The Timeline

Hollins University would like to make it easier for your daughter to get into the college of her choice. Finding and then enrolling in her dream college means starting the process as early as her sophomore year. There are so many steps to consider, starting with asking some important questions: What size college does she want? What kinds of majors is she looking for? What part of the country appeals to her? No matter where she plans to go, everyone at Hollins wishes your family the best during this exciting time in your lives.


This is the year to make sure you are taking solid classes, making good grades, developing your interests,
and preparing yourself for the college application process.

  • Use your high school’s guidance/career center to direct your course selections toward getting into college.
  • Get involved in extracurricular or volunteer activities.
  • Make an appointment with your counselor in January to discuss your college planning.
  • Take the PSAT, usually given in October.
  • Attend college fairs held near your home.

This is the year to find out everything you can about all the colleges you’re interested in. Request information,
visit colleges, go to college fairs, and talk to the people around you about their college choices.


  • Identify sources that will provide you with helpful information
    on colleges (for example, college guides, websites, search engines).
  • Go to college fairs and find out about visits to your high school or hometown by admission
  • Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to talk about your college plans.
  • Concentrate on your schoolwork. Your grades will make a difference in whether or not you are eligible for admission and merit-based scholarships.


  • Take the PSAT (register early).
  • Consider and list the academic and extracurricular activities you might like to pursue in college.
  • Ask your senior friends where they are applying and why they are applying there.


  • Plan to take the SAT and/or ACT (register early).
  • Visit the websites of the colleges you’re interested in and request
    information about academics, the admission process, college visits, financial aid, scholarships, etc.
  • Review the admission requirements for these colleges to ensure you are on the right track.
  • Begin discussing and planning how you and your family will pay for your college education.
  • Attend financial aid meetings held in your area.
  • If you want to take AP exams this year, ask your teachers for advice and information.


  • Develop a rough list of colleges you’re considering.
  • Identify people who know your academic strengths and could write letters of recommendation for you.
  • If visiting colleges, be aware of their spring breaks and try to avoid visiting during these
    quiet times.


  • Visit colleges. Be sure to make your appointments ahead of time. Take tours and have interviews when possible. Ask questions while visiting.

You have started the process. You know more about yourself. You know more about the schools that interest you.


  • Remember that colleges are interested in your senior year grades. Keep working hard.
  • Narrow your list of colleges to four to eight. Be realistic, but also look at a “reach” school.
  • Visit the websites of these colleges to get a sense of campus events and opportunities for students.
  • Write down application deadlines on a calendar.
  • Consider taking the SAT and/or ACT again. Most colleges will consider the highest of all your scores.
  • Begin planning college visits for the late fall.


  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can be completed online at Call the college’s financial aid office if you need assistance.
  • Develop an outline for your college application essay (more about this later).
  • Check deadlines for Early Decision, Early Action, or Regular Decision applications.
  • Ask your teachers, counselors, supervisors, coaches, etc., for recommendations.
  • Try to attend open houses or overnight visit programs at the colleges you’re considering.
  • Submit the FAFSA as early as Oct. 15.


  • Give applications to your guidance counselor at least three weeks before the college’s deadline.
  • Wait to hear from the college about their decision on your Early Decision application (if you have applied under this plan). If you are deferred/postponed until Regular Decision, begin filling out other applications.


  • Finish all of your applications and inform your guidance counselor of the form(s) he/she needs to complete and submit.
  • List the pros and cons of each college to which you have applied. Save this list!


  • If you are visiting colleges, be aware of their spring break holidays.


  • Look over the list of pros and cons you made earlier. You must now decide which college offers you the most of what you are looking for.
  • Attend programs for admitted students at your first-choice colleges.


  • May 1 is the date by which you are to notify colleges about whether you will be attending. Let schools know of your decision, even if you are not going to enroll.
  • If you were wait-listed by the college you hope to attend, contact the admission office to ask how you can strengthen your application. If that school is your first choice, let the admission office know.


  • You will receive housing forms. Fill them out and return them promptly. Be honest!
  • Work. You’ll be glad to have the work experience and the extra money.

Some schools require a certain number of words, some ask about you, and some ask about your views on specific topics and issues. The admission committee will use your essay to evaluate your personality, interests, intelligence, maturity, creativity, writing ability, how you think, your outlook on life, and even what makes you special. This is one part of your application where you have complete control. The essay should represent your personality and strengths.

The Top Four Things Admission Counselors Look for in an Essay

  1. Content. Does it stick to the topic and answer the question? Does it follow a distinct writing plan with an introduction, body, and conclusion?
  2. Creativity. Does it show character? Is it original? Does it convey something about the applicant that isn’t evident from the rest of the application? How much thought was put into the essay?
  3. Style. How well is it written? Do the thoughts and ideas flow?
  4. Grammar. Was it proofread? Were there simple mistakes? How is the vocabulary?

Essay Do’s

  • Follow directions.
  • Organize your thoughts.
  • Answer the question(s) and stick to the topic(s).
  • Write in a style that’s comfortable for you.
  • Use the essay as an opportunity to communicate things to the admission committee that you may not convey in your application.
  • Use correct spelling and grammar.
  • Write a first draft and revise it as often as needed.
  • Remember: it’s okay to ask for guidance, as long as the essay remains your work and not someone else’s.

Essay Don’ts

  • Don’t try to impress anyone by using big, fancy words.
  • Don’t try to be cute or flattering.
  • Don’t try to cram everything about yourself in one essay.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute. You need time for rewriting.

The Complete Package

Although the essay is a very important part of the application, the complete application process may require you to submit any or all of the following:

  1. Application for admission
  2. Essay
  3. SAT and/or ACT scores
  4. Official transcript(s)
  5. Interview (optional or required)
  6. Secondary School Report and/or letter(s) of recommendation

Tips for Completing Your Application

  • Check college websites or call the office of admission to see how to submit your application, and if they prefer you use their online application, a paper application, or the Common Application.
  • Read all of the instructions before you start.
  • Be conscious of deadlines.
    Know when the Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, and financial aid deadlines are.
  • Set a personal deadline for finishing your application and make sure you have enough time to complete it. Keep in mind when your guidance counselor needs to have it.
  • Do not leave blanks or skip answers.
  • Submit all of the parts together (or as much as possible).
  • If you miss a deadline, call the admission office to see if you can still apply.
The Interview

The college interview doesn’t have to be scary. If you keep in mind a few simple tips and go into the interview prepared, it’s just another way you can improve your chances of getting into the school of your dreams. An interview can strengthen your application and tip the scales in your favor. You will be interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you. Relax and try to learn as much as you can. An interview should be fun and informative.

Tips for a Successful Interview

  • Relax and be yourself.
  • Bring a pad of paper and pencil or pen.
  • Write your questions down beforehand to make sure you don’t forget anything.
  • Provide important academic information such as standardized test scores, high school transcript, GPA, and class rank.
  • When asked about your extracurricular activities, mention and elaborate on your favorites.
  • It’s permissible to ask about your chances of acceptance, but don’t press for an immediate decision.
  • Think before you speak. You don’t have to answer the question immediately.
  • Remember that this is a professional appointment, and it should be taken seriously. Don’t be late.
  • Be neat and presentable. You don’t have to wear a suit or dress, but don’t be too casual. It’s best to wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Be prepared to ask questions about the institution as well as give information about yourself.
  • Think of the interview as a conversation.
  • Don’t be afraid to express yourself.

Several Types of Interviews

Individual: may later be joined by parents
Group: you and other students
Regional: an admission staff member interviews you while traveling in your city
Alumnae/i or Parents: volunteers are trained to interview prospective students in their hometown

Scheduling the Interview

Try to call or email two weeks to a month in advance to make an appointment with the admission office. This gives the admission staff time to customize your campus visit and enable you to meet more people, making your visit more productive.

Be Ready for These Questions

  • What are your favorite and least favorite classes?
  • What type of contribution have you made to your high school or community?
  • What are you looking for in a college?
  • What do you like about this college?
  • What career possibilities are you considering and why?
  • Describe your strengths and those areas you would like to improve.
  • Based on your own experience, how would you describe a good teacher?
  • What do you expect to be
    doing ten years from now?
  • What would you like to have
    written on your tombstone?
  • What is your perfect adventure?
  • What would you like to change about your school? About yourself?
  • What would you like to achieve in college?
  • Describe your most challenging class.
  • How would your favorite teacher describe you as a student?
  • If your friends had to describe you in three words, what would they say, and why?
  • What do you think you will study in college?
  • Is there anything that you would like to share with the admission committee about why you think they should admit you?

The Campus Visit

You should try to visit all of the campuses and schools that interest you. This is the best way to figure out if a college is right for you. A big university will be vastly different from a small liberal arts college. Finding the atmosphere in which you’ll be happiest requires experiencing a variety of different places.

During the campus visit be sure to:

  • Take a tour
  • Have an interview
  • Ask questions
  • Talk with the financial aid office if you are concerned about costs
  • Talk with students on campus
  • Sit in on a class or two
  • Speak with a professor if you have questions about academics or a particular field of study
  • Meet with a coach if you have an interest in a specific sport

Ask the colleges about overnight programs and try to attend. It’s a great way to get to know the college better and experience what life would be like there. If you’re looking at a school that’s far away and you don’t think you can afford to visit, apply anyway. Some schools have a fund that enables admitted students to visit. Ask your guidance counselor or call the admission office to ask about this.

Not Able to Visit?

If you won’t be able to visit a school, there are still ways you can get a feel for the college and find out what the students are like. Visit the website and check YouTube for videos the college has uploaded. Tell the admission office that you won’t be able to visit and ask if there is a graduate in the area who can interview you or if an admission counselor will be coming to your area. Ask the college for a list of graduates or current students from the school who live near your home.