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College Counseling: FAQs

When should I visit colleges that interest me?

Spring of junior year is the best time to begin formal visits, however, if your travels take you to a location near a college, you can walk around campus or take a campus tour to get a sense of the place. Visits during the school year allow you to view the student body and gain abetter feel for the vibrancy and daily life of the campus, but summer visits are helpful for initial impressions. If summer is the only time that allows for travel, take advantage of the free time and go to summer visit programs or schedule campus tours.

What should I do during a college visit?

Some things are obvious. Go on the campus tour. Sit through the information session, if there is one. If you can, schedule an overnight visit and pretend to be a student. Go to classes. Eat in the dining halls. Read in the library. Sample the cultural and social opportunities outside of the classroom. If you have a special interest in a department, sport or activity, try to meet with someone in that area.

You may want to bring a portfolio, or a resume to discuss. Be thorough. Recognize first impressions but look beyond the surface stereotypes.

Do I need an interview?

We encourage any student who wants an interview to seek an interview. An interview is one way to fully inject life into an application, to take it out of the realm of paper and numbers. Students who feel that their extracurricular records or special talents can be highlighted through an interview (for example some students bring slides or clippings) should pursue interviews. We suggest an interview if one is applying early or to a first choice. We also suggest interviews at small colleges where the personal approach to education predominates.

Please note: Many large state universities and some selective private universities no longer offer interviews. Some colleges and universities offer them as a courtesy. Others assign them to their alumni. Still others send admission officers to host regional interview sessions. These visits are announced, but you should call your schools just to ensure you don’t miss an opportunity.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for the SAT I and SAT II?

Tutoring is a good step for some people, but contrary to popular belief, it is not required. You can do a lot of good on your own if you’re disciplined and willing to put in the time. Familiarity and comfort with the test are two key factors in improvement and so go find a relatively inexpensive book like The Official SAT Study Guide, Real SAT-IIs and the Princeton Review’s resource books Cracking the SAT Code and 10 Cracking the ACT Code or an ACT prep book with sample tests and get to work.

Which SAT-II Subject Tests do I need to take?

Each student is responsible for meeting the requirements specified by his or her college choices. Many selective colleges require three SAT-II Subject Tests. However, colleges are changing their standardized test requirements daily, so it is important to check with each college to verify their specific requirements. Certain colleges or programs may require math or foreign language, while many engineering programs require chemistry or physics, in addition to math. Students should take the appropriate subject tests as soon as possible after completing the relevant courses, while the material is still fresh in their minds.

What is the most important factor that colleges look at in making admission decisions?

Colleges tell us that the single most important part of a student’s application is his or her transcript. Admission committees like to see students doing well in the most rigorous course load he or she can handle, which is different from the most rigorous course load he or she can take. Simply put, what you do in class matters a lot. The other big part of your application is your standardized test scores. A combination of high grades and solid SAT, ACT or TOEFL scores will put you in the driver’s seat in this process. Colleges also look closely at your extra-curricular activities, community service, personal statement/essay and teacher and counselor recommendations to help them form a complete picture of you. However, more colleges are joining the score optional every year.

Should I use the Common Application?

If more than one of your colleges accepts the Common Application, then by all means use it. It was designed to eliminate the “busy work” involved in the application process.Many colleges require supplemental essays in addition to the main essay. Note the supplement requirements carefully for each of your colleges.

What is the difference between Early Decision and Early Action?

Early Decision (E.D.) is a binding agreement between you and the college, by which you agree that you will attend the college should you be accepted. At many schools, E.D. applications are due by November 1 or 15, but the dates and E.D. plans do vary, so read the applications closely. Normally, decisions are mailed before the Christmas holiday. If accepted under an Early Decision plan, you must withdraw your applications at all other colleges.

Early Action (E.A.) follows the same timetable as Early Decision, but it is not a binding agreement. If accepted to a college under an Early Action policy, you may still attend another college if you so choose.

Who should write my recommendations?

Just about every school will require at least one teacher recommendation. We recommend sending two; one from a teacher who can evaluate your writing, and one from a teacher who can speak to your more quantitative or scientific side. We encourage you to ask for a recommendation from one of those core subject teachers in the 11th and 12th grade in whose class you have been successful or for whom you worked very hard and showed improvement and commitment throughout the year. You may also want to ask an employer, coach, scout master, etc., for a letter to support your efforts outside the classroom. Three recommendations are fine, but any more than that may be overkill. Each student receives a holistic letter of recommendation from the college counselor.

What is Rolling Admission?

Rolling Admission is a process used mainly by large state universities, although not exclusively. Under a Rolling Admissions policy, applications are read on a continual basis rather than all at once after a certain deadline. If you apply to a school with a rolling admission policy, we recommend getting that application in as early in the fall as you can. Decisions are generally released 2-3 weeks after your application file is complete.

Where can I obtain financial aid forms?

You can fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online at and register for the CSS/Financial Aid Profile online at

I have a learning difference. How will this affect my college search?

The extent of your difference and your necessary accommodations will definitely affect your college search. You will most likely need to look for school that has programs in place to accommodate you. You also may have the option of taking extended time SAT I and SAT IIs. Documentation stating that you are eligible for extended time must be relatively current (within three years) and be on file with our Upper School learning specialist. Some resources for you would include the National Learning Disabilities Association, the College Board, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders and The Special Needs Education Network. You may also receive accommodations on standardized tests. Information about this can be obtained from the office of the Upper School learning specialist.

What is the NCAA Eligibility Center?

The NCAA Eligibility Center is a body that was created to maintain academic standards regarding student-athletes in college. Students register online at the website All student athletes who plan to participate in Division I or Division II sports should register. There is a form in the College Counseling Office that we ask you to complete in order for us to send your transcript at the end of the junior year and upon graduation. Transcripts from previous schools must be sent directly to Eligibility Center. Standardized test scores must also be sent directly from College Board or ACT. Eligibility Center will not accept Bullis copies of reports. In order to have scores sent most expeditiously, enter code 9999 (Eligibility Center’s code) to receive scores when registering for tests. College counselors will work individually with students to ensure the registration process goes smoothly.

Who arranges to have standardized test scores sent to colleges?

This is the responsibility of the student. No scores are reported on Bullis transcripts, so student must contact The College Board for SAT scores ( or the ACT for ACT scores (
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