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September 1, 2014, 1:34 am

‘Step Up College’ guide prepares students

It is rapidly approaching time for high school seniors to dig into the college application process, and Philadelphia Futures has made the daunting process that much easier with the release of five sure-fire tips that will help the prospective college student along.

These tips and others are included in Philadelphia Futures free “Step Up to College” guide, which is available to students though their guidance counselors and accessible online at

“It’s not too late for students [to start applying for post-secondary education]. They can organize themselves, keep track of deadlines and make sure they know the different parts of the process,” said Philadelphia Futures Director of Pre-College Programs Ann-Therese Ortiz. “The important deadlines are this month and next month, depending on which school they apply to. Some schools do rolling admissions, and those are mostly our state and state-related schools.

“Private schools have different deadlines,” Ortiz continued, “which are mostly in January, although some have them are further out. So we key students in on when those deadlines might be.”

The second crucial tip centers on the entrance essay, a crucial yet often overlooked part of the process, and Ortiz recommends that students get together with their guidance counselor, parent or other trusted adults in crafting the composition. Ortiz says that student should include any personal experiences that may make then stand out to college admission offices.

While all the tips are important, Ortiz has other suggestions that will help a student along, including when to apply for various scholarships and recommendations on how to select the school that best fits the student.

“I often talk about how important ‘fit’ is, and there are three fits,” Ortiz explained. “The academic fit looks at the profile of the college or university, and social fit is also important. Is the school’s social climate a place where the student can be happy and thrive? Students should schedule visits to the campus to see what that’s like.

“And last thing is the financial fit, which is understanding what the real costs is for the university they are looking at and other funding opportunities,” Ortiz added. “Students can go to a school with an expensive price tag and still make it possible to afford it.”

On top of these defined deadlines, schools also have different financial aid and scholarship deadlines that students should be aware of, Ortiz said. If students start those forms now, they should be in good shape come next September.

“Most students will fill out a Free Application For Federal Student Aid [FASFA] application, and generally speaking, if they apply by the middle of February, they should be OK,” Ortiz said, noting that students should be aware of scams that charge for the application process, as the federal government provides free filing on its website, “Students applying to private colleges and universities may have to fill out an extra form.

“Scholarships can be accessed through announcements made at the student’s high school, and information is available through web searches,” Ortiz continued. “There are so many scholarships out there. Students need to both focus on finishing the academic year strong and filling out these forms.”


Contact staff writer Damon C. Williams at (215) 893-5745 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .