College Planning

Exploring Colleges:

The process of selecting a college can be an overwhelming one. After all, there are over 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone. Narrowing that list down begins with students knowing what they are looking for and what things are important to them. They may want to consider things like geographic location, school size, programs offered, cost of tuition, entrance difficulty, religious affiliation, campus resources, and sports, clubs or activities available. Once they have determined what they need and want from a college, it will be much easier to find colleges that meet their criteria. The following resources might be helpful in this process.

  • This website is designed to help students plan, apply and pay for college. Among the many resources available on this website, students can use a “Matching Assistant” tool to help them locate colleges of interest to them both inside and outside the state of Colorado. It also allows students to compare colleges side by side and to take virtual campus tours. Students can find these tools on the College in Colorado website under the “Apply” tab. For further information, students can check with their counselor.
  • Individual college websites: these sites typically offer a vast amount of information often including virtual tours of their campuses. offers a university and college database arranged alphabetically to help students locate particular institutions. Just type in “university search” in the Google search bar and then click on the link to “Google University Search.”
  • College Guide Books: There are many college guides that profile hundreds of schools. Local bookstores and libraries often carry a variety of these guides.

College Visits:

Each year college representatives from all over the state visit Rye High School. These visits are excellent opportunities for students to gather information and ask questions about particular programs and institutions. Students are encouraged to schedule college visits to schools that they are interested in attending.

Tips for Visiting Colleges:

There are essentially two types of college visits. The first type usually occurs early in the student’s high school career and is an opportunity to get a general idea of what different types of colleges are like. Visits of this nature may help a student determine what kind of school he/she would like to attend: two-year or four-year, large or small, urban or rural.

The second type of college visit is typically an opportunity for students to visit specific colleges that they may be interested in attending. A visit of this nature will afford the student the chance to examine dorm life, talk to students, sit in on classes, visit programs or departments of interest, and look at resources (like libraries, science labs, internet access, smart classrooms, etc.). Sometimes this type of visit is used to narrow down the list of colleges a student is considering for application. In other instances, students will conduct this type of in-depth campus visit after they have applied and been admitted. Then, based on the experience, they will make their college selection. In any case, if a student is seriously considering attending the college, an overnight visit is highly recommended.

Admissions Timelines:

Once they start researching colleges, students will discover that colleges have different application deadlines. Students should pay close attention to the deadlines for each of the colleges they are interested in attending. Additionally, students may need to decide whether they want to apply under an early application process or during the college’s regular admissions process. To help them determine what’s best for them, the different types of admissions options are outlined below:

Regular Decision: Each individual college or university selects a date by which all application materials must be submitted. For instance, if a college selects January 15th as their regular admission deadline, then students must submit their application, application fee, transcript, test scores, letters of recommendation and any other requested material by that date in order to be considered for admission. Most regular decision deadlines fall between December and March. There is no limit to the number of schools a student can apply to under the regular admission option. This is the process selected by a majority of students.

Early Decision: Some colleges and universities will offer students the opportunity to apply to their first choice institution by an early admission deadline. This is a deadline selected by the college that falls well in advance of their regular admission deadline-typically in the month of November. By applying Early Decision, the student is making a binding commitment to attend that school if he or she is accepted. Students may apply to other institutions under their regular application procedures but may only have one Early Decision application pending at any given time. The advantage to this method is that the college will typically notify the student of their admissions decision within four weeks. If the student is accepted, he or she is expected to enroll. If they do not, it is unlikely that another school will accept the student as colleges and universities typically honor one another’s binding decisions. Financial hardship is the only way that a student would be released from an Early Decision commitment.

Early Action: Unlike early decision, early action allows students to apply early to a school without having to make a commitment to attend. Students can apply to more than one school under this option and, even if they are accepted, they do not have to attend. Early action deadlines are usually in November and students are typically notified of acceptance decisions within four weeks.

Restrictive Early Action: Some schools will offer students the opportunity to apply early to their school but may place restrictions on student’s applications to other school’s early plans. Most commonly, a school will give the student the opportunity to apply to their school only through the early action program but will restrict them from applying to any other schools early. Students who are admitted under a Restrictive Early action plan are not obligated to accept the offer of admission and have until May 1st to inform the school of their decision.

Rolling Admissions: Some colleges and universities accept applications on an on-going basis and evaluate them as they receive them. This type of admissions process typically favors students who apply early. In November and December, colleges usually have many seats available for the next year so students with good but not great credentials will be considered. Later in the application process, colleges may be pickier as they will have fewer seats available.

College Application Process:

Senior students are encouraged to work closely with their counselor to ensure that all of their application materials are submitted on time. Students can turn in their college application materials to their counselor. The counseling office will mail applications for students. This process ensures that the institution receives all application materials in one complete package and minimizes the opportunity for individual pieces to get lost in the mail. Student submitted materials should include:

  • A completed application form. Even if the student has completed and filed the application online, he/she still needs to inform his/her counselor.
  • The application fee-if necessary. Many schools now offer students the opportunity to pay the application fee online. However, if a student wants or needs to mail the fee to the school, he or she can bring a check to the counseling office to be mailed with the rest of the application materials. This fee should always be in the form of a check or money order made payable to the college. Cash is not accepted.
  • An essay, if required. Many schools now offer students the opportunity to submit the essay online. In any case, in may be helpful for your counselor to have a copy to keep on file.
  • Letters of Recommendation, if required. Teachers are encouraged to turn in their letters of recommendation directly to the Counseling Office to be submitted with the rest of the student’s school materials.
  • An activity sheet, if desired. Students sometimes opt to include a copy of their activity sheet or student resume highlighting any special skills, work experience, and honors or awards.
  • Any other materials requested by the college (i.e. writing sample, photo).

The Counseling Office will add the following to the student’s application:

  • An Official Transcript:
  • Official ACT/SAT test scores, if available.
  • A completed secondary school/counselor report, if requested.
  • A profile of Rye High School.

NOTE: All college application materials should be completed and submitted to the Counseling Office at least two weeks prior to the college deadline! Students should pay close attention to whether the application needs to be “received by” the college on that date or “postmarked” by that date. Please be aware that the Counseling Office is closed over Winter Break. This means that counselors will not be available to process applications that are due during the break. Students with applications due during this time should turn in their application materials two weeks before the last day of school in December.

Entrance Exams:

As part of the application process, most colleges require students to take a college entrance exam designed to predict success in college. The two tests, described below, are written by separate organizations and are slightly different. Most colleges will allow you to submit scores from either exam. However, some colleges prefer or require one over the other. For more information including test dates as well as to register, go to the websites listed below.



Format: Multiple Choice
Time: Approximately 3 hours
Sections: English (45 minutes), Math (60 minutes), Reading (35 minutes), Science (35 minutes)
Scoring: One point for each correct answer No points for incorrect or unanswered questions 1 to 36 on each of the four sections as well as an overall, composite score NOTE: Currently, the State of Colorado requires high schools to administer the ACT test to all juniors during their spring semester. The ACT is given at Arvada in late April. This state sponsored exam is accepted at most colleges and universities.


Format: Multiple Choice and Student-produced responses
Time: Approximately 3.5 hours
Sections: Math, Reading, Writing
Scoring: One point for each correct answer No points for unanswered questions Lose one-quarter point for every incorrect answer Scaled scores range from 200 to 800 on each of the three sections and a composite score


SAT II: (Also called Subject Tests)
Format: Mostly Multiple Choice
Time: One hour for each test
Sections: There are currently 22 subject tests
Note: Many highly selective colleges require two or three Subject Tests in addition to the SAT I


Practice Exams:

PSAT: The PSAT is not a college entrance exam; however, it is a good predictor of how well a student will do on the SAT. It is also the qualifying exam for National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT, which is typically given at Rye High in October, is open to juniors. Students can register for the exam in the Counseling Office. The exam fee changes from year to year but is approximately $15.00. For more information on the PSAT and the National Merit Scholarship, check the College Board’s website at

PLAN: The PLAN is not a college entrance exam; however, it is a good predictor of how well a student will do on the ACT. It is also a valuable resource for career planning because of the extensive interest inventory included. The PLAN test is open to sophomore students only. It is typically given in November. Students can register in the Counseling Office. For more information on the PLAN test, check ACT’s website at .


Free Online Test Prep:

Financial Aid/Scholarships:

There are many types of financial assistance available for furthering an education beyond high school. In general, money available for college may be divided between public and private aid. Public, or federal aid, is supported by the United States Government and is, by far, the most common type of funding for school. This aid can take the form of loans subsidized by the government to ensure low interest rates and grants that do not have to be paid back at all. All federal aid is “need-based” or available to those families that have a demonstrated need for financial assistance to pay for tuition, books, fees and other costs associated with getting an education. In general, we encourage all students planning on attending a two- or four-year school to apply for federal aid rather than assume that they will not be eligible.

The application for federal aid is called the FAFSA, (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The best time to file the FAFSA is in January of the senior year. Students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA online at ; however, students can request a paper FAFSA by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or by visiting (Note: the online version of the FAFSA is processed much more quickly than submitting a hard copy through the mail. Typically, online forms are processed in four to six days as compared to four to six weeks through the mail.) Much of the information needed to complete the FAFSA is based on the federal tax return and many people find it useful to fill out both forms together. In either case, full knowledge of the previous year’s income is required to complete the FAFSA. Most of your questions regarding federal aid may be answered by reading the Funding Your Education publication available in the counseling office or by visiting

Private aid is available from many sources; however, most private aid is “merit-based.” In other words, it is available to students whose performance in high school or extracurricular activities has made them eligible to receive private funds for college. In addition to public aid (like loans, grants, and work study), individual colleges will offer private, merit-based aid in the form of scholarships with specific criteria. Sometimes students who complete and submit the college application are automatically considered for all of that particular college’s available scholarships. In other instances, students will need to fill out a separate scholarship application to be considered.

In addition to colleges, private aid is also available from various organizations and businesses. Many national companies like Coca-Cola and Kohl’s offer substantial college scholarships; however, these are highly competitive as many students typically apply each year. Local groups also offer college scholarships. Although the dollar amount of the scholarship may be less than that offered by national corporations, they are usually not as competitive as fewer students apply.

Scholarships Search Resources:

  • Rye’s counseling department has worked hard to develop a scholarship database. Scholarship opportunities are listed in the counseling office and available on the RHS website. Applications for these awards are available in the counseling office.
  • The College in Colorado website, is a valuable tool for students looking for financial assistance. Not only does the site provide information about various forms of financial assistance but it also provides links to other helpful sites.
  • There are many Internet sites that may assist students in their quest for private scholarships. These include
  • as well as many others.

College Opportunity Fund:

Created by the Colorado Legislature, the College Opportunity Fund provides a stipend to eligible undergraduate students who attend college in the state of Colorado. Students can find more information and apply for the fund by clicking on the “College Opportunity Fund” tab in the upper right corner of the website.

Scholarship Opportunities for Underclassmen:

Occasionally scholarship opportunities arise for freshman, sophomores and juniors. Typically these are in the form of a contest such as an essay contest or oratorical competition. Students interested in these opportunities can find information and applications in the Counseling Office.

Scholarship Scams:

Please beware that there are also many scams that prey on parent and student fears regarding educational funding. There are many companies that charge hundreds of dollars for services that are widely available for free. In general, a good rule of thumb in looking for private aid is DO NOT PAY MONEY TO GET MONEY. It is estimated that students and parents waste millions and millions of dollars unnecessarily in their pursuit of financial assistance for college. If you have a question, ask your counselor.

College Planning Timeline:


  • Read as much as possible. Studies show reading is one of the best ways to improve college entrance test scores and help students be more successful in their classes.
  • Take academic studies seriously from day one of ninth grade.
  • Take the EXPLORE test.
  • Look for opportunities to get involved in school and community activities.
  • Take time to evaluate career interest areas.
  • Develop a four year academic plan.
  • Establish a high school portfolio.
  • Find productive summer activities.
  • Remember–what is gained from high school will be directly proportionate to what is given to it.


  • Maintain academic progress; as things get more difficult, increase your effort.
  • Take the PLAN test (practice ACT) when it is offered first semester.
  • Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Examine your interests and aptitude.
  • Explore career opportunities in more depth through classes, College in Colorado, and/or independent research.
  • Start to explore postgraduate options by attending college fairs, college presentations, and through informal campus visits.
  • Review and update your academic plan and high school portfolio.
  • Take advantage of leadership opportunities whenever possible.
  • Explore meaningful summer activities.



  • In order to prepare for admission to college, take the most demanding academic schedule you can handle successfully.
  • Continue to be involved in worthwhile school/community activities and leadership programs.
  • Start to sort through and narrow college options using College in Colorado, the Internet, and college guide books.
  • Attend College Fairs and College Nights, get on mailing lists, and visit with College Representatives.
  • Take the PSAT. This is strongly encouraged for all college-bound juniors and necessary for anyone wishing National Merit recognition.


  • Schedule an individual conference with your counselor to:
    • Discuss post-graduation plans and begin the formal college planning process.
    • Review your strengths. Be sure to include grades, activities, test information, etc.
  • Plan for college admission tests and register for the ones appropriate to your needs (ACT, SAT, SAT II).
  • Start developing a list of colleges that appeal to you.
  • Review application deadlines and procedures.
  • Select appropriate classes for the senior year keeping in mind goals you have set. Continue to challenge yourself as much as possible.
  • Plan visits to college campuses over Spring Break.
  • Take AP exams if enrolled in AP classes.
  • Complete and return the NCAA Clearinghouse form if you plan to participate in a Division I or II sport in college.
  • Consider summer activities and how they relate to current interests; academic summer programs may prove valuable.


  • Attend college summer academic programs, if interested.
  • Visit college campuses.
  • Narrow your college list to 3 to 10 colleges that meet your criteria and peak your interest.
  • Contact all of these schools and notify them of your interest. Obtain admission and financial aid information and applications.
  • Work, travel, volunteer, or participate in other educational experiences.



  • Continue solid academic courses and performance.
  • Meet with your counselor to:
    • Verify graduation credits and college entrance requirements.
    • Review college choices and the application process.
  • Finalize teacher and counselor recommendations.
  • Review scholarship and financial aid information.
  • Consider re-testing (SAT, ACT, SAT II).
  • Meet with college representatives who visit your high school.
  • Attend College Fairs and College Nights.
  • Check on Academy and ROTC deadlines, if appropriate
  • Check admission applications and deadlines for the colleges you have chosen to apply to. Complete those with a November, December, or January deadline.
  • Complete and return the Profile Form if your college choices require it.


  • Complete college applications with February or Rolling Admission deadlines
  • Attend a Financial Aid Workshop at a local college if possible.
  • Complete the FAFSA and any additional institutional financial aid forms required and explore other financial aid opportunities further.
  • Submit additional credentials (new test scores, first semester grades, etc.) to colleges if requested.
  • Research and apply for scholarships through various resources including the college itself, College in Colorado,, etc.


  • Make final campus visits if needed.
  • Notify colleges of your decision to attend or not to attend.
  • Send confirmation and housing deposits.
  • Request that your final transcript and verification of graduation be sent to the college you plan to attend.
  • Take AP exams if enrolled in AP classes.

Higher Education Admission Requirements: (HEAR) Pre-collegiate curriculum

In 2003, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education adopted the Higher Education Admission Requirements which are entry requirements for students planning to attend any of Colorado’s public four-year colleges or universities. The requirements go into effect in two phases: Phase 1 for students graduating in 2008 and 2009, and Phase 2 for students graduating in 2010 and beyond. Private colleges and universities set their own admission standards, so students should contact those institutions directly for information regarding their enrollment policies. Additionally, public two-year colleges have open enrollment policies, meaning that students applying to these schools do not need to meet the following admissions requirements.

Students planning to attend a four-year college or university in Colorado will need to complete the following classes in order to fulfill the Higher Education Admission Requirements. Meeting the Higher Education Admissions Requirements does not guarantee admission to a four-year public institution. Colleges and universities may have additional requirements.

Academic Area 2010+ Graduates
English 4 years
Mathematics (Must include Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II or equivalents) 4 years
Natural/Physical Sciences (two units must be lab-based) 3 years
Social Sciences (at least one unit of U.S. or world history) 3 years
Foreign Language 1 year
Academic Electives 2years



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