The Road to College and Beyond
By: College Access Mentoring Initiative in Collaboration with First Generation Council
Table of Contents
Authors’ Note and Acknowledgments......................................................... .............3
Chapter 1: Why Go to College?.................................................................................4
Chapter 2: What Am I Doing? The 9th
Grade Years ....................................9
Chapter 3: Getting a Little Bit Closer- 11th
Chapter 4: Applying to Colleges and Financial Aid - 12th
Grade, part 1 ................21
Chapter 5: Acceptance Letters and Choosing a College - 12th
Grade, part 2 …… 26
Chapter 6: Need a Break from School? Consider a Bridge Year!...........................28
About the Authors.................................................................................................. 30
*This booklet was adapted from the CAMI Guide, made in 2011.
We, the authors, have been in your shoes. Not many of us were privileged enough to have the
resources that make finding the way to college easy. We understand the struggle and we have
seen many talented and smart people unable to attend college because they had no guidance to
help them along. And so we compiled these chapters of helpful tips that we wished we had when
we were in high school.
While we understand that college is not for everyone, we sincerely hope that you will give
yourself the chance and explore the opportunities that higher education will afford you. Everyone
has interests, dreams, and aspirations in life. We hope this information helps you start a journey
to achieve those goals.
We wish you the best of luck and hope you find what you’re looking for!
The College Access Mentoring Initiative and First Generation Council
We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to a wide variety of organizations and
individuals for their generous support. Without their help, this book would not be a success.
Thank you to our sponsors, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
at Tufts University and Massachusetts Campus Compact.
Thank you to the Office of Admissions at Tufts University for their ongoing support on
Thank you to the following individuals who wrote and edited this booklet: Katelyn Montalvo
(A’15), Kathy Nguyen (A’18), Michelle Ly (BS Chemical Engineering at WPI and MS in
Environmental Engineering at UMass Amherst), Alberto Medina (Communications
Thank you to the students who are part of First Generation Council and College Access
Mentoring Initiative for their leadership and commitment to college access.
Chapter 1: Why Go to College?
Find Your Passion
Discovering Your Interests: Listen to Yourself
What do you like to do? It's a tough question to answer, but
spend some time considering it. Day to day, notice the
things you do that interest you the most. You can also list
the things you don’t like. That can help guide you to things
you might like.
It can be as simple as “I like to do math” or “I enjoy
drawing.” You might think “I feel comfortable in the
chemistry lab” or “I enjoy helping others do X, Y, Z.” Start
simple and do some research on your own of where that
interest can lead you. Hint: You’re not limited to just one.
Going to Work: Create a Career
Some people simply have "jobs," while others have "careers."
What's the difference? A job will help you pay your bills day to day;
the type of work you can’t wait to get over with by the end of the day.
With a career, work is based on your interests. It’s a path you
have chosen, and a path you enjoy being on. College can help you turn
your passions and interests into a career you love. Think of it this way:
what kind of work can you do that you can be happy with for the rest of
Fast Fact: Choosing a college major does not limit you to one type of career.
What's a Major?: Decide What to Study
A college major provides a framework for your studies and the classes
you'll need to take. Some majors, like engineering, prepare students for
specific careers. Other majors, like liberal arts, are more flexible and can
lead to many different career paths.
Not sure what to major in? Don't worry! Many schools don't require you to
declare (choose) a major right away and you can always change your major later on. Taking
different classes while in your first years of college will help you explore your interests and
decide what to focus on.
Fast Fact: Most college students change their majors at least once.
Be Open to Opportunity: Stay Curious
Over and over again, students say that college led them to career paths they never imagined for
themselves, or weren't even aware of. So even if you know what courses you want to study, even
if you already have a possible career in mind, be open to new opportunities.
One of the most valuable things you can gain from college is getting to know different people
with different interests that may inspire you to seek out new possibilities.
Boost Your Earnings
Studies prove it: continue your education after high school and you're likely to make more
money than people who stop at high school. The graph below shows earnings and
unemployment rates by degree.
Skills for Today’s Jobs: Have More Options
Today, more jobs than ever before require specialized training, or a
two- or four-year college degree. More education means more
choices, and that means more opportunities for you.
Fast Fact: Of the 20 fastest-growing occupations, more than half
require an Associate’s degree or higher.
Job Security: Keep Working
Your high school diploma is useful, but a college degree increases your chance of employment
by nearly 50%. A two-year degree or even some college can also have a positive impact on your
ability to find and keep a job.
Fast Fact: The higher your education level, the higher your chances of finding and keeping a
More Benefits: Get the Important Extras
There's more to a job than a paycheck. Jobs for college graduates typically offer more and better
benefits than jobs requiring just a high school diploma. These can include: health insurance,
retirement plans (401K), paid sick days, bonuses, etc.
Meet New People
When you go to college, you meet a lot of new people. Sometimes,
you get to meet people from all over the world. The people you meet
in college will be longtime friends, colleagues, mentors, and also
connections in your future career. You will gain a better
understanding of how big the world is and of your place in it, both
personally and professionally.
Who Will I Meet in College?
You will meet hundreds of people at college; classmates, teachers, and
mentors who will play an important role in your life. Here are just a few:
Professors: Professors teach the courses you take. Often, they have weekly office
hours when you can meet with them and get help if you’re struggling with class or if you just
want to speak to them about the subject. Some professors do research in a wide variety of fields
and may offer research opportunities to students. Others act as academic advisors who help you
pick your courses and make sure that you fulfill the requirements for your major.
Resident Advisors/Assistants (RA): If a college offers on-campus housing, one or more RAs will
be present on each dorm. They are responsible for helping you with deal with the ins and outs of
living on campus, can help you handle any problems in your dorm, and organize fun activities to
bring everyone together.
Tutors: Free tutoring is available on a lot of campuses. These tutors tend to be former students
who took the course with the same professor and did well. They can also offer tips on how to
Guest Speakers: Every college campus will have occasional speakers who
give presentations to students about their career paths, about important
issues, or about their companies and professional field. You will hear from
experienced professionals who can help prepare and inspire you, and give
advice for finding success in the career path that is right for you.
Other Students: Your most meaningful relationships will likely be with
other students: the roommates, classmates, and friends with whom you’ll
share in the adventure of college life. You can form study groups together
to help each other with tough classes or assignments; join clubs to meet
new people and explore shared interests; volunteer together for causes you’re passionate about;
and spend time together socially to fully enjoy the college experience!
Along with your connections with people you meet, you can also take advantage of many other
resources, opportunities, and organizations on campus:
Campus Career Center: The staff at a university’s career center will hold career fairs where
employers come recruit students; organize presentations and workshops on important skills like
how to write a resume; and use their connections to companies and other universities to help you
find valuable opportunities. These events will help strengthen your
credentials and also help you gain experience outside academics
through such as internships, co-ops, and jobs for recent graduates.
Cultural Centers: Many universities have cultural houses/centers
that offer support for students of color through mentorship and one-
on-one advising. They also offer social activities that can expose
students to diversity and help them meet new people with common
Extracurricular activities: Most colleges and universities offer
dozens, or even hundreds, of groups and clubs you can participate
in. These activities aren’t just fun, they can help with your
academics and help you build skills that will help in a future career.
There is a wide range of groups you can join. There can be
academic clubs for every subject, robot-building clubs, creative
writing clubs, community service groups, etc. And if there isn’t a
club you enjoy, chances are you can start one on campus.
Organizing a new group can help boost your resume and be a great
Chapter 2: What Am I Doing? The 9th
Explore your Interests and Sharpen Your Skills
Academics: What Should I Take in High School and Why?
In ninth and tenth grade you can explore a wide variety of
interests. Most high schools require you to take the following
by the time you graduate (check with your specific high school
Math (Recommended: 4 years)
Science (Recommended: 3 years)
Social Studies (Recommended: 3 years)
Language Arts/English (Recommended: 4 years)
Foreign Language (Recommended: 3 years of the same language)
By taking a wide variety of courses, you learn valuable skills that you can apply to real life
Everyone uses numbers to solve problems. Math teaches you to think logically and abstractly.
Two years of algebra and one year of geometry are recommended for all high school students,
but it's always good to take even more than that. Besides using it in college, you’ll need math to
solve problems and make decisions in your everyday life, such as understanding your finances.
Learning how things work and studying the world
around you will help you understand how scientific
discoveries affect you, your community, and the
world. Biology (the study of living systems),
chemistry (the study of what makes up this world
through atoms) and physics (the study of how things
move/how energy is transferred) are good subjects to
prepare you for college.
Classes in geography, civics, history, and economics will help you understand what is happening
in the world and how you fit in it. You’ll learn how the government works, how the events of the
past have shaped the present, and about the complicated social forces that shape the lives we
lead. These classes also prepare you for college-level courses.
Reading and writing well are key to success in any field. Understanding
literature, from novels to essays, lets you learn from and enjoy the stories
and ideas that others have shared in writing throughout the centuries.
Speaking and writing well helps you share your own ideas and be an
effective communicator—a key part of any job. You should prepare by
taking as many classes in reading, writing, and oratory as you can fit into
Studying different languages is a great way to understand how other people live and think. You'll
not only learn more about another culture, but your own as well. This will help you work with
people from all over the world. Take at least three years of the same language so that you read,
speak, and write it well enough to use it in many situations. You can keep taking language
classes in college, as well, and many universities require you to take a foreign language.
This is a great time to explore things you like and understand what you don’t like. If you liked a
particular class in the ninth grade, you might want to take an honors class (or AP/IB) the next
year. You can talk to your teachers about taking harder courses. You can be more competitive for
college applications if you take more AP/IB and honors courses, and you could take elective
courses that can match your interests too. For example, if you
like art, take a few art classes (AP/IB art courses are possible
too, check with your teachers/schools). If you like science, and
if your school offers it, take science electives.
Outside Academics: Extra-Curricular Activities and
Getting involved in extracurricular activities at your school is a
great way to pursue your interests and discover new passions. You’ll meet new people and learn
valuable skills like teamwork and leadership that you can put in your brag sheet/resume.
Fast Fact: Studies show that, by getting involved in these activities, you will actually do better
Don’t know what you like? Don’t worry! Usually around September, groups hold informational
meetings to talk about the club. Go to those and see if any fits your interests; otherwise, you can
start your own! It is important that you stay committed to the clubs you are in throughout high
school. It is highly recommended to go to as many meetings as you can and help out with
events. Colleges like commitment from students who are willing to put in the time and effort for
Internships are jobs offered by companies and nonprofit
organization to introduce you to the work they do and teach you
valuable skills. These internships can last from a few months to
a year, and can potentially lead to jobs in the future. Internships
are very competitive. They can help you learn more about a
certain topic area or field, and can give you an inside look at
potential jobs you would like to pursue. Some internships are
paid, while others are not; the information about the job will tell
you if it is. If you choose to do an internship outside your
neighborhood, check to see if the compensation package offers
housing and food allowance/stipend.
Internships have specific requirements and usually ask for the following from high school
students: an application, an essay, at least one letter of recommendation, and transcripts.
Internships tend to be posted in October-November and the deadlines are usually at the
beginning of February. Here are some places to look for internships:
Local Hospitals and Universities
Google the following: subject you like, high school internships and name of the
For example: high school medical internships at Massachusetts General Hospital
Get To Know Your Teachers
It is important to spend time with your teachers; they will
write your recommendation letters for college. They can
also help you find interests and solve problems, as well
as provide valuable advice. It can be hard to picture
teachers with a life outside school, but they were once in
college and have most likely worked internships/part
time jobs and can share lessons learned from their own
Skills to be a Successful Student
There are certain skills that every student needs to be successful. These are important to learn
early on; you will use them a lot in college, but also throughout the rest of your life.
There are just 24 hours in each day. What you do with
that time makes all the difference. While high-school
students average 35 hours per week of class time,
college students log an average of 15 to 18 hours per
Getting your "free" time under control now will help
prepare you for managing those extra 20 hours a week
come first-year of college when you'll need to study
hard, you’ll want to socialize more than ever, and in
many cases, be involved in clubs or sports and work an on-campus job.
If you don't already, start using a daily planner. This could be a datebook you keep in your bag,
an online version you maintain at home, or both. It's easy to over-schedule or "double-book" if
you aren't careful. Manage your time wisely and you'll get the maximum
out of each day! You should always make room to see your teachers if you
need help with material or assignments.
Good Study Habits
If you've got them, great! If not, there's still time to develop them. Good,
basic study habits include:
Always be prepared for class, and attend classes regularly. No
Complete assignments thoroughly and in a timely manner.
Review your notes daily rather than cram for tests the night before.
Set aside quiet time each day to study—even if you don't have homework or a test the
next day. This will help you remember the material better.
While these basic study habits are important and useful to keep in mind, not every student learns
best in the same way. If you need help finding a way to study that is most helpful to you, ask for
help from a teacher or a guidance counselor. Don’t be shy!
The Ability to Set Attainable Goals
It's important to set goals, as long as they're attainable. Setting goals that are unreasonably high
just sets you up for frustration and disappointment. For example: study hard and aim for that
100%, but expect to get 90%. Account for the little things that can possibly go wrong, and
sometimes will. That does not mean giving up on studying your best, but recognizing that no one
gets a perfect score the first time.
Listen to your teachers and stay focused. Be sure that you
understand the lesson. If you don't understand something, ask
questions! You've heard it before, but it is absolutely true
that “the only dumb question is the one you don't ask.” If
you've been paying attention, it definitely won't be a dumb
question. Besides, there’s always a chance the other students
in the class have the same questions and they’re just equally
as shy about asking. So ask away!
Most people talk at a rate of about 225 words per minute,
and you can’t possibly write down everything the teacher
says. So you need to write down the important material.
Focus on key concepts and ideas, crucial facts and figures,
and other information that is central to the day’s lesson,
whether it’s discussing a poem or learning a scientific
You should take notes in whichever form is most helpful to
you. If you're more of a visual person, try writing notes on
different colored index cards. If you really have a problem
with note-taking, you might ask your teacher if you can tape-record daily lessons. Do whatever it
Completion of Assignments
Teachers assign homework for a reason. While it may
seem like "busywork" at times, it definitely has a
purpose. While it is true that homework assignments
typically account for at most 30% of your grade in the
class, they help you prepare for the material that will be
on the exams, which can make up the remaining
percentage of your grade. Put your homework to good use by doing your best, and by reviewing
past assignments to see what you got wrong, what material you know best, and where you need a
little more work. Remember, you'll only get out of it what you put into it!
Review of Daily Notes
Don't wait until the night before the test to review your notes. Go over your notes each day while
the lecture is still fresh in your mind. Add any missing pieces. Music can be a good memory aid,
as long as you don't find it distracting. Re-writing your notes is another strategy to help you
remember them. You can also partner with a classmate and compare notes. This isn't cheating
and it can be mutually beneficial, just remember to stay focused on studying—there will be time
for chatting after you’re done with work!
Review your notes each day to reinforce your learning and build toward your ultimate goal:
mastery of the subject or skill.
Keeping yourself organized will save you
valuable time and allow you to do everything
you need to do. Remember: “There’s a time
and place for everything!” Keep all your study
materials (calculator, planner, books,
notebooks, laptop, etc.) in one convenient
Motivation and Commitment
You need to be motivated to learn and work hard, whether or not you like a specific subject or
teacher. Self-motivation can be extremely important when you aren't particularly excited about a
class. If you must, view it as an obstacle you have to overcome. Then, set your mind to it and do
it—no excuses. Finish what you start and do the best you can; your commitment will pay off in
Chapter 3: Getting a Little Bit Closer - 11th
Junior Year: Time to Prepare and Look at Colleges!
Taking Honors and AP/IB courses
Around this time, AP/IB courses will be offered in your school. These courses mimic first-year
courses in college, and doing well in them can help you take upper-level courses more quickly in
college. Taking a lot of AP/IB courses and honors courses can be time consuming, especially
since they require more time for studying and homework. Talk to your teachers before
registering for courses.
PSAT/SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT
These are all national exams accepted by colleges. It is recommended that you take the PSAT in
early October/November, and take the SAT/ACT late junior year and/or early senior year. Here
are the differences amongst the three:
PSAT: This stands for Preliminary-SAT. The test is similar to the actual SAT, but much shorter.
There are three sections: reading, writing, and mathematics. Taking this exam early junior year,
can help you determine areas of the SAT you need more help with. In addition, doing well on
this test can help you receive scholarships. You don’t need to study specific material for this
exam; it is a test of your math and language skills.
There is a fee for taking the exam, but fee-waivers are issued based on family income. If you
need a fee-waiver, please see your guidance counselor..
Note: You may also take this exam in 10th
SAT: One of two standardized exams that colleges accept. The
SAT has the same sections as the PSAT: reading, writing, and
mathematics. This exam takes about 3-4 hours, with breaks in
between sessions. You don’t have to answer every question—in
fact, every wrong question you answer is 0.25 points. If you take
the SAT more than once, they will take the highest score you
achieved on each section. Almost all students take the SAT at
least twice, so think ahead about when you can take the exam(s)
in time to submit the best score for your college applications. For example, if the college
application deadline was in November, don’t wait until January of your senior year to take the
SAT for a second time!
Ask a guidance counselor to see if prep courses/fee waivers are available. In addition, here are
some resources to help you prepare:
Buy/Rent SAT prep books online, borrow from the library, etc.
ACT: The other standardized exam that colleges accept.
The ACT has the following sections: reading,
mathematics, and science. Writing is optional, but it is
highly recommended/required by colleges. This exam
also takes about 3-4 hours. You can answer every
question; there is no penalty for wrong answers. This is
a less common exam, so there might not be as many
prep courses, but questions are similar to those on the SAT. If you take the ACT more than once,
they will take the highest score on each section. Ask your guidance counselor for a fee waiver. In
addition, here are some resources:
Buy/Rent ACT prep books online, borrow from the library, etc.
SAT Subject Tests: These are exams that test your knowledge of a particular subject. These
range from U.S. History, to Chemistry, to World Literature. Some colleges may require SAT
Subject Tests, especially if you want to study a specific field. For example, engineering
departments might want you to take the math and a science (biology, chemistry, or physics)
subject tests. You can pick and choose, and these exams tend to be at most couple of hours long.
What if it isn’t required for my college? It is still a good idea to take at least one subject test.
This can help with your admission to a school, especially if you do well.
The College Search: Organization and Things to Look For
It is important to be organized throughout this whole process so that it will not overwhelm you.
Early in the academic year:
Take the PSAT
Start looking at colleges
Do well in your courses
Study for the SAT/ACT/SAT Subject tests if you plan on taking them at the end of the
Later in the academic year:
Take the SAT/ACT/SAT Subject tests
Ask teachers for letters of recommendation (see recommendations section on Page 22)
Continue to look at colleges
o Note: If you decide that you would like a break between high school and college,
it is highly recommended that you still apply to college and then defer (see page
Do well in your courses
Choosing a College
There are lots of different colleges out there that offer a wide
variety of degrees. Schools fall into these basic types:
Public schools: Public universities are operated by state and
local governments. Tuition is often less at a public school if
you apply to a state school in the state that you reside.
Private schools: These colleges are not affiliated with a
government organization. They may be non-profit, such as
colleges run by private foundations or religious denominations.
Or they may be for-profit businesses, such as many career,
trade, or technical schools.
Four-year colleges and universities: These can offer Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate
degrees, and sometimes include professional schools, like law school or medical school.
Universities tend to offer higher level degrees, such as doctorates.
Two-year community colleges: These offer two-year associate degrees and sometimes
certifications in particular career fields, like nursing. Because their costs are often lower and
admission is more open, many students start their college careers here. Some community
colleges offer programs that later allow you to transfer and continue your education at a four-
Career, technical, vocational or trade schools: These prepare students for specific careers, such
as welding, cosmetology, medical imaging, or electronics assembly. Their programs may be two
years or less. Many of these schools are for-profit businesses. Research these schools carefully to
make sure they can deliver what they promise.
Below is a table showing various degrees:
Programs and Degrees by Type of School and
Time to Graduate
Program or degree:
Typical time to graduate:
Technical, trade or
1-2 years of study
2 years of study
4 years of study
Bachelor's degree + 1-2 years of additional study
Bachelor's degree + Master's degree + 2-3 years
of additional study (some schools offer PhD
programs straight from Bachelors)
Bachelor’s Degree + 2-10 years of study
depending of specialty
In the state of Massachusetts, there are 114 colleges to choose from—about 35 within the Boston
area! That means you can visit different types of colleges in your own backyard, which can help
you decide what you want and don’t want in a college.
Things to Consider When Choosing a College
Cost: What will your total annual costs be, including tuition and
fees, room and board, books, travel, and other expenses? Does
the school participate in the federal student financial aid
programs? Will the school offer a financial aid package or
scholarship? Will you be able to get a loan?
Location: This is a biggie. Do you move away or not? If you
decide you might go to a school away from home, factor in the
cost of traveling to and from school for holidays and semester
breaks. Also consider weather, type of location (rural, city, etc.),
and consider location-based tuition; for example: out-of-state tuition for public schools. If you
reside in Massachusetts and decide to go to a state school in California, you will pay more in
tuition because you are not a California state resident.
On-campus or off: If you go to a school nearby, do you want to live at home, in an on-campus
dorm/residence hall or in private, off-campus housing? If you attend a school away from home,
do you want to live in an on-campus dorm or in private housing? These decisions may require
you to balance cost with other factors, such as your independence and lifestyle.
Size: Do you want a small, close-knit setting where everyone knows each other? A school that's
big enough that it feels like its own city and there’s someone new to meet every day? Or
something in between?
Majors and concentrations offered: If you have
an idea of what you want to study, does the
school offer that major? Does their program
have a good reputation? Does this school have
the specialty you want? If you aren't sure what
you want to study, does the school give you
plenty of options if you want to change your
Flexibility: If you need to work full-time while you go to school, does the school have night
courses or other options to accommodate you? Will they let you attend part-time? Do they offer
Admission requirements: What academic standards (grade point average, required courses, etc.)
do you have to meet in high school to get in? Which tests will you have to take? What extra
classes do you need?
Campus life: Does the school offer activities and social opportunities you like? Is the campus in
a city/rural/suburban setting that you like?
Diversity: Will you feel comfortable with the makeup of the student body? Are there lots of
different people from different places? Is there a lack of diversity in the school?
Career services: Does the school have programs with a good track record for helping graduates
find good jobs?
The following websites, www.collegeboard.com and http://collegecost.ed.gov/, have search
engines that allows you to pick things you like/need in a college and displays results based on
your chosen criteria. This can help narrow your choices. Once you choose a few, try visiting the
Once you decide on the colleges, sort them into three categories: safety schools, probable
schools, and reach schools. Ideally, it is good to have about two in each category:
Safety Schools: These are schools where you are most likely to get accepted based on your
Probable Schools: These are schools where you meet the basic admissions requirements, but are
slightly more competitive and harder to get into than your safety schools.
Reach Schools: These are more competitive schools where, based on your qualifications,
admission may be more difficult.
Chapter 4: Applying to Colleges and Financial Aid - 12th
Applying to Colleges: The Common Application
There are different times when colleges accept applications.
Most colleges accept regular decision applications until January
. Early actions or decisions have a much earlier deadline (mid-
November). Here are what the different application deadlines and
Early Decision: A legally-binding contract indicating that, if you
are accepted, you must attend that college (considering if
financial aid is adequate enough). You are not allowed to apply to other colleges if you are
accepted. This pool of applicants tends to be the most competitive.
Early Decision II: The second deadline to apply for early decision. Not all colleges participate,
so check with the specific college you are applying to. You will still get a decision earlier than
, often in February.
Early Action: Similar to early decision, you will be notified earlier whether you’ve been
accepted to the college of your choice. If accepted through early action, you are not required to
attend that college and can apply to other schools.
Regular Decision: The regular deadline for the school, which is usually January 1st
. All regular
decisions will be made by April 1st
If you would like more information about Early Decision or Action, you can read more here:
The Common Application, also known as the Common
App, is the college application used by a wide majority of
colleges and universities
(https://www.commonapp.org/Login). There are several
parts to the common application, in which you’ll have to
provide the following:
Your Basic Information
Your Family’s Basic Information
Clubs You Were Involved With
Letters of Recommendation
You will be able to choose from several essay questions. Pick one that fits you best! This is a
time to express your creativity and share any personal experiences. The essay is important
because it gives colleges an idea of who you are. When writing your essays, you should ask
current or previous English teachers to review them. They can provide insight and correct any
Supplements are additional sections colleges add to the application in order to get to know you
better. These may include additional essays, questions, or space to express yourself in other
ways, like through artistic work.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendations are really important because recommenders attest to your academic
ability and to your character. You should ask for
recommendations from teachers or mentors who:
Know you well (personally as well as academically)
Know how you have grown over time; The longer
Have challenged you to become a better person
You did especially well in their class
You improved your work a lot in their class
It is recommended that you ask teachers who taught courses
during your junior year. Each teacher has their own deadline as to when they would like students
to ask them for letters of recommendations, and some teachers have a limit of how many letters
they are willing to write, so act fast! m Also, it is a good idea to give them a copy of your resume
with all of the things you have done during your high school years Note: Your school might
have something similar to a resume you are required to give to teachers.
In addition, depending on your area of interest, you may want to ask those who taught you
relevant courses. For example, if you want to do engineering, you should ask one of your
math/science teachers to write your letter of recommendation. You will have three letters of
recommendations in total: two from teachers and one from your guidance counselor.
Most importantly, if your teacher has agreed to write you a letter of recommendation, please
write a thank you note on a card!
Interview (Optional unless otherwise stated)
Some schools allow students to have interviews with either current students or alumni (people
who have graduated from that school). This can add value to your application and it is an
opportunity for you to learn more about the school.
Financial Aid: Getting Help Paying for School
Each college’s total cost of attendance varies. When you look, there is usually a list or table
detailing what each of the expenses are. You can find the total cost from the financial aid site of
the college’s website.
Tuition: The amount of money the college charges for attending
Fees: Additional expenses needed (such as funds for student
Room: The cost of your dorm, which may vary depending on the
type of housing and number of roommates
Board: Food/meal plan (also depends on which one you choose)
Books + Supplies: Amount of money expected to pay for books and other school supplies
Personal/Miscellaneous Expenses: Amount of money expected to pay for travel and other
Applying for financial aid is critically important, because colleges use these forms to determine
the amount of aid a student is able to receive. Sometimes aid can cover the full total cost of
college. There are two different types of aid colleges can offer: need-based and merit-based. This
aid can come in the form of loans, scholarships, or grants.
Need-Based Aid: This is aid based on you and your
family’s income. The less you can contribute financially
to the cost of school, the more aid you receive.
Grants: Money given by the school or federal
government. This money does not have to be paid back.
Loans: Similar to grants, except that this money is
expected to be paid back. Like all loans, certain
conditions and interest apply.
Work-Study: Students work for the university (for about 6 hours a week) during the academic
year until you make the maximum amount you were awarded. For example, if you were awarded
$1,600 in work-study for the full academic year, you would typically work enough to earn $800
a semester. You may use this money to buy books, supplies, etc.
Merit-based Aid: This aid is based on grades, GPA, and extracurricular activities. Think of it as
a “reward” for being an excellent student, and a way for colleges to attract you to their
Scholarships: A small amount of money given to students, usually contingent on your GPA in
college. For example, to continue receiving a certain scholarship, you might have to maintain a
3.0 GPA. There are many different scholarships available for meeting different criteria.
What Forms are Needed?
There are two types of forms. All colleges and universities require you to submit the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some colleges might require Collegiate
Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. All colleges will state the deadlines for these forms. If you
submit forms after the deadline, you might not receive any or as much financial aid.
What if You Need Help?
If you need help filling out the FAFSA or are unfamiliar with the process, you should attend
FAFSA Days. These events, dedicated to helping students and their families fill out the FAFSA,
are held across the state of Massachusetts. They are free and open to the public, but registration
is required. To find more information and location of services, please see the following site:
Waiting for those Letters—Avoid Senioritis!
Unless you applied for early decision/action, you will receive acceptance letters (via e-mail or in
the mail) by April 1st
. Until then, continue to do well in school! Colleges still require you to
submit final transcripts, and if there is a significant drop in grades, they may rescind your
Chapter 5: Acceptance Letters and Choosing a College -
Grade Part 2
The Letters Are In!
By April 1st
, colleges will send you an e-mail or mail stating that a decision has been made or
will mail you their decision. There are three types of decisions: admitted, waitlist, deferred, and
Admission: Acceptance to the college/university
Wait-list: This means the college/university is willing to put you on
their wait list, meaning they will accept you if there is room in the
incoming class once other students have indicated whether they will
attend or not. There is no guarantee that you will be admitted. You
should decide whether you want to be on the wait list and e-mail the
school’s office of admission with a note sharing why you would like to attend.
Deferred: This option is possible solely for early decision/action. Deferral means that your
application has been moved from the early decision pool to the regular decision pool. You will
be competing with students who applied regular decision.
Rejection: Denial of admission to the college/university
Financial Aid Packages
Around the time of your acceptance, you will also receive your proposed financial aid package.
Review the financial aid package with your family. If you have questions or concerns about
financial aid, you may call the colleges’ financial aid offices. However, be aware of deadlines! If
you wait too long to reply by the designated time, some schools will reduce your financial aid.
Admitted Students Days
Each college will invite all admitted students and their
parents to Admitted Students Days (or some variation
of this). These usually take place during April vacation.
If you can go, it’s a good opportunity to learn more
about the school and what your student experience
might be like. Before you attend these events, it is a
good idea to write down any questions you may have
about the schools, including academics and student life.
Colleges/universities will send you the itinerary for the day, which will include different talks
and events about topics like study abroad, financial aid, and career services. Look at the itinerary
and see which sessions are most important to you. In addition to these sessions, there will be
chances for you to meet professors from various departments and students from a wide variety of
clubs. This is your opportunity to talk to current students about life on campus and any concerns
you may have.
Final Decision: Which College Should I Choose?
The deadline for your final decision is May 1st
. You can make one of three decisions: Yes, No or
Yes: You agree to attend the college.
Defer: You would like to attend the college but would like to start the following year. (For
example, if you defer for Fall 2016, that means that you won’t start until Fall 2017)
No: You will not attend the college.
Making this choice can be very difficult; there are a lot of factors to consider. Think about
making a list of pros and cons for each college you were accepted to and talk about this list with
your family. Once you make a final decision, a deposit by the final deadline is required to hold
Chapter 6: Need a Break from School? Consider a Bridge Year!
What to Do during a Bridge Year
There are many different reasons why people defer their admission and do a
“gap” or “bridge” year before starting college. Some people want to work
and help pay for school; others want to travel or do community service.
Whatever your decision is, there is something out there for everyone. You
can find some general information here:
Which Is the Right One for Me?
It will depend on what you are looking for during your bridge year. If you would like to travel
abroad, choose an international program. If you would like to do service in the U.S., consider
joining various AmeriCorps programs. Each program has its own benefits (and, in some cases,
costs). Some programs might require fees and others are paid. Some universities, including
Tufts, offer bridge-year programs for admitted students:
Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program
At Tufts University, Tisch College’s innovative bridge-year program provides accepted students
the opportunity to learn from a transformational year of full-time service, domestically or abroad,
before beginning their academic studies. The program has received generous support from
individual donors as well as Santander Bank, N.A., through its Santander Universities Division.
Most students accepted to Tufts University are eligible to apply to Tufts 1+4. Due to visa
restrictions, participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Financial support is available. Our highest need participants will receive full support.
Bridge-Year Fellows will develop bonds with others in the program by sharing in an on-
campus orientation, online activities during their service year, a wrap-up retreat, and
programs and events after arriving on campus.
During their service, Bridge-Year Fellows will be enrolled in a Tufts blended learning
course designed to integrate their service with academics, and facilitate reflection upon
For more information, please visit the following website:
Other Gap Year Resources
Study Abroad/Cultural Immersions
International Community Service
Domestic Community Service (paid)
About the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service is a national leader in civic
education, whose model and research are setting the standard for higher education’s role in civic
renewal. Serving every student at Tufts University, Tisch College prepares young people for a
lifetime of civic engagement and creates an enduring culture of active citizenship.
Tisch College’s College Access Mentoring Initiative (CAMI) provides college access for
students from underrepresented backgrounds in Tufts’ host communities. We believe that
everyone has a right to access higher education, and everyone deserves help. High school
students are be exposed to college life and encouraged to get started with the college process.
Students from different high schools and youth programs come to Tufts University to participate
in programs. A typical day for a high school visitor includes a tour, a meal with Tufts students,
student panels, and an interactive performance.
Shirley Mark, Director of Community Partnerships
Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
Medford, MA 02155
Shirley.Mark@tufts.edu | activecitizen.tufts.edu
About the First Generation College Student Council
The First Generation College Student Council at Tufts University aims to create a support
network for first generation college students in order to make sure that we are able to excel to our
fullest potential. The Council welcomes any student who self identifies with the first generation
college experience. By bridging the gap between Tufts resources and first generation college
students, the Council hopes to ensure that first generation college students are empowered and
supported on campus. The Council wishes to raise awareness and voice concerns about the first
generation community. We celebrate the unique experiences of first generation students.
Contact Information: email@example.com
About Massachusetts Campus Compact (MACC)
Massachusetts Campus Compact is a nonprofit coalition of 70 college and university presidents
committed to developing the civic engagement skills of students, building partnerships with the
community, and integrating civic engagement with teaching and research.
45 Temple Place
Boston, MA 02111
About the Lead Author: Kelly Nguyen
Kelly Nguyen is the current Massachusetts Campus Compact
AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) placed at Tufts
University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
and Center for STEM Diversity in partnership with Medford High School
and Josiah Quincy Upper School. Her main focus is on educational
poverty in the surrounding communities. She is invested in this work
because she is a first-generation, limited-income college graduate who is
passionate about education as a way out of poverty. Kelly believes that every student deserves
help, and every student deserves to go to college. She is the adviser for the College Access
Mentoring Initiative (CAMI) Coordinating Committee, where local youth programs and high
schools come to Tufts University in order to learn more about college. In conjunction with the
Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Diversity, Kelly co-
advises the STEM Ambassadors—a professional development program for undergraduates
where they go into local high schools to encourage youth to pursue STEM as a future major in
college. Prior to this position, Kelly received her Bachelor of Science in Molecular Genetics at
the University of Vermont. Kelly Nguyen will be one of two MA Campus Compact VISTA
Leaders in 2015-2016.