Insider's Guide to College

The
Insider's Guide
to College

This insider’s guide to college is designed to be your roadmap to success. It will set you on a clear path toward pursuing an education at a selective college or university. During your college search for your dream school, make this list your own rather than following it exactly. There is no singular route when it comes to college admissions.

JUNIOR
YEAR

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Attend Pre-College Programs

Many schools offer pre-college programs for junior high and high school students. You'll make new friends, add to your résumé, and explore different subjects.

Learn More
RISING JUNIOR
Summer
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Register for Challenging Courses

Colleges want to see that you've taken advantage of the most rigorous courses offered at your school. For you that might mean Honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate courses. But don't lose yourself in the process; take courses that interest you, that you want to take. Find a way to make your schedule rigorous while also reflecting your interests.

RISING JUNIOR
Summer
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Create Your List of Schools

Think about what you won’t be able to live without versus what would just be nice to have. Get feedback from teachers, counselors, and family. Check online for lists, too. Others have been exactly where you are now.

Learn More
JUNIOR
Fall
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Pursue Extracurricular Activities and Hobbies

Like your academic pursuits, your extracurricular activities should reflect your personality. Don't join a volunteer organization or play soccer just because you think that's what a college wants to see; participate in activities that you actually enjoy, that demonstrate who you are. Compete in board game tournaments, develop your rock collection—whatever. Universities are looking for individuals, so be yourself!

JUNIOR
Fall
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Attend College Fairs

When are the schools on your list coming to your area? Ask them about everything, including their testing policy. Find out which tests are required or recommended. Don't be shy in person or afterwards. Interacting with counselors is a great way to demonstrate interest. Follow colleges on social media to see where they're visiting.

JUNIOR
Fall
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Meet Colleges at Your High School

Colleges and universities frequently visit high schools around the world to share information and give you an easy way to shop and chat with representatives. Don't pass this opportunity; even if there are no schools visiting from your list, you may find a new school you hadn't considered, or you might get some general admission tips.

JUNIOR
Fall
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Register for Spring SAT/ACT Tests

Take practice exams, get a good night's sleep, and stay focused. Don't assume that a school will admit you based solely on a score, but recognize that they will take them into consideration. Look into which schools have a test-flexible policy, meaning a wide variety of test results can fulfill their standardized testing requirement. This can be helpful if you feel that your AP or IB exam results, for example, are stronger than your SAT scores.

Learn More
JUNIOR
Fall
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Learn about the FAFSA and CSS Profile

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used to help determine your eligibility for all federal aid programs. The CSS Profile is used to determine your eligibility for need-based University of Rochester grant funding. There is a useful tool on the FAFSA called IRS Data Retrieval, which simplifies the application process for you. Follow the instructions on the FAFSA to take advantage of this option. You can also view our IRS Data Retrieval Process video. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of this option when submitting your FAFSA. Deadlines for Early Decision and Regular Decision application types can vary, and some schools have priority deadlines that may offer even better outcomes. It’s important to meet the deadlines listed and to respond promptly to all additional requests for information.

JUNIOR
Fall
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Earn Money for Your Achievements

There are national organizations like Raise.Me that enable you to earn scholarships throughout high school for good grades, volunteering, or participating in co-curricular activities. See if you qualify and if your dream schools participate.

JUNIOR
Spring
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Plan Your Courses for Senior Year

College coursework is rigorous. Try to make your last two years of high school mirror that if possible. The most challenging courses in your school—whether that's IB, AP, or honors—will prepare you for the work ahead.

JUNIOR
Spring
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Create a Résumé

Don't underestimate your extracurricular activities, community service, and awards. Your résumé should showcase all that you've accomplished. It creates a clear picture for the schools you send it to.

Learn More
JUNIOR
Spring
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Start Thinking About Financing

Many schools offer quick and easy online tools for prospective students and families to get a customized estimate of the cost of a year at their institution.

JUNIOR
Spring

SENIOR
YEAR

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Visit Campuses

Register for campus tours, admissions interviews, and information sessions. Colleges also offer summer programs, so check websites for upcoming events.

Learn More
RISING SENIOR
Summer
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Refine Your List

Narrow it down to the schools that offer your must-haves. For schools you didn't get a chance to visit, see if they have a virtual tour or browse their social media to get a feel for them.

RISING SENIOR
Summer
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Register for Fall SAT/ACT Tests

Even if it's the second time taking them, the fall test is another chance to do better. Schools allow you to submit the best of your scores.

Learn More
RISING SENIOR
Summer
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Attend Summer Academic Programs

Many schools offer pre-college programs for junior high and high school students. You'll make new friends, add to your résumé, and explore different subjects.

Learn More
RISING SENIOR
Summer
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Decide Which Application Timeline is Best for You

Schools typically offer different application timelines. You can usually choose between applying Early Decision and committing if admitted, applying Early Action, or applying Regular Decision later in the school year. There may be other timelines offered, so make sure you understand your options and their requirements.

Learn More
SENIOR
Fall
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Brainstorm Essay Topics and Supplements

Most schools require an essay. Some even let you submit artwork, videos, or research materials as a virtual portfolio. Whatever you choose, it's a great way to present the real you.

Learn More
SENIOR
Fall
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Consider Which Teachers are Best Suited to Write Your Recommendations

Have a favorite teacher? One who has inspired you, pushed you to new heights, nominated you for an award? They're the ones you should ask.

SENIOR
Fall
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Meet with Your School Counselor

This is a great way to discuss your college list and plans.

SENIOR
Fall
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Follow Colleges on Social Media

Follow the schools on your short list on social media to get important updates, reminders, and to get a sense of the student body and campus culture. And don't be afraid to interact with them!

SENIOR
Fall
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Meet with Colleges if They Visit Your High School

It's one thing to look at a school's website and social media; it's another thing to ask questions face-to-face.

SENIOR
Fall
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Attend Open-House Programs

See the schools on your list up close if you haven't yet. Walk the campus, visit departments, and see if things click.

SENIOR
Fall
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Schedule Interviews with Admissions Offices

Even if it's not required, an interview is an excellent chance to show your interest. Share the story that only you can tell. This means a lot to a school.

SENIOR
Fall
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Get an Early Start on Applications

If you plan on applying early to a school, allow yourself enough time to assemble all your materials and submit them before the deadlines.

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SENIOR
Fall
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Be Aware of Deadlines

Admissions and financial aid offices process thousands of applications each year. Complete yours on time. Keep a spreadsheet to stay organized.

Today is our final application deadline! 🐝 #BeAYellowJacket

A post shared by Rochester Admissions (@uradmissions) on

SENIOR
Fall
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Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Allow your teachers and counselors adequate time to write these as they may be asked to write letters for others. The beginning of your senior year is a great time to do this.

SENIOR
Fall
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Start Working on Your College Essays

Write it, revise it, and allow someone else to read it. Be clear, precise, and express what makes you stand out as an applicant.

Learn More
SENIOR
Fall
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Update Your Résumé

Include all your most recent activities and accomplishments.

Learn More
SENIOR
Fall
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Send Your SAT/ACT Scores

Now that you've taken the test, send your best scores to the schools you're applying to.

SENIOR
Fall
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Complete and Submit Your Applications

Keep any confirmation emails for your records. Check online portals to make sure colleges have what they need.

SENIOR
Fall
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Learn about the FAFSA and CSS Profile

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used to help determine your eligibility for all federal aid programs. The CSS Profile is used to determine your eligibility for need-based University of Rochester grant funding. There is a useful tool on the FAFSA called IRS Data Retrieval, which simplifies the application process for you. Follow the instructions on the FAFSA to take advantage of this option. You can also view our IRS Data Retrieval Process video. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of this option when submitting your FAFSA. Deadlines for Early Decision and Regular Decision application types can vary, and some schools have priority deadlines that may offer even better outcomes. It’s important to meet the deadlines listed and to respond promptly to all additional requests for information.

SENIOR
Fall
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What to do while waiting for your decision

For regular decision applicants, now is the most anxious stage during the admissions process: the waiting time!

Waiting Waiting Waiting
SENIOR
Fall
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Look for outside scholarships

Outside scholarships are a wonderful thing. What exactly is an outside scholarship? First of all, it's free money. It's free money that comes from an organization outside of your school. There are thousands of outside scholarships out there just waiting for the right student to win their metaphorical hearts!

Outside Scholarships
SENIOR
Fall
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Learn how to afford your education

Congratulations on being admitted! We know that finances are a big part of the college decision-making process. For many of you, the question “Can I afford it?” will be weighing heavily on your mind as the May 1 decision deadline approaches. So, what are some of the considerations you and your family need to think about when it comes to affording an education?

Can I Afford It?
SENIOR
Spring
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You’ve been admitted—now what?

Congratulations! Now it’s time to decide if you are going to accept. If so, make sure to submit your enrollment deposit. Your deadline should be listed in your admit letter. If you’d like to defer (wait to attend the school for a semester or year), be sure to submit that request promptly. You’ll receive your financial aid and merit scholarship information shortly after your admit letter. Also, be sure to look out for invitations to admitted student events both on campus and in your area!

Now What After You're Admitted
SENIOR
Spring
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You’ve been waitlisted—now what?

Every year, applicants are invited to join the alternate list. If you’re admitted from the alternate list, you’ll have the same status as any other admitted student; you can live in on-campus housing, attend Orientation, and retain your full eligibility for financial assistance. If you remain interested in attending, be sure to complete the steps that will keep your application active. Many schools use an Alternate List Reply Form. Completing this form sooner maximizes your chances for admission. In particular, those students interested in the option for first enrollment at Rochester in the spring should complete it quickly, and indicate that interest. There’s no penalty or risk for this; students who have an interest in this option will retain their space on the Alternate List for first entrance in the fall as long as space is available. Only those who respond affirmatively will be reconsidered for admission. Your application will earn another individual review if the opportunity to extend more offers presents itself.

SENIOR
Spring
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You’ve been denied—now what?

If pursuing a degree at institutions like Rochester remains your long-term goal, talk with an admissions counselor about establishing a transfer plan. Many students enroll as upperclassmen each year, after attending another accredited college or university and succeeding in a rigorous set of full-time courses.

Apply as Transfer
SENIOR
Spring

About Rochester

Why Choose Rochester?

Study what you love without wasting time in classes that don’t interest you.

Do real research as an undergraduate.

Team up with world-renowned professors.

Meet students from around the globe.

Seek a challenge, greater scope, and deeper involvement.

Application Deadlines
Application Notification
Early Decision Nov 1 Dec 15
Regular Decision Dec 1* / Jan 5 Apr 1

* Applications received prior to December 1 will be given the strongest consideration for admission and merit scholarships.

97%

First-Year Retention Rate

275+

Student Organizations

77%

Students Involved in Research

23

NCAA Division III Teams

Track Your Progress

Junior Year

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Rising Junior Summer

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Junior Fall

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Junior Spring

Senior Year

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Rising Senior Summer

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Senior Fall

Dream College Podcast

20 Tips to Get Into Your Dream College

Seasoned admissions professionals from the University of Rochester spill the beans on what you need to do—and what you really, really need to avoid. Quadcast host Sandra Knispel speaks with admission directors Jason Nevinger and Kim Cragg about how to drastically improve your chances of getting into your dream school.