Middle School College Prep Presentation Notes

Is College the Right Choice?

Know the fact before answering this question!
  • College degree holders earn an average of 60% more income than those with only a high school diploma
  • College grads are also half as likely to be unemployed

Make Sure You’re on Track for Graduation

Texas High School Graduation Requirements
  • Foundation High School Program – The Foundation High School Program is a 22-credit plan that replaces the current three options (MHSP, RHSP, and DAP). Each student will be required to select an endorsement (STEM, business and industry, public service, arts and humanities, multidisciplinary) and the district must offer coursework that allows a student to complete the curriculum requirements for that endorsement.  Each district must provide at least one endorsement.  A school district that offers only one endorsement curriculum must offer the multidisciplinary studies endorsement curriculum.


Visit the Texas Education Agency’s website for more information about Texas graduation requirements.

Get a Head Start

Consider taking Dual Credit or AP courses to earn college credit while in high school

Dual Credit is the process by which a high school junior or senior enrolls in a college course and receives simultaneous academic credit for the course from both the college and the high school.  Students must meet certain requirements to be able to take dual credit courses.  The transcript for any earned credit will come from the partnering college of your high school.  If the student plans to attend a college other than the partnering college administering the Dual Credit course they will be required to submit a transcript to this college who will then determine if the credit is transferrable.


Advance Placement – By taking an AP course in high school and scoring successfully on the related AP Exam, you can save on college expenses!  Most colleges and universities offer credit, advanced placement, or both, for qualifying AP Exam scores. These credits allow students to save college tuition, skip some introductory courses, or secure a second major.

Take All the Right Tests for College Admission


All four-year schools accept either the ACT or SAT (and many will accept both).  Be sure to check with each school you plan to apply with to see if they have a preferred or required test.  If not, the key is to determine which test you’ll perform better on.  The best way to know how you’ll perform on each is to take a practice test.


Key differences to the two tests (provided by Princeton Review):

  • ACT questions tend to be more straightforward.
  • The SAT does not allow the use of a calculator on some of its math questions.
  • The ACT has a Science section, while the SAT does not.
  • The SAT is broken up into less sections.
  • The ACT is more of a “big picture” exam.


Start preparing for either test in the fall of your junior year and do your best because test scores will make an impact on college admissions officers.


Students who qualify for free testing will receive two fee waivers each for the ACT and SAT.  These students are also eligible for college application fee waivers.  See your counselor for more information.

SAT Reasoning Test

The SAT is administered by The College Board and is offered seven times a year: October, November, December, January, March (or April, alternating), May, and June. There are four sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Mathematics and an optional essay. The optional test reading, analysis, and writing skills. Post-secondary institutions will determine if the essay is required for admission. From start to finish, the test will take you three hours (plus 50 minutes for the optional essay).


Visit www.collegeboard.com for Test Dates and Locations, Registration, Test Preparation, Official SAT Study Guide, Official SAT Online Course, and SAT Subject Test Study Guide.

American College Testing (ACT)

The ACT test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work.  The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.  The Writing Test, which is optional, measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.


Visit www.actstudent.org for Test Center Locations, Test Dates and Deadlines, Registration and Fees, and ACT Online Preparation.

Texas Success Initiative

The Texas Success Initiative is a state-legislated program designed to improve student success in college. Students entering college must meet the College Readiness Standards in math, reading and writing to be eligible for college-level courses that count toward transcript credit at public colleges or universities in Texas.


Students can prove readiness via test scores on exit level tests in high school.  Students that do not prove College Readiness through these high school exit level tests can also meet the standard through SAT, ACT, ASSET, COMPASS, THEA, and/or ACCUPLACER testing.  If the student does not meet the required test scores they must enroll in an appropriate developmental education course before the student may enroll in a credit bearing course for the subject in which he/she did not meet state standards. A student may retake an exam instrument at any time, subject to availability, to determine the student’s readiness to perform freshman-level academic coursework.

Apply for Admission

Completing your admissions application

compguyCompleting college admission applications and gathering all of the necessary documents can take a lot of time and effort – especially when you only have a few months to complete the process for every college you’re interested in.  Therefore, it’s important to begin the process at least one to two months prior to the college or universities application deadline.


Colleges and universities may employ different options when it comes to having students apply for admissions.  Some colleges will require you to complete their own university-specific admissions application, while many others allow students to complete a standardized application such as ApplyTexas or the Common Application, which can be sent to multiple colleges and universities.  Note:  Some colleges participating in the Common Application or ApplyTexas standard application program may require supplemental forms – this information should be stated on the website when applying.


  • ApplyTexas.org – the ApplyTexas online application can be used for any Texas Public university, as well as participating community and private colleges.  This site includes detailed information regarding fees (if applicable), general information about the college, deadlines, essay requirements and any special application instructions.  You can also apply for housing and even scholarships through this application (participating universities only).
  • CommonApp.org – the Common Application is accepted by over 500 participating colleges in 47 states and the District of Columbia, and can be completed online or downloaded and printed to be mailed in.  The Common Application includes information about each college’s application process, admission requirements, fees, deadlines and whether supplemental information is required.
  • Colleges that do not participate through ApplyTexas or the Common Application will require you to complete their own university-specific admissions application.


Be sure to contact all colleges you’re interested in attending for details on their application process and due dates.

Information commonly requested in an Admissions application
  • Bio Information – name, date of birth, social security number, email address, phone number, home address
  • Demo Information – birthplace, ethnicity, citizenship status/residency, military status
  • Family Information – educational background of family members, parent’s household size, parent’s marital status, parent’s address and contact information, legal guardian if other than parent, family income
  • Educational Background & Information – grade point average (gpa), class rank, class size, high school(s) you have attended, college(s) you may have attended while in high school, what semester/year you will enter college, what degree to wish to pursue, honors or awards
  • Extracurricular/Personal/ Volunteer activities – organization name(s), hours per week, position(s) held, grade level involved
  • Employment/Internships – role/job title, employer, hours per week, dates of employment/internship
Additional Information/Items that may be requested
  • Application Fee – this fee is usually nonrefundable; however, some colleges may offer fee waivers for applicants from low-income families or if you applying online – check with the admissions office or your counselor for more information. Students that receive fee waivers for the SAT and/or ACT are also eligible for admission application fee waivers.  See your counselor for more information.
  • Transcript(s) – You will need to submit your high school transcript to each college you plan to apply to (and a final transcript, upon graduation, to the college you select). Be sure to tell your counselor about every admissions application you complete.  Also, don’t forget any college credit you may have earned during high school through dual credit or AP exams.
  • Test Scores – many applications will request self-reported test scores; however, be sure to contact the ACT or SAT testing agency to have your scores submitted to all colleges you apply to.
  • Don’t forget your AP test scores – if you took an AP Exam offered in May, be sure to contact the College Board when scores are available in July to have them submitted to the institution you wish to attend (if you didn’t originally list the college or university on your answer sheet when you took the test). Each institution will determine if they will grant credit or advanced placement based on your scores.
  • Letters of recommendation – Colleges will usually request 2 -3 letters of recommendation – normally from individuals both in and out of the classroom.
  • Essays – The key to writing a successful essay (like any paper) is to brainstorm, draft and edit/proofread. And don’t be afraid to let someone else read your essay and give feedback!
  • Interviews
  • Auditions/portfolios (primarily for performing or fine arts programs)


Once you complete any admissions application, be sure to notify your high school counselor.  This is important because you’re counselor may need to submit your transcripts and/or a letter or recommendation on your behalf.

When to Apply

Some colleges and universities may offer an early admissions program in addition to the regular admissions process.  Early Admission programs include Early Decision and Early Action – both programs allow students to apply early – usually in November, which means you should start the application process in October – and are normally notified of an admissions decision in December or early January.  Click here for more info about Early Decision vs. Early Action


Regular Admission for most colleges begins in November and runs through March.  Remember, you should give yourself at least one to two months to complete all of the necessary paperwork – this also allows time for individuals who will be writing letters of recommendation for you.   Acceptance Letters are sent in the Spring and students normally have until May 1 to notify the school of their intent.


Contact the college you’re interested in attending to find out their official admissions application deadline and their acceptance deadline.

Net Price Calculator

Each postsecondary institution that offers federal student aid is required to post a net price calculator on its site that uses institutional data to provide estimated net price information to current and prospective students and their families based on a student’s individual circumstances. This calculator should allow students to calculate an estimated net price of attendance at an institution (defined as cost of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid).  Net Price calculators should be seen only as a baseline in determining your final costs, and it’s important to understand some of their limitations:


  • Don’t expect the calculators to provide a complete, apples-to-apples cost comparison among colleges. For one, colleges don’t all use the same calculator. Some are custom-designed, others are based on a model provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Calculators that require more information are likely to be more accurate than those that require less.
  • Be aware that the estimates could be outdated.
  • Note the difference between “net price” and “net cost.” You may find both in the output of a college’s calculator. Colleges are mandated to provide a net price, defined as the price of attendance minus the average institutional or government grant aid for first-year, full-time students. But colleges also might subtract from that figure the value of loans and work-study to provide a “net cost” figure that’s significantly lower than the net value.

Things to Consider in your College Search

What type of college are you looking for?
  • College Type: Private vs. Public? University vs. Liberal Arts vs. Career College vs. HBCU vs. religiously affiliated colleges?
  • Size: Do you want to go to a small, medium or large college?  Size can affect your options in majors offered, student activities, facilities, etc.
  • Location: Do you want to be in a big city or have easy access to the outdoors?  Do you enjoy constant weather or change in the seasons?
  • Distance: Do you want to commute from home or live far away?
  • Cost: Of course your out-of-pocket cost can be a major factor when selecting a college to attend; use the college’s net price calculator so you can get an idea of the potential cost.
  • Available majors: The location, cost, and size may be perfect, but do they offer the major you’re interested in?
  • Extracurricular activities

Figure Out How to Pay for it All

Most families pay for college through:
  • Savings
  • Income
  • Financial Aid
  • Scholarships

The Best Type of Money is Free

So start looking for scholarships ASAP!
  • Merit
  • Performance
  • Athletic
  • Other
Where should you start searching for scholarships?
Do not pay for help – start early & know the deadlines

Be wary of services that charge a fee for helping families obtain financial aid and scholarships because many times they are scams. Families should start researching and applying for scholarships the spring semester of a student’s junior year in high school. Most major scholarship deadlines are the fall semester of the student’s senior year.

So, What Exactly is Financial Aid?

Financial aid comes in the form of grants, work-study and loans.  These programs come from three main sources: Federal, State and Institutional.


  • Grants are financial aid that are typically not required to be repaid (aka “Gift Aid”). There are some grants that have specific requirements to be met to receive and maintain; if these stipulations are not met or maintained you may have to repay the funds.  Grant funding is normally awarded to students with financial need.
  • Work-study programs allow you to work part-time, normally on-campus, to earn money for your education.
  • Student/Parent loans are borrowed money that must be repaid, with interest.


To be eligible for any of these programs, the student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid otherwise known as FAFSA.

How Can You Sign-up?

Go online to www.FAFSA.gov

Completing the FAFSA will help colleges automatically determine your eligibility for Federal grants, work-study, and loans.  Colleges may also use this application to determine your eligibility for state and/or institutional based aid programs or they may request that you submit additional applications.


University Applications / CSS Profiles

Some colleges may require additional forms to apply for financial aid.  These may include specific applications from the college or university or the CSS Profile, which is a tool administered by the College Board to help financial aid offices acquire a more complete account of your financial situation.


Check with your school to see if any additional applications are required to receive financial aid and if they have a priority deadline!

Determine if You’re Eligible

The MUSTS to Complete the FAFSA
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Be a US citizen or eligible resident
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be accepted for enrollment in a degree or certificate program
  • Register with selective service (If you’re a male between ages 18-25)
  • Not have a drug conviction


Click here to see a complete list of eligibility requirements.

Quick Facts about the FAFSA

  • You must create an FSA ID to access the site and submit your information (see below for additional info)
  • The application is available every October 1 – the sooner you submit the application, the better
  • You must complete the FAFSA each academic year
  • Be aware of college priority deadlines
  • You should never pay for someone to fill out your FAFSA – It’s FREE!
  • You do not have to complete the FAFSA all at once – save and update info later
  • You must submit IRS Tax Return information on the FAFSA
  • Use the IRS data retrieval process for quicker completion
  • You can list up to 10 colleges on the FAFSA (online version) to send your results to
  • If you’re married, you must supply spousal information on the FAFSA
  • If you’re dependent, per FAFSA, you must provide parental information (click here to determine your dependency status)
  • Some colleges may require additional applications or documentation – submit these documents as soon as possible


The FSA ID ― a username and password ― must be used to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID confirms your identity when you access your financial aid information.  Go online to www.fafsa.gov and click the FSA ID logo to create your FSA ID.


Your FSA ID can be used to electronically sign Federal Student Aid documents, access your personal records, and make binding legal obligations. If you are a parent and need to electronically sign your child’s FAFSA, you need your own FSA ID. If you have more than one child attending college, you can use the same FSA ID to sign their applications.


Click here to learn more about the FSA ID.

What You’ll Need to Apply

  • Social Security Number
  • Federal Income Tax Return
  • Driver’s License
  • W-2 records
  • And other income documents


Click here to see a full list of required documentation to complete the FAFSA.

What Happens After you Apply

Once you submit your FAFSA you will receive a Student Aid Report or SAR.   This report will have all of the information you submitted on the application and will also be sent to each college you listed on the FAFSA.   The SAR will include an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which each college will use to determine your financial aid package.


Your college may request additional information once they receive your SAR.  This process is called Verification – be sure to get any information back to your college as soon as possible so it doesn’t affect your award!  Once your application is reviewed and completed by your college you will receive an award letter.

And Your Award is…

Understanding your award letter

Once your aid package has been determined, the school will either mail an Award Letter to you or have you go online to review your award, which will indicate the types and amounts of financial aid you may be eligible to receive.


If you have applied for financial aid at more than one school, carefully review and compare each award and the schools Cost of Attendance to determine which aid package may be the best for you.   Once you decide which school to attend you will need to accept or reject all or a part of the aid package offered.  Be sure to read the award instructions carefully to see if any additional steps need to be taken.  If you have questions about your award contact your Financial Aid office.

What if You’re an Undocumented Student?

If you’re an undocumented student, you will not meet the eligibility requirements for FAFSA; however, you may still be eligible to apply for state-based financial aid.


Undocumented students who qualify for Texas state residency may be eligible to apply for state financial aid through the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA).  To apply, you must first find out if the school that you are/will be attending accepts the TASFA.  Some schools require additional details and applications to be submitted in order to be eligible for state aid.


Contact the Financial Aid office at the college you plan to attend for more information and/or requirements to apply.  Visit www.collegeforalltexans.com for additional information about the TASFA application.

The Wrap-up

  • Take challenging classes in core subjects (Freshman-Senior years)
  • Research and visit college campuses (Sophomore-Senior years)
  • Prepare for and take the SAT & ACT (Sophomore-Senior years)
  • Apply for scholarships (Junior & Senior years)
  • Apply for admission to colleges (Senior year)
  • Submit the FAFSA ASAP after October 1st (Senior year)
  • Go to college and succeed!

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