There are several steps and considerations involved in applying to college. Many students have to decide which schools to apply to, fill out the common application and all of the extra supplements, apply for scholarships, and write several essays just to submit their applications. Then, after everything is said and done, they have to wait the rest of the year until they find out which schools accepted them. Thus, this year is one that will be riddled with stress, anxiety, and anticipation for many CCHS seniors as they deal with the college application process.
Scholarships Are Worth The Extra Work
BY ARIEL SMILOWITZ
For this year’s CCHS seniors, the college application process is a looming prospect. For some, this semester will be long and tedious; filling out applications, ordering transcripts, and sending scores is on every senior’s mind right now. However, in addition to these, students also have to think about scholarships, how many schools they should apply to, and whether staying or leaving Florida is an option.
When most seniors consider college, the thought of in or out of state schools immediately comes to mind. Every student is different: some want to experience life in a new state, maybe in a big city like Boston or a small rural town in Ohio. Others may not be ready to leave home yet, preferring to stay close to their families.
For many however, the issue revolves around money: is it cheaper to stay in Florida or is it worth it to take out loans to pay for an out-of-state school? These questions and considerations are prevalent among CCHS seniors.
Senior Bradlee Jeffrey is applying to over 10 schools, though two are in-state.
“I’m applying to MIT, Columbia, Yale, Harvard, John Hopkins, UF, and UM, among others,” Jeffrey said.
With 4 APs and several dual enrollment courses, applying to so many schools is an extremely difficult and time consuming task; however, Jeffrey is willing to put forth the effort.
“I want to broaden my horizons and see something different,” Jeffrey said. “Hopefully I’ll receive enough financial aid for me to be able to leave.”
On the other hand, senior Angelina Moscatello is perfectly happy with staying in Florida. Currently ranked 1st in this year’s graduating class, with 8 APs already under her belt, Moscatello’s only applying to four schools, all of which are in Florida.
“It’s less expensive to stay,” Moscatello said. “Besides, the programs I’m interested in are just as good here as they are in any out-of-state school; it’s not worth the expense of traveling.”
For everyone thinking about applying to college, especially in today’s economic recession, money is a key factor in deciding which universities to apply to. In addition, with seniors’ crowded and busy schedules, applying for scholarships is something that for many ultimately isn’t pursued. Fortunately, students have several financial options that might make the application process a little bit easier to handle, for instance some students have the option to attend a Florida school on a Florida Pre-paid plan.
“Florida Pre-paid is a plan that families can buy that helps lock in the cost of college,” CCHS BRACE advisor Christine Siwek said. “There are several different plans that are available to students, such as 2+2 plans, tuition and dorm plans.”
However, for those who have some type of Florida Pre-paid plan, there’s a possibility that not all of their expenses will be covered for, as prices have risen significantly during the past several years. Nonetheless, it still is a viable option for students who want to stay in Florida or have financial limitations.
Another option for seniors is Bright Futures, a scholarship program that students from all over Florida use to their advantage. Bright Futures offers up to $125 per credit hour, an extremely viable alternative and one that is frequently chosen by CCHS seniors.
“I always have students on the computer throughout the year applying for Bright Futures,” Siwek said. “For those who have Florida Pre-paid, Bright Futures can pay for any other related expenses. In addition, about 60% of CCHS seniors are eligible for the scholarship.”
For seniors who want to venture outside of Florida or who just want to cover as much of their expenses as possible, there are hundreds of scholarship opportunities available to students all over the country.
Senior Samantha Kufrin is currently trying to make use of all the scholarship opportunities available to her.
“I need the money and most of the schools I’m applying to don’t give merit aid,” Kufrin said.
Kufrin is applying to several schools, including UF, FSU, Cornell, Columbia, Tufts, and Boston University. She’s ranked 7th in her senior class, taking 6 APs this year, and dual enrolling. In addition to her class work, she is still able to maintain a job as well, working in customer service as a cashier at Publix. In fact, Kufrin has been offered a tuition reimbursement from Publix, which will pay her about $9,000 a year if she goes to a regionally accredited school in a region where Publix is located.
“Publix is only located in 5 states, so if I take the scholarship, my search will be narrowed significantly, but if I stay in Florida, I’ll have Bright Futures to pay for the rest of my expenses, and a job as well,” Kufrin said.
Although Publix’s offer is tempting, Kufrin is still hoping that she’ll be able to go to college out of state, and is relying on other potential scholarships to help pay off expenses. One scholarship, Girls Going Places, awards up to $5,000. In addition, the Coca Cola and AXA Achievement scholarships offer up to $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.
Although seniors are competing with each other and other seniors around the state and country, there are several scholarships that are relatively easier to win. There are so many financial opportunities, grants, loans, and donations available on websites like Fastweb and scholarships.com that most students fail to apply to. Thus, those who take the time to look for money will be much more likely to receive it.
“Don’t procrastinate,” Siwek said. “I have students come back to me every year talking about how much they wish they could have made more time to apply for scholarships.”
In the end, it all comes down to whether or not students are willing to put in the time and effort. As hard as senior year is, applying for scholarships will allow seniors to go to their dream school without the nagging though of money in the back of their minds.
Deciding On Early Decision
BY BEATRICE DUPUY
As spring approaches, many seniors all over Cooper City will be seen searching their mail boxes anxiously awaiting a letter that will secure their future for the next four years. While these seniors impatiently wait, other CCHS seniors will have already made their dorm arrangements. These select seniors, unlike their peers, have made the decision to apply through early decision or early action.
The Early Decision option is a binding agreement in which seniors must attend the college they are accepted too. This agreement prohibits students from applying to any other school through the early decision process; however, seniors can still apply to schools through regular decision. Seniors who apply for early decision usually find out if they have been accepted or rejected by December or January.
“Be sure that it’s absolutely the only school that you want to go to,” CCHS BRACE adviser Christine Siwek said.
While early action is similar to early decision, early action provides more flexibility. Early action is a non-binding plan that provides seniors with the opportunity to apply early and receive their letters the same time as early decision applicants. With early action seniors are still able to submit early decision and regular decision applications to their college of choice.
One concern students have when applying early decision is financial aid. Some students believe that applying through early decision gives them an advantage over other applicants when receiving financial aid.
“It just wouldn’t be the right choice, financially,” senior Zoe Demerest said. “ I want to keep my options open.”
Although, other seniors are told that applying through early decision might limit the financial aid package the college is willing to provide. These assertions are not guaranteed by colleges, who usually decide on need or merit based systems.
Another factor to consider when applying, are the colleges with early decision options that boast higher acceptance rates for early decision and early action applicants. In an article by U.S. News and World Report it lists all the colleges in 2009 that had shown the highest acceptance rates for early decision applicants. This list compared schools such as Syracuse University’s applicant pool’s acceptance rate to that of the early decision applicant pool, and out of 800 early decision applicants, the acceptance of that group was 25 percent higher than the total applicant pool.
“I want to go to NYU and applying early helps my chances of getting in,” senior Jonathan Cohen said.
According to the New York Times, there was an increase, in 2009, in the amount of applicants using early decision to prestigious colleges such as Duke, Northwestern, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Dartmouth.
Even with these statistics, CCHS seniors like Kaylin Lynch are not considering applying with early decision.
“Early decision is for students that have the drive and togetherness and I don’t have the time for it,” said Lynch.
When deciding whether or not to apply using the early or regular decision option, it’s best to consider advice from guidance counselors and admissions advisers.
“Make sure when you apply to your dream school, you have a safe school locked in,” Siwek said.
Elizabeth Pleshette, former admissions officer at Columbia University and director of college counseling at the Latin School of Chicago, gives advice on early decision in a blog by the New York Times. She recommends that seniors consider these five factors when applying early: “only apply early decision to a school that is your first choice, make sure that your choice is realistic, have a conversation about financial aid and scholarships with your parents and with your colleges, don’t make this decision because you hate waiting, and don’t make this move if you are someone who lives with a lot of regrets.”
Siwek suggests taking a college tour before choosing to apply early decision.
“Don’t go to a school unless you have walked on the campus,” Siwek said.
While a college tour might help when making the decision to apply, the ultimate decision is up to the student. And as seniors begin to file into their dorms in the fall and begin anew, it is a decision they will have to accept for the next four years of college.