Click to expand each section below for more information on preparing for college applications.
Standardized testing is an important aspect of college admissions for the majority of colleges and universities around the world.
Click here for the SVVSD “SAT Challenge” page that includes helpful information and resources.
Taking an SAT or ACT a second or third time is also as a chance to improve scores. Some students choose to take both the ACT and the SAT, but both are widely accepted at most, if not all, colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
Students register for the National SAT and ACT tests on their own. A limited number of registration fee waivers are provided by SAT and ACT. See your Counselor for more information.
Students should review all testing requirements for specific colleges and universities directly on the official college websites. As well, all dates for testing and registration should viewed only on the official SAT and ACT websites, not third party websites.
For more information on the ACT and SAT, please choose from the following resources:
- SAT – Official website
- ACT – Official website
- Tips For Designing Your Testing Timeline
- How Colleges Use Admissions Tests
- Are there colleges or universities that don’t consider testing as part of admissions?
Testing Accommodations: Some students, such as those with diagnosed and documented disabilities, or those with 504 Plans, Special Education IEP’s, Health Plans, and other individual cases, may apply for testing accommodations for any standardized test given at Lyons.
Accommodations for ACT and SAT are managed by the Lyons Counselors,504 Coordinator and Special Education Teachers. Accommodations are not guaranteed and important deadlines must be met. Follow the links for information on ACT Accommodations and PSAT/SAT and AP Accommodations.
The PSAT/NMSQT will be held at Lyons Middle Senior High School in the Fall for all juniors. Click here for more information on the PSAT/NMSQT.
Advanced Placement (AP) Exam Dates
Click here for more information about AP Exam Dates and FAQs
Test Preparation Resources: The market for online and site-based, local test preparation is large and varied. To help you decide on what type of test preparation you might choose, we recommend that you talk to other students, friends and neighbors regarding their experience. As a means to narrowing down your choices, take a look at this helpful article.
Online Test Prep Resources (just a sampling) :
- Shmoop: Your FREE online resource for ACT, SAT and AP Test Prep provided by SVVSD
- Official ACT Test Prep
- Official SAT Test Prep
- Official SAT Test Prep in conjunction with Kahn Academy
- College in Colorado
- Prep Factory www.prepfactory.com
Local Test Prep Resources:
High school transcripts are important in telling one part of the story of your educational experience and achievements. In addition to other pieces of your educational story – essays, co-curriculars and activities, volunteerism and work experience – your transcript is an essential part of the postsecondary application process.
To request your transcript:
- Complete the online Transcript Request Google Form
- If available within your college application, submit request electronically by entering your school counselor’s information as your school counselor/recommender.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT TEST SCORES ON TRANSCRIPTS
Colorado legislation (SB20-175) prohibits test scores being included on transcripts so students are encouraged to research the testing policy of the schools to which they are applying. Resources for this process can be found below:
- To send test scores to College / Scholarship organizations, order directly through the testing agency: (Plan ahead / consider application deadlines)
- College Board SAT & or AP Scores = $12.00 per score send.
- ACT = $16.00 per score report
- To order login to your MyACT account
- ACT Steps for Test Report Youtube Student Perspective
Graduates / alumni needing transcripts should contact our registrar Ann Cisar at 303.823.6631
How to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation
Colleges often ask for two or three recommendation letters from people who know you well. These letters should be written by someone who can describe your skills, accomplishments and personality.
Colleges value recommendations because they:
- Reveal things about you that grades and test scores can’t
- Provide personal opinions of your character
- Show who is willing to speak on your behalf
Letters of recommendation work for you when they present you in the best possible light, showcasing your skills and abilities.When to Ask for Recommendations
Make sure to give your references at least one month before your earliest deadline to complete and send your letters. If you apply under early decision or early action plans, you’ll definitely need to ask for recommendations by the start of your senior year or before.
Remember that some teachers will be writing whole stacks of letters, which takes time. Your teachers will do a better job on your letter if they don’t have to rush.
Whom to Ask
It’s your job to find people to write letters of recommendation for you. Follow these steps to start the process:
- Read each of your college applications carefully. Schools often ask for letters of recommendation from an academic teacher — sometimes in a specific subject — or a school counselor or both.
- Ask a counselor, teachers and your family who they think would make good references.
- Choose one of your teachers from junior year or a current teacher who has known you for a while. Colleges want a current perspective on you, so a teacher from several years ago isn’t the best choice.
- Consider asking a teacher who also knows you outside the classroom. For example, a teacher who directed you in a play or advised your debate club can make a great reference.
- Consider other adults — such as an employer, a coach or an adviser from an activity outside of school — who have a good understanding of you and your strengths.
- Perhaps most important, pick someone who will be enthusiastic about writing the letter for you.
- If you’re unsure about asking someone in particular, politely ask if he or she feels comfortable recommending you. That’s a good way to avoid weak letters.
How to Get the Best Recommendations
Some teachers write many recommendation letters each year. Even if they know you well, it’s a good idea to take some time to speak with them. Make it easy for them to give positive, detailed information about your achievements and your potential by refreshing their memory.
- Talk to them about your class participation.
- Remind them of specific work or projects you’re proud of.
- Tell them what you learned in class.
- Mention any challenges you overcame.
- Give them the information they need to provide specific examples of your work.
- If you need a recommendation letter from a counselor or other school official, follow these guidelines:
- Make an appointment ahead of time.
- Talk about your accomplishments, hobbies and plans for college and the future.
- If you need to discuss part of your transcript — low grades during your sophomore year, for example — do so. Explain why you had difficulty and discuss how you’ve changed and improved since then.
Whether approaching teachers, a counselor or another reference, you should provide them with a resume that briefly outlines your activities, both in and outside the classroom, and your goals.
Source: College Board
Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay
When you apply to college, you’ll need to complete an essay as part of your application. This is your opportunity to show admission officers who you are and to provide information about yourself that didn’t fit in other areas of your application. The essay also reveals what you can do when you have time to think and work on a writing project.
The number one piece of advice from admission officers about your essay is “Be yourself.” The number two suggestion is “Start early.” Check out these other tips before you begin.
Choose a Topic That Will Highlight You
Don’t focus on the great aspects of a particular college, the amount of dedication it takes to be a doctor or the number of extracurricular activities you took part in during high school.
Do share your personal story and thoughts, take a creative approach and highlight areas that aren’t covered in other parts of the application, like your high school records.
Top two tips: Be yourself and start early
Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal
Don’t try to cover too many topics. This will make the essay sound like a résumé that doesn’t provide any details about you.
Do focus on one aspect of yourself so the readers can learn more about who you are. Remember that the readers must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end. Ask a parent or teacher to read just your introduction and tell you what he or she thinks your essay is about.
Show, Don’t Tell
Don’t simply state a fact to get an idea across, such as “I like to surround myself with people with a variety of backgrounds and interests.”
Do include specific details, examples, reasons and so on to develop your ideas. For the example above, describe a situation when you were surrounded by various types of people. What were you doing? Whom did you talk with? What did you take away from the experience?
Use Your Own Voice
Don’t rely on phrases or ideas that people have used many times before. These could include statements like, “There is so much suffering in the world that I feel I have to help people.” Avoid overly formal or business-like language, and don’t use unnecessary words.
Do write in your own voice. For the above example, you could write about a real experience that you had and how it made you feel you had to take action. And note that admission officers will be able to tell if your essay was edited by an adult.
Ask a Teacher or Parent to Proofread
Don’t turn your essay in without proofreading it, and don’t rely only on your computer’s spell check to catch mistakes. A spell-check program will miss typos like these:
- “After I graduate form high school, I plan to get a summer job.”
- “From that day on, Daniel was my best fried.”
Do ask a teacher or parent to proofread your essay to catch mistakes. You should also ask the person who proofreads your essay if the writing sounds like you.
Adapted fromThe College Application Essayby Sarah Myers McGinty.
College Interviews: The Basics
The college interview is a part of the college application process at many colleges — but not all of them. You may meet in person to talk with someone from the admission office, a current student or a graduate of the college. Or you may be able to take part in a video interview, often via Skype.
The interview is rarely the deciding factor in whether the college will accept you, but it can give a representative from the college a chance to get to know you better. And the interview gives you a chance to:
- Show your interest in the college.
- Share information about yourself beyond what’s listed on your transcript.
- Bring up anything in your record that you’d like to explain, like a temporary drop in your grades.
- Discuss your goals and the reasons you want to attend the college.
- Ask questions about the college.
What to Expect
You’ll talk one-on-one with the interviewer. If your parent comes with you, he or she probably won’t be in the room during the interview but may get a chance to talk to the interviewer afterward.
An interviewer may ask questions like “Why do you want to go college?” and “Why do you want to attend this college?” He or she may also ask about your high school experiences, your hobbies and your accomplishments. See more sample interview questions along with answer strategies.
The interviewer will also ask if you have any questions. Asking questions shows the interviewer that you’re interested in the college, and it allows you to get information you can’t find on a website or in a brochure. If you’re interested in a certain major, ask what the program is like. If you’re planning to live on campus, ask about campus life. Just try to avoid asking questions that you can easily find answers to on the college’s website.
The interview is a great chance to show your interest in a college.
How to Prepare
First, find out whether interviews are required, optional or not offered at all. If the college requires or offers interviews, look on the college’s website or contact its admission office to find out what you have to do to set one up. If you have to travel to the college to interview, you may want to schedule a campus tour for the same trip.
After you’ve scheduled an interview, you can do several things to prepare. One important step is to research the college so you feel ready to talk about why the college is a good fit for you. Another good idea is to do practice interviews with family members and friends. Get more information about how to prepare.
Just remember that while it’s smart to get ready in advance, you shouldn’t memorize answers to common interview questions or compose a speech — the interview should be a conversation.
More Interview Tips
You can’t pass or fail an interview, but you can make a good impression by doing the following:
- Dress nicely, not in jeans and a T-shirt.
- Arrive early.
- Be polite.
- Avoid using slang or other inappropriate language.
- Be confident but not arrogant.
- Answer questions honestly.
- Send a thank-you note to your interviewer after the interview.
Source: The College Board
FAFSA is an acronym that stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Colleges and universities use this form to determine your eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans, and work-study programs. Students and their parents must complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible to receive federal financial aid.
Click here for a helpful summary of federal financial aid
CSS Profile – https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org
Online application through CollegeBoard that collects information used by almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award financial aid from sources outside the federal government.
Local Scholarships & Resources
Local Scholarship Information (SVVSD Locals & Lyons Locals)
Link to SVVSD Local List (please note that these lists are color-coded in your hard copy packet but not in Naviance)
Screencast video of tips for the SVVSD Local Scholarships
A great place to start looking for scholarships is the Financial Aid Office at each college/university. Typically, the Financial Aid Office page on the University’s website will list student scholarship opportunities. Many institutions require students to be admitted before being considered for scholarships. Please make sure to submit all supplemental financial aid/scholarship applications required by each college.
Scholarships are offered by many other sources as well. Check your Naviance account for additional scholarships, including the list of SVVSD’s local scholarships, which are harder to find on other search websites.
The following sites may also be used to search for scholarships:
Scholly (fee required)
CU Boulder’s Scholarship List
Peterson’s Scholarship Search Engine
Click here for a list of scholarships for trade schools in Colorado.
With WUE, out-of-state students pay no more than 150% of in-state tuition at participating schools, compared with nonresident rates that can exceed 300% of in-state rates.
Eligible students must be from a WICHE member state.
The WUE reduced tuition rate is not automatically awarded to all eligible candidates. Many institutions limit the number of new WUE awards each academic year, so apply early!
WICHE members include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Visit their website for more information: wiche.edu/wue
Source: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education