Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do as a freshman or sophomore to prepare for college?
Your work with the College Guidance office will not ramp up until your junior year. We encourage you to spend your early high school years focusing on your work in school, exploring extracurriculars that you find fulfilling and rewarding, and building a strong, supportive friend group.
There are, however, a couple of things you can keep in mind in your freshman and sophomore years. The first is your transcript, which will have an impact on your college application process. Second, consider how you would like to spend your summers. We encourage you to use the summer months as a time for work or meaningful enrichment.
In addition to these more concrete goals, it is never too early to begin reflecting on your academic, extracurricular, and social experiences and think about priorities when it comes to finding a future college. These priorities will naturally evolve and change as you move through high school, but it is good practice in self-reflection to check in with yourself about what you want in your future institution.
How should I spend my summers?
We recommend that you use your summers for enrichment and growth. Whether you have a paid job, join a school-sponsored immersion trip, or participate in an academic or extracurricular enrichment program, your summers can be valuable in informing your future interests and adding weight to your college application. Time in the summer can allow you to pursue a passion, discover yourself, and get out of your comfort zone. The College Guidance Office has an online resource with summer opportunities and, along with your advisor, would be happy to discuss these options with you as you plan your summer.
How will my transcript be evaluated? Is it better to take the most rigorous courses, or get stronger grades in less rigorous courses?
Your transcript is the piece of your college application that is universally weighed most heavily. It is the proof college admissions officers need to confirm that you can thrive academically at their institution. Of course, standardized testing, your essays, and your recommendation letters also play important roles in your application. But ultimately the most important piece will be your academic achievement as proven on the transcript.
In selecting courses, your goal should be to find a balance between challenge and performance. Where you can, challenge yourself with honors courses, but know your limits; accumulating C’s on your transcript does you no favors come senior year. Your advisor can help you think about your performance each year and what it means for your course selection for the following one.
How well do colleges know Roxbury Latin? Do they understand our curriculum and lack of grade inflation?
Colleges receive a School Profile from us with each application, which reminds them of our programs and expectations. They are aware of the rigor and demands of Roxbury Latin’s curriculum and will evaluate your performance within the context of our school. This does not mean they overlook poor grades or assume A’s are impossible to attain here. It simply means that instead of comparing your grades to those of students at other schools, they are evaluating you in the context of your school, and looking for evidence of academic performance and growth.
When does the athletic recruiting process begin?
College athletic recruiting timelines and protocols vary across NCAA Divisions and intercollegiate sports. In recent years, the NCAA has worked to prohibit “early recruiting” at the Division 1 level, and while there are exceptions, most formal recruiting now begins after September 1 of a student-athlete’s junior year of high school. Division 2 follows the same rules. The NCAA posts its guidelines for Division 1 and Division 2 recruiting for each intercollegiate sport on their website.
The majority of Roxbury Latin student-athletes who compete in college play at the Division 3 level, where recruiting rules are more flexible. Most Division 3 recruiting, however, begins in earnest during junior year.
A student-athlete interested in playing intercollegiate athletics at any level should expect to work closely with his college guidance officer and his coach to gauge which schools and programs would be the best fits. He should also attend recruiting “showcase” events and be proactive about communicating with college coaches through email or recruiting questionnaires. If a coach is legitimately interested in a student-athlete during his junior year, that coach will communicate next steps to the student-athlete, his parents, his high school coach, and the college guidance office. Those “steps” vary within the context of the sport and the admission practices of a given athletic conference or college.
When should I start to visit colleges?
Begin visiting colleges during the summer after your junior year at the latest. You may choose to visit some campuses during the spring break of your junior year, and we encourage it. In fact, March break is an excellent time to visit some local schools and get a sense of college type. In your early visits, you can think less about the specific college and more about things like size, setting, location, and program offerings.
If you are unable to visit many college campuses in the spring and summer of your junior year, there are a few Mondays in the fall of your senior year set aside for such visits. You may also request permission to use an Exeat—an excused absence for college visits—in your senior fall. These require permission from your teachers and college guidance officer and should be used judiciously.
When do colleges visit RL and how do I go about attending those meetings?
We invite college representatives to visit Roxbury Latin in the fall. This is another way for students to get to know a school and ask questions of an admission representative; often that representative is the individual who will evaluate your application to that school. While these visits are primarily for seniors, juniors who are free during the time of a college visit are welcome to attend. You will find a list of upcoming visits on your Scoir account (or, if you are a junior, in the College Guidance Office). You may attend as many of these visits as you would like if they overlap with your free periods. You may miss up to three classes in order to attend these visits, but you must get permission from your teacher ahead of time in order to miss class. If you cannot attend one of these visits because of a conflict, you are welcome to quickly say hello to the representative before or after their visit or ask the college guidance office to communicate your apologies to the representative on your behalf.
Do all colleges require standardized testing? Which tests should I take?
At this point, most colleges are operating with test-optional policies. However, this is not universally the case and it is unclear how many institutions will reinstate standardized test requirements in the coming years. We still recommend that students take the SAT or ACT, and our office works with each student as they decide whether or not to send their scores to each college on their list.
When will I take the PSAT? Do colleges see these scores?
You will take the PSAT in October of your junior year. The test is an excellent opportunity to practice for the SAT. These scores will not be sent to colleges and they play no role in your college application. The results do, however, determine which students will qualify for the National Merit Corporation’s annual scholarship competition. You will be notified if this is the case, and your college counselor can go over next steps with you at that time.
When will I take the SAT or ACT? Does RL offer tutoring?
Historically, RL students have favored the SAT over the ACT, though we have a small number of students who opt to take the ACT. We recommend that the March administration be the first time students sit for the SAT. Roxbury Latin offers a prep class for interested students leading up to this administration. There is a fee for this class, but there is financial aid available for students who receive financial aid to attend RL.
How many times should I take the SAT?
Unfortunately, as is often the case with questions in the college guidance realm, the answer is: “It depends.” Some students may achieve a spectacular result on their first attempt. This, however, is rare, and often a second sitting is advisable. This is particularly true because many schools will allow you to “super score,” meaning they will evaluate your highest score on each section of the test, even if those results came from different test dates. You are also not required to send these scores to colleges right away, and in many cases you may choose not to send results from one sitting at all. (This is called “score choice,” and it is a policy at many institutions.) We do not recommend taking the test more than three times, as it can be a distraction from the most important factor in the equation: your course work. Taking the test more than three times is unlikely to drastically improve your scores.
Will colleges consider AP exam results in my application?
At Roxbury Latin, we require students in AP classes to take the national examination in the spring. Colleges will never expect to see an AP score result from a course that is not labeled as AP on your transcript. However, some students may choose to take the AP exam for courses like English Literature or Physics in order to send noteworthy scores in their application. AP scores provide an “external validation,” on a national scale, of your performance in that class. Earning a 5 on an AP exam speaks to your ability to thrive in college-level work anywhere in the country. You can choose whether or not to send those scores to colleges as part of your application. Assume that if you send these scores, they will be used in the evaluation of your application.
Though this has nothing to do with the college application process, also keep in mind that some colleges will grant course credit for strong AP exam results once you matriculate.
Applying to College
Aside from grades and test scores, what will colleges evaluate?
Colleges will evaluate a number of other factors when rendering their decisions. These include your extracurricular involvements (special talents, leadership roles, etc.), your essays, and teacher and counselor recommendations. Your essays provide a sense of your prowess as a writer and allow admission officers to get a sense of personal qualities not measured in your GPA and test scores. Recommendations provide third-party assessments of your character and strengths as a student.
Colleges also evaluate candidates based on their own institutional priorities. These priorities might include athletic talent, legacy candidates, or students who are traditionally underrepresented on campus (students of color, female engineers, first generation college students, etc.).
What is the college interview? Should I schedule an interview? What can I expect?
Many colleges will offer interviews as part of their application process. It is important to note the timing and nature of interviews at each school on your list. If an interview is evaluative, it means the interviewer will include notes about your conversation in your application, and the admission office will use that write-up as they make their decision on your file. Purely informational interviews are not included in your application. Some colleges will offer on-campus interviews before you apply, and you should plan to schedule those whenever you are on campus for a tour and information session. Many places will allow you to request an interview only after you apply, but this often includes another step after hitting “submit” on your application.
In general, we recommend that you request an interview if they are offered. They allow you to get to know a college in a different and meaningful way, and admission professionals appreciate this effort on your part. This may not be feasible everywhere you apply, and you can work with the college guidance office to determine where to interview.
What are the different application rounds? When should I apply?
Early Decision (ED): ED is a binding agreement between you and the college to which you apply. The deadline is typically in the fall (most are November 1 or 15), and if you are admitted to a college through the ED round, you are obligated to attend. You should only apply through the ED round if a college is your first choice and you would absolutely attend if admitted. Some colleges will have a second ED round (EDII) in the winter. This is also binding.
Early Action (EA): The EA round also occurs in the fall, but it is not a binding agreement. If admitted to a college in the EA round, you are not committed to attend. In many cases, though, if you are admitted through the EA round you are able to significantly narrow your Regular Decision list. You should consider Early Action if you are excited about a college and feel you have had enough time to present a strong application for that fall deadline. In some cases, it is wise to hold off, giving yourself more time in your senior year to post strong midyear grades. The college guidance office will work with you to determine if EA makes sense.
Restricted Early Action: A small number of colleges will put restrictions on their Early Action round. While you are not obligated to attend if admitted, you may be restricted from applying to other schools in the Early round, or from applying to another college through Early Decision.
Rolling Admissions: Some colleges will consider applications as they are submitted. These colleges will render a decision within a designated time frame upon receiving your application. For schools that offer Rolling Admission, it is wise to get your application in early, as their class begins to fill up as time passes.
Regular Decision (RD): RD deadlines are typically in January, though some occur as late as March. Students will hear back from all colleges by April, and they will have until May 1 to decide where they will enroll. If you are deferred admission in an Early round, your application will automatically be considered in the Regular round.
Should I apply for financial aid if I don’t know whether or not I will qualify?
If you feel a college’s tuition is beyond your family’s means, you should apply for financial aid. At some colleges, once you are enrolled without aid you cannot enter the system in future years. The process can certainly feel onerous, but it is worth the effort to make these four years financially manageable.
You can get a sense of whether you are likely to qualify for financial aid at specific institutions by using their Net Price Calculator, which will provide an estimate of your financial aid package. Each college is required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website. You may also keep an eye out for colleges that offer merit aid; applying for merit aid does not require the same financial aid forms as need-based aid applications.
How do I apply for financial aid?
Almost all colleges will require that you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for financial aid. This application will require tax documentation from two years ago. Most private colleges will also require the CSS Profile, which digs a little more deeply into your family’s finances. These forms become available in the fall, and are typically due to colleges shortly after their application deadlines. Check the website of each school on your list, because many schools will have additional, institution-specific forms that are required for a complete financial aid application.