College Counseling FAQs

If you have questions about the college process, you're not alone. Our College Counseling Department is here to help by providing answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the college process including preparation, applications, selection, and more.

What are the first steps in the college process?

Students and families should meet with the college counselor to discuss the creation of an action plan for college. Families should also talk with their student about goals and objectives for college, as well as individual needs and preferences.

Freshmen should be focused on academics, and getting involved school activities.

Sophomores should also concentrate on academics, extra-curricular activities, and begin to think about standardized testing. This is also a good time to begin taking informal campus visits to local colleges.

Juniors primary tasks should be academics, making a positive impact through school activities, and satisfying testing requirements. Families and students should start a dialogue with the college counselor, and begin visiting potential colleges.

Seniors should be excelling in the classroom, and with their school activities. Finalize college list, complete college applications and any other related college tasks.


What standardized tests are required for college, and when do students take them?

Every high school student applying to college will take at least one ACT or SAT, and international students are required to take an additional test known as the TOEFL.

We strongly recommend that students satisfy all testing requirements in their junior year.

In addition, some students will be required to take an additional test called the SAT Subject tests. These are traditionally taken by students applying to the large elite private research-based universities like Harvard or Stanford.


How many colleges should students apply to?

SSFS will only transmit a maximum of twelve transcripts per student to colleges.

We recommend that students apply to 6-8 schools. The final list should be a combination of likely (or safety), target (or match), and unlikely (or reach) colleges. The college counselor should be consulted to ensure that students have an appropriate list.


How do students determine the right fit or match for college?

This is a difficult but important question that students and families need to invest time, thought and effort to ensure they are making an informed decision.

We believe that there are two keys to identifying the best possible match for college. First, families need to help their student recognize what they need and want in a college setting to be happy. Second, families and students need to do their due diligence to ensure they know what and where they are sending their child to live for the next four years! The key is to find a school that will address all or most of their needs and wants.

Talk to your college counselor, and talk with students and faculty on campus. Get all their perspectives in order to be able to make the best informed decision.


How important is the college visit?

We believe that the college visit is essential before a student decides to enroll. However, prospective students do not have to visit a campus to determine whether or not they want to apply.

The campus visit should consist of a formal phase where they take a guided tour and information session. In addition, families and students should conduct an informal tour where they meet with faculty and students, and other relevant school officials. The bottom line is the campus visit is an important factor in determining fit.


What are the primary college deadlines?

College deadlines vary from school to school. We advise prospective students to read the instructions on the college application, and check the school website to get the current and most accurate information.

College applications can basically be grouped into one of three categories; 1) early, 2) regular, and 3) rolling.

There are many variations of early deadlines such as Early Decision (or binding), Early Action, and Priority. These typically began as early as October 15, and can go as late as January, but the most common deadline is November 1.

Regular decision deadlines are normally in January and February, again with some variation among different schools.

Rolling admissions normally means that students can apply as early as August, and as late as March. The applications are reviewed and typically students get a response in 4-6 weeks.

There are so many different options that we emphasize to students that they should check with the individual college, and not make any assumptions. There is rarely a good reason for submitting a college application past the deadline, however, if that does occur please notify your college counselor immediately.


What is Naviance and Family Connection?

Naviance is the trademark name of a Virginia based college planning company. Family Connection is their featured software college planning tool designed for counselors, students and families.

It is specifically designed for students to allow them to manage their college list, conduct college searches and research, and do college comparisons based on SSFS alumni data. Every student has an individual account created for them to support their college plan. Families can access the site as a guest if they wish to research colleges to further support their student.

At SSFS, the college coordinator uses Family Connection and the Common Application to electronically disseminate official school documents.


How do I get my transcript and recommendation letters sent to colleges?

Students should submit their college application and then meet with the college counselor to update their Family Connection account. After completing a review of the student account to ensure readiness the school registrar will transmit the transcript, recommendation letters and other required forms to colleges on behalf of the student.

How do I get a teacher letter of recommendation, and who should I ask to write for me?

Every student should ask two academic teachers to endorse their college application with a recommendation letter. Students are expected to approach teachers in the spring of their junior year, and afterwards enter the teachers’ into their Family Connection student account.

The primary requirement is that the teacher must have taught the student in an academic class. Some students will request supplementary recommendation letters from others, but we recommend that every applicant have at least two academic teachers.


What role do interviews play in the application process? Should I interview at all the schools I apply to?

College interviews are considered a plus for prospective applicants. Many colleges and universities do not require interviews, however if they are required or recommended we strongly encourage students to take advantage of the opportunity.

What is the SSFS school code?

Sandy Spring Friends School's school code is 210937.

Should families and students attend a college fair?

Yes. These events provide the opportunity to gather information about a number of schools at one setting. You also get to make direct contact with an admissions official, and convey your interest in a school.

The Washington Area Independent Schools (WAIS) sponsors a college fair every spring for the families and students of member schools. This is a private event that hosts over 150 colleges and universities, and SSFS families are encouraged to attend.


What is a mid-year report?

This is a document that most colleges require from high schools for prospective applicants. It contains the students first semester courses and final grades. Most schools require them on or before February 1.

The college coordinator is responsible to ensure that they are disseminated to colleges in a timely manner. There is no action required on the part of seniors as this step is automatically completed every admissions cycle.