College Q&A with Counselor Charette

Editor’s Notes: Counselor Eileen Charette’s responses have been edited for brevity.

Q: What is the Common Application?

Charette: “The Common Application, also known as the Common App, is a one-stop-shop for most students. There are over 1,000 colleges featured on the Common App, so once you fill out the general information, upload your essays, and submit Letters of Recommendation, colleges will be able to view this information conveniently.”


Q: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using the Common Application?

Charette: “The main advantage of using the Common App is its almost universal acceptance, it makes it both easy on the students and the colleges to upload and review all necessary information. One of the disadvantages of using the Common App is they can only publish the information they know or have received, so the student must do their research on the colleges they want to apply to. For example, last year the University of Miami wanted an essay, but Common App said it was an elective part of the application.”


Q: What are some benefits of using institutional applications?

Charette: “Institutional Applications are only recommended to students for schools that have rolling admissions. Schools like USF and UCF have rolling admissions, which means as they receive your complete application and transcript…they will consider you and notify you. Some students have applied as early as July 1st for USF and they will know their acceptance status in a couple of weeks. For schools that do not use rolling admissions, it is recommended that students use the Common App.”


Q: When should Seniors be starting the application process?

Charette: “Every senior should be starting now, if not done so. The easiest part of the application and a good starting point is uploading the general information, which includes their profile and family information. In addition, students should use their student summary sheet to fill in classes they have taken. They should aim to have it done by October 1st as that’s when priority scholarships start becoming available.”


Q: What are some online resources students can utilize to help with the application process?

Charette: “Common App has YouTube videos, and they have their site, with lots of [resources] to help students. It’s not a bad idea to complete your application simultaneously with Common App’s guides as students need to be very specific when filling out the information, especially when there are special circumstances in students’ lives.”


Q: What are some tips and pointers for not only picking the essay topic but also the writing process?

Charette: “Make your essay interesting and hook the reader within the first two sentences so the reader enjoys reading the essay. Do not write about COVID-19 as many colleges have said they prefer if students didn’t. Rather, write about a person who influenced you and which you are grateful for, this can be a person you met through service or an older student who helped you through a hard time. Another idea is to write about a bad event you are grateful for, something went wrong like you may have failed a test, but a teacher helped you figure it out. It’s recommended to have it proofread by a teacher or someone you trust.”


Q: How many letters of recommendation should you send to each college and whom should you ask for them?

Charette: “Only send the number of letters a college requires, if they don’t require letters of recommendation, do not send them. When asking teachers, pick a teacher that loved you and knows you. Although, make sure you follow the directions the colleges provide because sometimes they want subject-specific letters of recommendation. To ask for letters it is recommended that you ask the teacher if they have time and give them at least two weeks’ notice by putting their name in the Common App. Make sure you thank your teachers.”


Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of attending college in-state and out-of-state?

Charette: “When choosing your major, it’s important to investigate and research schools, both in state and out of state, to see the results the schools provide. For example, in accounting, you want to know the percentage of students who earn their CPA on the first round of testing. But when it comes to in-state versus out-of-state, a lot of it is a cost issue for many students. That’s one big disadvantage of out-of-state institutions vs in-state ones, they often cost a lot more.”


Q: What should students who are having financial difficulties do if they want to attend a larger university which often costs more?

Charette: “Students should aim to qualify for Florida Bright Futures, either medallion or academic, it will help them with tuition and fees. If they are struggling financially, on October 1st when FAFSA opens every family should fill it out. This means that those students will be entitled to the PELL grant which means every year you maintain your academic standing, you receive approximately $5,000. The FAFSA is the key to help students who need financial assistance.”


Q: How should you choose your school, your major? Which should influence the other?

Charette: “There are three routes, one is choosing your school because you love that school, and they have the major you want. Second, choose your major and find a school that excels in that and the third is to go to a larger university that has a lot of majors and in freshman year take their freshman seminar course, it is usually a one-semester course that allows students to examine every major on campus.”


Q: What schools in Florida are best for different majors?

Charette: “Each college is unique and offers a wide range of options but at the same time, they each have certain areas they excel in. USF is great in communication, education, and engineering. UWF has a wonderful cyber security program. UCF has a new medical school with a good hospitality program. FGCU has an excellent nursing program with good opportunities for practice. FAU has unique majors like Marine Robotics, which is for students who like STEM but want to go into marine biology. New College of Florida will help you design your personalized major, they also provide unique opportunities to help you when selecting professions and advanced degrees.”


Q: What advice or words of encouragement do you want to say to students who are either nervous or anxious heading into the application process?

Charette: “The problem of anxiety and nervousness is often rooted in self-confidence and fear of the unknown, if you submit all your applications by October 1st you will hear from some colleges if you are rejected, if you are deferred, they don’t know you that’s the most important thing. Students think colleges are rejecting a human being but they are just rejecting an application. They don’t know you; they don’t know how amazing you are, you will end up going to the college you are meant to be at.  You have to enter into this knowing that whatever happens happens, and that you are not a disgrace. It’s a misconception that taking alternative paths makes you less than anyone else. Every senior applying to college, community college, and trade schools is amazing. You have walked a journey for 12 years waiting for this moment and it might not be the only thing you want, but you will get something, and it’s where you are supposed to be. The school has four great counselors who are here to help you with any struggles, come and see them, there is never anything wrong in asking for help.”