StART College Readiness & Scholarship Guide

Expanding Horizons College Preparatory Program

The StArt College Readiness and Scholarship Guide is designed to assist you with applying to colleges, secondary education, and scholarships. The following topics are covered:

Keep a Calendar

Work Hard and Get Involved

Your Guidance Department Appointment

Creating an Information Sheet or Brag Sheet

Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

Understanding Standardized Tests

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate

Refining Your College Search

NYS Higher Education

College Applications

Financial Aid



Lifetime Salaries



The Common App

The Common App is used by more than 600 colleges and universities across the country and the world.

  • Many colleges and universities require The Common App as part of their application process.

  • The Common App collects all of your information about your home, education, activities, and exams for every college on your list.

  • Some schools will require supplemental material in addition to the Common App.

  • Make sure you keep track of application deadlines because they will be different for each school even if they use the Common App.

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Keep A Calendar

Write down every deadline as soon as you find out about them.

  • It can be a hard copy or on your cell phone

  • Make college-related items a different color (hint red) than the rest of your calendar.

Throughout this guide you will see the words ADD TO CALENDAR in bold.



f you are interested in theatre or music take the summer before your senior year to prepare your audition material. The National Unified Audition took place the end of January last year.

Enter contests that showcase your passion for the arts or theatre, for example, the Scholastic Arts and Writing Contest.

If you are interested in a fine arts major work on a portfolio the summer before your senior year and consider creating a web portfolio.

National Portfolio Day is in November at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. 


Work Hard + Get Involved

Schools use these factors to determine what kind of student you will be at their school.

  • Take the hardest courses you can handle and still maintain good grades.

  • Libraries are great resources.  In addition to books on all aspects of the college readiness process, there are classes and seminars on getting into college, and postings about local clubs or volunteer opportunities.

  • Write down the complete titles, the position held, time spent, and years involved to use on your college application.

  • Get involved with extracurricular activities. It can be an after-school job, club, or volunteer work.


Requesting Letters of Recommendation

If you are uncertain on how to go about requesting a Letter of Recommendation you should read this article by Rebecca Safier “How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation: Complete Guide”

  • You need at least two letters of recommendation and maximum of three from teachers. The first two should be letters from prior year high school teacher in your primary subjects i.e. math, science, english and social studies (history).

  • The third letter is from an adult with whom you have a strong connection with it can be a teacher in a specialty area or somebody outside the school. Read each college application carefully. Many will tell you recommendation letters from primary subject areas only. You may be able to attach the third letter with the additional information section of your college application.

  • Ask the teachers if they want a copy of your personal information sheet sometimes called a brag sheet.

  • Teachers need time to write a personal letter so ask at least a month before the application is due if not earlier.  ADD TO CALENDAR

  • Sometimes more tenured teachers are known for writing a strong recommendation letter. The recommendation letter is supposed to personalize your application to make you come to life so choose the teachers wisely.

Remember your favorite teacher is probably in demand and may be overwhelm with requests so get your request in early. Follow up before the deadline. ADD TO CALENDAR

Creating an Information Sheet or Brag Sheet

An Information Sheet or a Brag Sheet as it is sometimes referred too is similar to a resume but not as formal. It is used to provide additional information to a person you are asking for a Letter of Recommendation or can supplement a College Application. You can learn more here.

  • A Brag Sheet should be one page or less

  • Use bullet points to keep the information clear and concise

  • Include traditional academic and extracurricular activities

  • Include additional information such as most outstanding accomplishment, life events, greatest strengths academically and personally, what you are interested in studying

Your Guidance Department  Appointment

Have a conversation with your guidance counselor about your plans to go to college and ask them for advice. Some sample questions you can ask:

  • Can you recommend any colleges with my major?

  • Do you know any prior years students with the same major? What schools do they attend?

  • Do any of these colleges recruit from our high school?

  • Which of these schools offer the best financial aid package?

  • How long before the college application deadline do I need to notify you I’m applying to a college? ADD TO CALENDAR

  • When do I have to have my letters of recommendation to the guidance department? Add to calendar. Remember students are responsible for submitting the application and having the standardized test scores sent to the college.

  • Is there a school policy for letters of recommendation?

  • Are there limits to the number of teachers and when a student can ask for a letter?

  • Is there a form you need to give the teachers?

  • Would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation?

  • Do you want the information sheet I created about myself?

  • Does our school have access to a college search program such as Naviance? If yes, ask for your user name and password.

  • Do I qualify for a fee waiver for the ACT or SAT exam?

  • Will our school be hosting or going to a college fair? ADD TO CALENDAR

  • Are any colleges or universities planning to recruit at the high school? ADD TO CALENDAR

  • How do you sign up for an interview with the college recruiter? Add to calendar. Many times college recruiters will accept you and offer you scholarship money during the high school interview. Even if you don’t want to go to the college its great practice and its free.

  • Does our school offer an SAT or ACT prep course, a college information seminar, and/or a financial aid seminar? Is there a cost associated with these events? Sign up and ADD TO CALENDAR

  • Does our school keep a list of local, private, and corporate scholarships? ADD TO CALENDAR


Understanding Standardized Tests

Standardized test requirements vary from college to college. Most schools require you take either the SAT (SAT 1) or ACT.

A few highly selective schools will ask for SAT II Subject Tests in addition to the SAT or ACT exam.

The SAT Subject Tests (SAT II)

  • SAT Subject Tests are college admission exams on twenty specific subjects.

  • These test are a way to showcase your strengths and interests.

  • SAT Subject Tests are offered in May and June each calendar year.

  • You can submit an SAT II exam score to a college even if they do not require it on the application.

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB)

Both the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs give high school students an opportunity to pursue college-level studies while still in high school.

The Advanced Placement Test (AP)

  • These tests are related to intensive study courses possibly offered in your school. Only some schools offer these type of classes so don’t worry if your school doesn’t colleges know your high schools course offerings.

  • The  AP exam is a way to earn college credits prior to attending college. The exam is graded from 1 to 5 and if you receive a 3 or higher you may receive college credit for the class.

  • If your school offers Advanced Placement Tests they will provide you with the information to sign up for the exam.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

  • IB is an international program growing in popularity in the United States. There are nearly 4,000 IB schools in close to 150 countries.  

  • Students take a standard set of courses and corresponding assessments in the rigorous two-year program, which they complete during their junior and senior year.

  • There are additional requirements such as community service and a research paper.

The American College Testing Program (ACT)

  • The ACT is a 2 hours and 55 minutes to 3 hours and 40 minutes long test on math, reading, english, science and an essay (optional).

  • In addition to signing up for the exam  the website offers an online course (fee) and a free study guide that can be downloaded in English or Spanish.

  • You may qualify for an ACT Fee Waiver so ask your Guidance Counselor.

  • The ACT is offered six times each school calendar year from September to June. To avoid late fees you will need to registration is over a month in advance. ADD TO CALENDAR

  • You can have four colleges or universities receive your ACT test scores for no charge. The deadline for sending scores for free is the Thursday after you take the exam. After that date the cost is $12 per score regular processing. If you send one test score to four schools that is $48 in savings.

  • There are many study guides available at your local library and resources on line to study for the ACT exam including:

  • Kaplan Free ACT Event 

  • Pinterest Boards

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

  • The SAT is a 3 hours to 3 hours and 50 minutes long test on evidence based reading and writing, math, and an essay (optional).

  • In addition to signing up for the exam the website has a link to Khan Academy, A free SAT Prep course provided by the CollegeBoard.

  • The New SAT is a three hour long test on evidence based reading and writing, math, and an essay (optional).

  • The SAT fee waiver information is available on the website.

  • The SAT is offered seven times each school calendar year from October to June. To avoid late fees you will need to register over a month in advance. ADD TO CALENDAR

  • You receive four free score reports every time you register for the SAT. These four score reports must be used at the time of registration or up to nine days after test day. After that date the cost is $11 per score report for regular processing. If you send one test score to four schools that is $44 in savings.

  • There are many study guides available at your local library and resources online to study for the SAT exam

There are many study guides available at your local library and resources online to study for these exams


Refining Your College Search

Narrowing down your college search can be daunting. Here are some search tools to make the process easier.

College Search Websites

Use two or more College Search Websites to make a list of schools you are interested in attending.

Choose Your Future

A resource that helps students prepare for college and careers. This website is unique because it includes technical education, STEM Schools, and College for Undocumented Students.


A resource that helps students with the college search and majors.

National Center for Education Statistics

A college search tool that has a college affordability and transparency section. The website allows you to form a side by side comparison of schools and export your search into a spreadsheet.

Playbill EDU

A resource for students that want to major in theater arts, dance, or music.


A four step process to college to your college search.


The login for this website needs to be provided by your high school. The website provides students with a scattergram showing a comparison of their GPA plus SAT and/or ACT scores to other students that applied to the same college from their high school in the prior year and shows whether the students were accepted.

College Confidential

A student and parent forum on Colleges and Universities. There is a Supermatch function that allows students to select attributes they want in a school to help determine a good fit for them.


This website has college planning and search categories.

College Scorecard

A resource provided by the US Department of Education. The website provides a college search and financial aid calculator.


The website allows you to research degrees, colleges and places.


Attend College Fairs

Based on your College Search Website List select five to ten colleges that will be at the fair.

  • Bring a pen, pre-printed stickers (name, address and email address) and a notebook. 

  • Prepare questions in advance specifically for the colleges you identified in your College Website Search . Fairs can be extremely overwhelming so a little work before you enter will change your whole experience.

  • ASK QUESTIONS.  Show them you’re a serious student open the notebook to their page. Ask what is important to you.

    • Majors you are interested in pursuing. If in theater, music, or the arts do they require an audition, portfolio, or video?

    • Learn more about clubs and organizations you are interested in joining. Do most students pledge a Fraternity or Sorority? Is that something you want to do?

    • What types of admission does the school offer and when are the deadlines? ADD TO CALENDAR

    • Write down the names of scholarships specific to their school. Ask about deadlines and the application process? ADD TO CALENDAR

    • Other than completing the FAFSA form does the school require any additional financial aid forms? What is the school’s deadline for all financial aid forms? Is the school need blind? ADD TO CALENDAR

    • What kind of campus housing is available?  Is campus housing guaranteed for all four years?

    • When is the best time to visit the campus? Do they allow overnight visits? Or if you know you are definitely going to be there on a certain date ask if you can interview with them while visiting the campus?

    • Does the recruiter hold interviews in New York? ADD TO CALENDAR

    • Ask for their business card and write a thank you note if they spent a long time with you. Recruiters meet a lot of students and you want to stand out in their minds. If you are unable to visit the school this may be the only time you can meet with this recruiter.

  • Make a generic list of questions for all other Colleges and Universities.

  • Schools ask students to fill out postcards to receive additional information and it’s much easier to attach a sticker. Sometimes schools will send you an application fee wavier letter which can save you as much as $50 to $75 in application fees.

  • The biggest college fair in our area is the New York National College Fair at the Jacob Javitis Convention Center.

Visit Colleges and Universities

We know it is not always possible to visit schools before applying. Most schools now have virtual tours online. Look for the same type of things you would in a real visit.

The College Visit

  • Before spending the money and time visiting a campus go on virtual tours online.
  • Book online a formal tour of the campus before your trip.  Tours are limited so try to book in advance especially during school breaks. Remember tours are free and you can always cancel.
  • Contact the admissions office and ask to set up an interview and audition while on campus. While on the phone ask if it is possible to sit in on a class.
  • If at all possible try to go while classes are in session.
  • When on a tour walk next to the tour guides so you can ask them questions and hear other peoples questions. Instead of 'do you like your classes' maybe ask 'what was your favorite class and why'? What activities are you involved in? Do you know anyone involved in an activity that you’re interested in? How’s the food and dorm life? What do students do on the weekend? How important is greek life? If you don’t want to pledge you won’t want to go to a school that has a large greek presence.
  • While on campus don’t be shy. Leave yourself time to walk the campus without a formal guide.  Go into the student union and look around to see if there are activities. Talk to the students and teachers. Do they seem friendly? Have lunch in a dining hall. Do you like the food? Pick up the school newspaper. Does it list events on campus? Would you be interested in going to these events?
  • Once you’ve been accepted to a school try to arrange an overnight stay. Do not go to party!

The College Interview

  • Dress to impress as if you are going on a job interview.
  • Bring at least three copies of a resume or information sheet to the interview and if your grades are good a recent transcript. It is much easier to talk about yourself if you have something in front of you to reference.
  • Know the name and author of a book that you recently read. Be able to talk about it to the interviewer.
  • Be able to answer what is your favorite subject? And Why?
  • Be able to answer who was your favorite teacher? And Why?
  • Research the school.
  • Be able to answer what you plan on majoring in? It’s okay to say you are undecided about a major but you are interested in a major the school offers.
  • Be able to answer what activities you would like to get involved with on campus? Look at their list of clubs and activities. Choose one or two that interest you.
  • Ask the interviewer about scholarships, financial aid, and merit aid available at the school.

NYS Higher Education

New York State Higher Education Service Corp

This New York State website will walk you through every step of the college entrance process in New York State.

  • Why Go? College changes your life in more ways than you can imagine.
  • Checklist - Stay on track with our step-by-step plans based on your high school class year.
  • Research - Everything you need to find the college thats right for you.
  • Apply - Applying to college doesn’t have to be hard. We’ll walk you through it.

Macaulay Honors College at CUNY

Learn more here. All Macaulay students receive:

  • Undergraduate tuition* scholarship** (excludes fees)
  • Laptop computer
  •  Opportunities to pursue global research, study, service, and internships
  •  Cultural Passport to NY arts and cultural venues

Many students also receive housing support. See the FAQs for more information about the Macaulay scholarship package. 

SUNY - State University of New York System

The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States with 64 institutions, including research universities, academic medical centers, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, colleges of technology and an online learning network. They educate approximately 463,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs, and nearly 2 million in workforce and professional development programs.

The NYS STEM Incentive Program

The NYS STEM Incentive Program provides a full SUNY tuition scholarship to the top 10 percent of students in each NYS high school if they pursue a STEM degree in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program and agree to live in NYS and work in a STEM field in NYS for five years after graduation.

CUNY - City University of New York System

The City University of New York provides high-quality, accessible education for more than 269,000 degree-credit students and 247,000 adult, continuing and professional education students at 24 campuses across New York City.



The College Application

College Admission Types

There are five main types of college admissions and a few secondary types primarily for the Ivy League.

  • Regular Decision is the most common application. Applicants submit their application by a college designated deadline.
  • Rolling Decision allows the applicant to apply any time during the admissions period usually September through July and the school responds to each application on a first come first serve bases. This is common with large state universities.
  • Open Admissions accepts almost all students that apply. Community colleges and many online schools have this type of enrollment.
  • Early Decision this is binding which means YOU AGREE TO GO TO THIS SCHOOL. If you get accepted you must remove all other applications. You are only allowed ONE Early Decision school. Some schools offer Early Decision II allowing you to apply Early Decision at a later date.
  • Early Action this is non-binding and allows you to apply earlier than regular decision students. Early Action applicants receive their decision letters before the Regular Decision Students. Most Early Action schools give no restriction on your other applications. However some schools like Yale have a Single Choice Early Action which limits what other schools you can apply too. Some schools offer Early Action II allowing you to apply Early Action at a later date but still earlier than regular decision.

If a student is not accepted to the college of their choice they can either receive a denial of admissions or a deferral. If a student receives a deferral they may be admitted at a later date. If you want more information on the subject, visit this website.

Need Blind Admissions

Colleges that are Need-Blind DO NOT take into consideration a family’s finances when deciding whether to admit a potential student. They often are some of the best schools and universities in the country and give significant financial aid to students that can “demonstrate financial need”. See advisor for more information and a list of college and universities.

Grade Point Average Calculator

Converting a letter grade into a 4.0 scale.

US Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center

This Federal Website is an excellent tool to determine the estimated cost of attending college.

  • Net Price Calculator Center

  • 90/10 Information

  • College Affordability and Transparency List


Financial Aid

Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

  • Largest provider of student financial aid in the country.

  • Aid is in the form of grants, loans, and work-study funds.

  • Aid is based on your parents tax return so ask them to complete it early. The information can be estimated but will need to be revised based on the actual return.

  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) can be submitted either online (the preferred method) or on paper any time after January 1 and most schools deadlines are in early February.

The Federal Student Aid Website

This a must read for anyone applying for financial aid.

This website explains the various terms associated with Financial Aid including Expected Family Contribution, Cost of attendance (COA), and Need-based Aid.

CUNYFirst College Financial Aid Guide

Brooklyn College Financial Aid Guide

Collegedata your online college advisor by 1st Financial Bank

FinAid! The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid


Scholarship Guide

Be careful! Not all scholarships are legitimate. A scholarship should never ask for money of any kind! Think twice before giving out personal information.

Does it seem too good to be true? Then it may be a scam!

Scholarships Advice Websites

Avoid Making These 4 Scholarship Search Mistakes from US News

4 Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

There’s an App for That

Scholly Scholarship Search Version 1.1.4 available for free on iTunes.  

The Gist

Read the Scholarship directions. Is it right for you? Before starting an application for a scholarship make sure you read all directions. Ask yourself who, what, where, when, and how?

  • Who? Who is the scholarship for? Do I qualify? Do not waste your time on a scholarships that you only meet part of the eligibility criteria.  Don’t ignore small scholarships they can add up and less people are likely to apply.

  • What? What are they asking me to do? Did you answer all the questions and attach all the necessary documents? Did you proofread everything? Stay organized create a folder for each application. Store in separate files completed, work in progress, and potential scholarships.

  • When? When is the deadline? Do the earliest scholarships first. Be honest about how much time you have to work on the application. It is better to complete an easy application then have only half of a hard application. Add to Calendar

  • Where? Where did I find this scholarship is it real or a scam? Avoid Scholarship Scams. Some signs a scholarship maybe a scam: They ask for an “application fee”, they offer to apply for you with a “service fee,”  the scholarship is first come first serve, or if it involves an unsolicited offer of money, Also, are they asking for too much personal information such as your social security number to apply. Everyone should read this article on avoiding scams

How? How do they want me to submit my application? If you are required to mail the application send it in a mailing envelope or box prior to the deadline do not fold. Use a printer cartridge with enough ink to print properly.

Search the College or Universities Website

  • Most colleges and universities offer scholarships to attend their schools. Look at their website see if you are eligible.

  • In addition to the large scholarships posted on the website there may be an opportunity for smaller scholarships. Once you’ve been accepted contact the school inquire about additional funding.

Search your Community for Scholarships

  • There are many philanthropic and non-profit organizations that may offer awards.

  • Visit your school or local public library to research scholarships.

  • Your parents or legal guardians place of employment may offer scholarships to employees and their dependents. Ask your parents to go on the companies website, or ask your parents to talk to their supervisors or union representative

  • Look at your high school website for scholarship information.

Have your Guardian Sign Up for UPromise

  • This is a free program. Companies give a small percentage of purchase dollars to students for college.



Scholarship Websites

There are many websites that can provide lists of scholarships. These scholarships are too numerous and are updated everyday so it is impossible for us to compile them all in one place. In addition to these websites look for the word Scholarship throughout this document for other scholarship opportunities. We have NOT VERIFIED every scholarship on these websites.

Searching for Specific Scholarships

  • Here are examples of other scholarships you can research:
  • Scholarships for College
  • Scholarships for High School Seniors
  • Scholarships for women
  • Scholarships for men
  • Scholarships for first generation college students
  • Scholarships for first year college students
  • Scholarships for minorities
  • Scholarships for Business Majors
  • Scholarships for Science Majors
  • Scholarships for Hispanics
  • Scholarships for Egyptians
  • Scholarships for _________ ETC, ETC

The following is a list of outside scholarship/grant search engines:

 Financial Aid Scholarship Database -- A rotating list of scholarships that have been sent to the Financial Aid office

American Association of University Women Educational Foundation -- Fellowships, grants, and awards provided by the AAUW

College Aid Sources for Higher Education -- Scholarship search provided by Sallie Mae. You must have an e-mail address to receive the results of your search

College Board Scholarship Search -- Enter information about yourself and search for relevant scholarships

College Scholarships -- Scholarship search engine -- Scholarship search engine, with listings totaling more than $1 billion

Free Financial Aid Search -- Scholarship search and other financial aid information

Hispanic College Fund -- Scholarship program for Hispanic Students

Gates Millennium Scholars Program -- A program that provides scholarships and fellowships to African-American, Native American, Hispanic American, and Asian-Pacific American students

Latino College Dollars -- Scholarships for Latino Students

National Science Foundation -- Programs supported by the National Science Foundation

 Point Foundation -- Scholarships for LGBT Students

Scholarship Scams -- A guide to common scholarship scams, consumer information, and protection -- Scholarship search engine

Super College Scholarship Search -- Free scholarship search and information to help students get into and pay for college

CHEGG Scholarship Search Database -- Free Scholarship search and information database

GoodCall -- Scholarship search engine.

Money Geek -- Scholarships for Women Guide

Money Geek -- Scholarships for Asian Students

Money Geek -- Scholarships for Black Students

Money Geek -- Scholarships for Native American Students

ezDinero Latino Scholarship Fund -- Scholarship for Latino Students

DACA Scholarships -- Scholarships for DACA/undocumented Students

MVP Visuals -- Scholarships for Graphic Arts and Design or Applied Arts majors

socialcirclecards Scholarship -- Scholarship for Women

WyzAnt College Scholarship -- Scholarships for any student attending a college or university

76th & Newbury $500 Art & Design Scholarship -- Graphic Arts & Design or Applied Arts majors