of your individual ideas

If you've written down and shuffled around your ideas, your next step should be to start to draft out paragraphs. Think about each individual idea and what you want to say about it. Write ideas that support your point.

Pull the pieces together

Now that you've prepared some draft paragraphs, it's time to bring them together. Write transition sentences — sentences that show your reader how you're connecting the dots. It helps when the last sentence in your paragraph hints to your reader about what's coming up in the next paragraph. The first sentence in the new paragraph introduces the new point. Weave your paragraphs together.

Write your conclusion

Your final paragraph should be your conclusion; it should wrap things up. Consider writing the paragraph by explaining the bigger idea behind your work and touching quickly on some of the points explained.

Write your introduction

As strange as it may sound, it's almost always easier to write your introduction after you have completed writing the rest of your essay — and it can sometimes be the easiest part. Write your introduction by bringing the reader into your essay and offering a preview of what is to come.

Set your work aside — then read later

When you have completed your essay, put it away and read it after a day or two has passed. You'd be surprised how many ideas you'll have to improve your essay.

Share with others

When you have written and reviewed your essay, share it with your teachers, parents, and others. They can review your writing, offer suggestions for improvement, and give you ideas on how to enhance your piece. Often, someone else is able to identify errors you might have missed.

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Stay on track

Checklist for this week

For freshmen and sophomores

Do you know how your school ranks and determines your academic achievement? Here are some questions you should consider:

  • How does your school calculate your grade point average, or GPA?
  • Do advanced classes carry more weight than regular classes on your GPA?
  • How does your school determine rank in class?
  • What information is on your school transcript? Ask for a copy and take it home for your parents to review.
For juniors

If you haven't heard of or taken the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) already, you soon will. A few things to remember before the test comes along:

  • Find out registration and testing dates from your counselor. Add them to your calendar.
  • Remind your parents the test is coming; they may need to help you pay the registration fee.
  • Take the test in your junior year to qualify to enter the National Merit Scholarship Corporation competition — do well!
  • Start preparing for the test. Your counselor may have practice books available.
  • Visit the College Board website (, and learn more about the PSAT and the SAT.
  • Review the sample questions in the booklet you use to register for the test. If you have questions, ask your teachers.
For seniors

Are you ready for the rest of the year? Here is a checklist of things that you should have done, or things you may need to do quickly, to stay on track for your college or career plan:

  • Meet with your counselor to chat about your career plans, college choices, testing schedules, and other preparation.
  • Share your plans with your parents and teachers.
  • If you haven't taken any college entrance exams, take them now!
  • Review college websites, brochures, and applications. Practice filling out some of the required application forms.
  • Start learning more about college life by visiting Adventures In Education ( and college websites.
  • Start talking to your parents about plans to finish high school and begin the next stage of your life.
For parents

Your student is probably well into the school year by now, so his or her challenges and frustrations may start with balancing activities and keeping up with responsibilities. Some ways to help include:

  • Offer to help them when they are struggling with their studies. Quiz them on concepts, or do quick reviews with them in the mornings over breakfast or when preparing a quick dinner.
  • Encourage students to talk to their teachers. Some students fail to ask for help!
  • Call your child's counselor and ask for a list of tutors or study groups they can join.
  • Spend a couple of hours one weekend with your student visiting with a reference librarian at your local library. They can offer suggestions on resources available for learning in your community.
  • Set up a "mini reference library" for your student and the family. Purchase a dictionary, thesaurus, and other tools that could benefit others in their learning tasks.
  • Keep a "family calendar" in the kitchen and ask your student to list activities, dates, and times as they find out about them.

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Take notice

Important dates

Test Name Scheduled
Test Date
SAT and Subject Tests
Oct 1, 2011
Sept 9, 2011
Sept 21, 2011
Oct 22, 2011
Sept 16, 2011
Sept 30, 2011

AIE's College Admissions Testing Schedule

To get more information on the SAT or SAT Subject Tests, access useful tools, or register, visit the College Board's website( or call (866) 756-7346.

To get more information on the ACT, access useful tools, or register, visit the ACT website( or call (319) 337-1270.

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Stay on track
Weekly checklist