The College Application Process

Over the years we have learned that the most anxious time in the entire college application process is that time when all of the student and school materials are being gathered and sent. Students are finishing up essays that need to be proofed, faculty are finishing up recommendations, the college counseling office is preparing transcripts and secondary school reports for our largest senior class ever. There is a great deal going on, all at once!

To that end the College Counseling Office has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help students and calm parents as, together, we navigate the sometimes choppy seas of the actual application process. Throughout this journey together, remember three things:

* The College Counseling Office is here to help each and every one of you whenever you need that help.

* Family Connection (aka Naviance) is always your best friend.

* It is far better to get it right than to get it done.

With this in mind, we present to you some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the college application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is ISU’s internal deadline for applications?

Our internal deadline for applications is typically two weeks before the application is actually due.

These due dates are printed on the school calendar and on the Senior College Counseling Calendar that was handed out or mailed to all senior parents at Back-to-School Night.

NOTE: Certain programs, scholarships, and opportunities to get application fees waved within colleges have different deadlines than the actual admission deadline. Make sure you read ALL of the information that comes with each application! If you notice that you need to apply before the posted (Naviance) deadline, please let us know so that we can override that deadline with the new one that is unique to your situation.

2. How do I submit an application?

Students have multiple ways to submit applications, but basically it gets down to two: electronic and paper. Many colleges prefer electronic applications, even to the point of waving application fees if you apply electronically. Electronic applications for the US can be done two ways: through the college’s own electronic application (i.e. IU, Purdue) or by sending an electronic Common Application. For UK applications, there is only one way to submit and that is through the online UCAS system.

If you choose to send a paper application, you can mail the application yourself.

3. How do test scores (ACT, SAT) get sent to the colleges?

The test scores belong to the student; therefore, the student is responsible for seeing that the test scores are sent to the colleges to which s/he is applying. There is a link on Naviance for this purpose. Just click on “ACT scores (to send)” or “SAT scores (to send)” and follow the directions on the supplied links. ACT charges $9 per test date to send scores (meaning if you want to send tests from two different test dates you have to pay double), and College Board charges $9.50 for each score report sent.

NOTE: If you are re-testing in the fall of your senior year, you can have your scores sent free to up to four colleges/universities. Just indicate where you wish to have them sent when you register.

4. How do I request my school materials to be sent to the colleges I am applying to?

There are two steps:

1. Students should first move any and all colleges to which they are applying from “Colleges that I’m considering” to “Colleges to which I’m applying.”

2. Once this is completed, simply click on “request transcripts” which is located right above your “Colleges to which I’m applying” and check those institutions to which you would like your school materials sent.

This sends an electronic request to the College Counseling Office and alerts us that you are applying to these colleges/universities. We will then start preparing transcripts and various other school materials for each college/university.

5. Besides a copy of my official transcript, what other school materials does the College Counseling Office send out?

This totally depends on the college we are dealing with. For all colleges, we send an official transcript and a school profile. Other items that might be included are as follows:

* A secondary school report form (very common; almost all colleges)

* A school letter of recommendation (quite common; many colleges)

* A teacher letter of recommendation (quite common; many colleges)

* A second teacher letter of recommendation (not common, but happens)

* A GPA Distribution Sheet (typical for institutions that are considered Most or Very Selective)

* A copy of 1st Quarter grades (typical with Early Action/Early Decision applications)

* Standardized Testing Scores (IU, Purdue, Ball State, and Indiana State only)

6. Can I have a copy of my official school transcript?

Unfortunately, no. Students may have unofficial copies of their transcripts, but not official ones. The only difference in the two is that official transcripts are signed and sealed; otherwise, the transcripts are identical.

7. Why am I asked to “Waive” or “Not Waive” my rights to see the school materials? Which should I choose?

Years ago colleges, like most other large institutions, were faced with privacy issues. Because of laws that were passed, students have the right to see the school materials that are sent to colleges on your behalf. The catch is this: you can only see those materials if the college accepts you and you matriculate to that college. Then in the fall of your freshmen year, or whenever for that matter, you can walk over to the Admission Office and ask to your school materials.

The bottom line for “Waiving” or “Not Waiving” is this: most colleges think that the school is going to give them a more honest appraisal if you waive your rights to see the school materials. ISU sends the same school materials whether you waive or don’t waive your rights to see them. Therefore, we encourage you to waive your rights (as un-American as that may seem) simply because of the message it sends to the colleges.

By the way “Waiving” or “Not Waiving” your rights is one of the first things you need to do on Naviance at the beginning of your senior year!

8. How can I make sure that my teacher recommendation(s) are completed?

1. Regularly talk to the teacher(s) you have asked to write for you.

2. Provide them with a Questionnaire

3. Ask them if they want you to provide a paper Teacher Recommendation Form from the Common Application. If they do, make sure you fill out the top portion of the form and sign it before you give it to them.

4. Check on Naviance to see if the Teacher Recommendation box has changed from “pending” to “completed.” If it still says “pending,” then the College Counseling Office has not yet received the teacher letter(s). Repeat Step #1 above until both the letter and form are completed!

9. Do the teachers write different letters and need different forms for each college/university?

As a rule, they do not. The teachers will write one letter that can be sent to multiple colleges (e.g. it will not recommend you to a specific college; just college in general). Occasionally, teachers will need to fill out different recommendation forms. If the college to which you are applying does not accept the Common Application, for example, and yet they still want a teacher letter and form, you will need to complete the top part of that college’s own form, sign it, and give it to the teacher(s).

10. Can I ask any teacher for a letter of recommendation?

No. You must ask a teacher who has taught you in a core class – that’s English, Math, Science, Social Studies, or Foreign Language – AND been one of junior or senior year teachers.

11. What is the Secondary School Report? Do I need to request one? Provide one?

Part of the Common Application is the Secondary School Report (SSR). This is a form that the College Counseling Office completes for each student. You do not have to request this specifically. Once you request a transcript, we will prepare a SSR for you.

Most institutions that do not accept the Common Application (e.g. IU and Purdue and others) have their own version of the SSR. For these colleges you need to print out the SSR, sign it, and bring it to the College Counseling Office.

12. What about the School Letter of Recommendation?

As part of the Secondary School Report, the College Counseling Office writes a School Letter of Recommendation (SLR) that we attached to the SSR. You do not have to request this or sign it. Much of what goes into this school letter comes from materials you submitted to us last spring during College Counseling. If you have additional items or accomplishments you would like for us to touch on that have happened over the summer of this fall, please bring them to our attention.

13. My primary teacher knows me well. Can I ask that teacher to write my School Letter of Recommendation or a supplemental letter?


14. Can I check to see that my school materials have been sent once I request them?

Students and parents can check on Naviance to see if the school materials have been mailed. Under “my colleges” you can see next to each active application a column called “office status.” This will say “pending” if the materials have not yet been mailed. It will say “initial materials submitted” if they have been mailed.

If you would like further detail of just what was mailed, you can click on “view detailed status” which is located right above your list of active colleges. There you will find checkmarks next to what we mailed to the colleges. The only thing we cannot show on Naviance is the date that the school materials were mailed, but we do record that also in the College Counseling Office.

15. Why do I need maintain the accuracy of my tracking form for each application?

The tracking forms are just that: a way for us to track exactly what was sent and when it was sent to each college. Your cooperation with these forms helps us help you make sure everything that needs to be sent to each college is actually sent and on time. It also helps us follow up with colleges when they inform you that some materials are missing – a very common occurrence.

16. I received an e-mail/post card/letter saying that my application is not complete or that it is missing certain materials. What should I do?

1. Do not panic; this is very common

2. Do not assume that the materials are missing; most of the time they are not missing, just not filed or credited to your application.

3. Do come calmly to the College Counseling Office with your e-mail/post card/letter and we will follow up to see just what the status is of your so-called missing materials.

NOTE: Be advised that more and more colleges are generating automatic “missing materials” e-mails as soon as they receive your electronic application or your test scores. This is their way of making sure you follow up to see that the school materials are indeed mailed in a timely manner. It is also their way of terrorizing you! Stay calm and come and see us. This happens all the time, and the number of times materials have actually been missing over the past twenty years, I can count on one hand. It does happen, but it is extremely rare.

17. I requested transcripts and school materials several weeks ago, but Naviance is still showing “pending.” What is holding up the sending of these materials?

Again, this is a very common question and an important one. Multiple things can hold up the sending of your transcript and school materials. Here is a partial list:

* Your ISU account is not paid up

* We are waiting on a teacher letter

* We are waiting to see your 1st Quarter grades

* We are waiting to see your new test scores

* We are waiting to see your 1st Semester grades

* We have more requests right now than we can handle at one time and we have to submit school materials for students with approaching deadlines first.

Generally we turn requests around in two weeks or less. The exception to this general rule is October 15 through November 15 and January 15 through February 15, when we are processing the bulk of college applications that have deadlines. During this time your request could take 3-4 weeks as applications without deadlines – Rolling Admission applications that we asked you to submit in September so that you would not get caught in this backlog – tend to get moved to the bottom of the processing pile.. As always please come and see us if you are concerned about any part of your college application process

18. One of my colleges let’s me track the status of my application on line. When I go to the college application website, it says that they are missing some things. Should I be concerned about this?

That depends. Each fall, colleges and universities are literally inundated with thousands of applications. It takes a certain amount of time for the school materials in particular to show up on these tracking sites because the data input people at the colleges just cannot keep up with the numbers of applications they are receiving. A good rule of thumb is to wait 3-4 weeks after the College Counseling Office has mailed your school materials before contacting us about this situation. At that time we would be happy to contact the college in question to inquire about the status of your missing materials.