Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

When do we need to start thinking about the college admissions and application process?
Do I need to decide on my major before I apply to college?
If I don't "ace" the SATs or ACTs, am I doomed?
When applying for B.F.A./Conservatory programs, does academic achievement or audition matter more?
How do students learn about and prepare for the audition portion of an application?
What do I do with all the forms that the colleges require from PPAS (such as teacher recommendations and counselor reports)?
Should I apply only to colleges that I know I can afford?
How does PPAS help students prepare for college entrance exams like the SAT and SAT II?
How important are extracurricular activities, summer programs, and community service? What are the colleges looking for?
When do we go on college visits and how do we know what to look for?
How does PPAS help students prepare for college admissions interviews?
How does PPAS help students with college application essays?
How does PPAS help parents to navigate and survive the college application process?
Should I apply only to "prestigious" colleges?

When do we need to start thinking about the college admissions and application process?
Students begin thinking about the college admissions process as early as the tenth grade when all students take the PSAT for the first time. Some students may also elect to take subject area SAT II's after completing a tenth grade class. March of the eleventh grade, however, is when students officially begin preparing for their individualized college search. Students register for the May or June SAT in April. They also see an in-class presentation about college admissions (research, the application, the essays, resumes, etc.) Students also meet individually with their college advisor during the spring term. Top

Do I need to decide on my major before I apply to college?
Yes, if you are applying for a BFA program in the arts. For everyone else, no. The average college student changes his or her major three times. However, if you are sure about a career field, it can help you narrow down your college choices. Otherwise, find a school where you will be comfortable and which offers a wide range of majors and programs. Top

If I don't "ace" the SATs or ACTs, am I doomed?
No. The strength of your curriculum, your grades, your essay and recommendations, your commitment to activities, and if applicable, your audition, are all important elements of your application. Still, for better or for worse, test scores do count and they might even prevent you from getting into your top schools. It is the job of the college advisor to help students apply to a range of schools so that you will be able to go to college no matter what. There are currently a few schools that do not require standardized test scores or waive the requirement if the student's GPA is high enough. Be advised that many of these are still very competitive. You can see a list of the schools that are SAT/ACT optional on the testing section of our website.
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When applying for B.F.A./Conservatory programs, does academic achievement or audition matter more?
That depends. Some colleges will not even allow you to audition until the admissions board approves your application. Other schools don't care about grades at all. Still others look at the audition and the academic record together as a complete package, giving neither a set weight. We have contacted the performing arts departments of many top programs to get more information about how they admit students. You can view this information by going to the Top Performing Arts tab and looking at the specific major you want to research. Top

How do students learn about and prepare for the audition portion of an application?
In some ways, the entire high school experience has been a preparation for the audition. Our students have been learning the skills and developing the talent they need to audition since freshman year. Nevertheless, PPAS offers audition technique class that covers proper etiquette, introducing monologues, transitioning in and out of character and other important audition preparation. PPAS also offers individual coaching for students working with specific material. Top

What do I do with all the forms that the colleges require from PPAS (such as teacher recommendations and counselor reports)?
Colleges ask for stuff. Even when a student applies on-line there is always some material that needs to be sent in paper form-at the very least, a transcript. We have policies and procedures for students to follow when they have recommendation and transcript requests for the college office or teachers. We explain these policies and procedures to the seniors at the beginning of the year. However, you can read about how to submit materials to us in two places: On the 9-12 tab, go to Grade 12 and see How to Submit Materials to Us or view the Senior Student PowerPoint. Top

Should I apply only to colleges that I know I can afford?
Do not be misled by the "sticker price" of college! Sometimes the most expensive colleges are able to provide the most financial aid. The best way to find out how much a certain college will cost is to contact that school's financial aid office and request help estimating your costs. We will also be giving seniors and their parents more information about Financial Aid as the time approaches. Top

How does PPAS help students prepare for college entrance exams like the SAT and SAT II?
Students begin preparing for college entrance exams in their sophomore year when they take the PSAT for the first time. Students take the PSAT again in their junior year. Based on the outcome of these tests, PPAS can recommend test preparation classes for interested students.  Our school is partnered with Revolution Prep, a company with a proven track record in score improvement.  Each year, class registration begins in February, classes start in March and go 6 weeks leading up to the May test.  The college advisory office also has the most updated SAT prep books in our office for students to use.Top

How important are extracurricular activities, summer programs, and community service? What are the colleges looking for?
Colleges are looking for students who show potential and ability but who also participate in after school activities. An “extracurricular” can be anything from participating in a jazz band, to performing in the school plays, to playing on a sports team, to doing community service or even to holding down a job after school. Students should begin exploring their interests as early in their high school career as possible, and they should follow through with pursuing these interests throughout their high school years. The colleges want to see commitment and growth - not necessarily to great numbers of activities but, more importantly, in a few areas that are particularly meaningful to the student. The colleges are looking for students who show, through their extracurricular commitments, dedication to pursuing a particular area of study in college. If a student thinks s/he might like to study medicine in college, for example, s/he should do some community service at a local hospital or perhaps pursue an internship in a lab or at a doctor's office. Students may also take college classes during the summer at schools that hold programs for high school students. We provide information about summer programs on our website. Remember that college admissions can be very competitive and it helps the student to set herself apart by demonstrating her interests and initiative by taking part in out-of-school activities. It is also helpful for the student to have clocked some community service activities because many private scholarships list this as an application requirement. Top

When do we go on college visits and how do we know what to look for?
It is never too soon to begin looking at and visiting colleges, although it may behoove you to wait until the student has some idea of what she is looking for in a college. Students and their families really need to address this in the spring of their junior year. In the fall, all twelfth graders at PPAS go on the annual college trip to SUNY Purchase and Sarah Lawrence with the college advisors. This college trip serves as an official 'kick off' to college visiting season and helps prepare students to continue their visits with their families. We are also exploring the possibility of doing an overnight trip to Boston to see Berkeley College of Music, Emerson, Boston College, Boston Conservatory and Northeastern. Top

How does PPAS help students prepare for college admissions interviews?
Our website provides students with sample interview questions typically asked during college interviews and we urge students to consider how to best (and of course, honestly) answer those questions. Students can also practice interviewing with the college advisor if they choose. Top

How does PPAS help students with college application essays?
The juniors are directed to our website where we have creative writing prompts, do's and don't from real college admissions officers, other tips and sample essays. All seniors write a college essay as part of their humanities curriculum in the fall semester. Students work in class on choosing essay topics, writing appropriate introductory paragraphs, and following through with a clear focus. They then proofread and edit each other's essays. The college advisor can also be consulted with finished drafts for feedback and critique.
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How does PPAS help parents to navigate and survive the college application process?
The college application process depends on the collaborative efforts of the college advisor, the students, and their parents. Oftentimes, parents do not know how they may be most helpful to their child. To help parents understand the process and their role in it, each March we present a PowerPoint for parents of juniors and each October, we present a senior PowerPoint at the October PTA meeting. We strongly recommend that parents attend these informational meetings. Parents are invited to meet with the college advisors as often as they would like and may call or email with questions and/or requests.Top

Should I apply only to "prestigious" colleges?
Prestige is a difficult factor to measure. The reputation and prestige of schools changes over time due to any number of factors. Sometimes prestige is derived from a winning football or basketball team, for example, rather than the quality of the education at an institution. Go to a college that fits you best academically and socially-not based on some cultural reputation. A thorough self assessment may be a good place to begin. (We have a questionnaire to get you started on the website. Go to “Grade 12”) Also keep in mind that a strong college applicant might be awarded a scholarship to attend a less reputable school when the “prestigious” colleges offer him no aid.