Creating an FAQ for the college admission process

Students and families who come to CC can find a wealth of information on the forums and articles. An overwhelming amount of information, in fact. I’d like to collect the most common questions into a single category under the Applying to College category so that we can point people to the information they need in one place.

The first step is to put together a list of the most common questions. What questions do you see asked over and over again? In particular, when new people come to the site, what do they not understand as a rule?

In the replies, please list:

  1. Questions that should be included in an FAQ for college admissions.
  2. Articles and posts that do a good job answering those questions. (If there aren’t any, note that too! We can fix it.)

I’d like to get a FAQ category started soon so that we can help new users coming in the next week or two.

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I’m not sure how easy this will be. For example…a lot of folks ask about which colleges they or their kids would likely be accepted to. Then they ask about costs and whether the colleges will meet their need.

If you are looking for admissions only, I really like the threads for the current class that delineate GPA. But someone has to be willing to read the whole thread for ideas. Plus…when you add in things like location, school size, etc…that one FAQ isn’t going to give a complete answer.

Plus…I’m concerned that folks will post questions about their particular student or parent situation instead of starting their own thread, which is usually much more valuable.

  • What constitutes a balanced college list and how to identify safeties.
  • Schools known for merit awards

And in general:

  • how to change a user name
  • rules about editing/deleting posts after the time window has closed.

Well…definitely how to change a new screen name…especially if it’s the person’s real name! (Although I do wish that the default was NOT a persons real name!!)

Don’t we already have a thread about schools that give good merit awards? I think we do!

I love the idea of how to develop a balanced list…but the answer needs to make it clear that what is balanced for one student might not be balanced at all for another.

Can we have something for international students? Lots of questions about financing, working, getting accepted, etc.


Adding…creating a rough timeline would be helpful…things like typical ED and EA application deadlines, RD deadlines, and the emphasis on meeting deadlines.

Same with paying for college…something about looking for priority deadlines for early applicants, reading the finaid websites for required submissions/deadlines.


I agree one FAQ should be about creating a balanced list, but that requires defining and labeling schools by category. Whatever labels CC chooses to go with is fine, but you have to have definitions for reaches/targets/likelies/safeties regardless the labels. And sometimes it’s true that a school could be in a different category for different students, but not always. For example a school with below a 20% acceptance rate is a reach for unhooked applicants, and a safety has to be affordable to be a safety.

An faq defining hooks makes sense, so to take some examples…yes to recruited athlete, big financial donor, legacy (only at some schools), URM (only at some schools), first gen (arguable) and no to LGBTQ+.

And an FAQ on finances. Info such as setting a budget for college with your student and why that’s one of the first steps in the college search, what should be in a college budget (direct costs like tuition, fees, room and board) and indirect costs like books, travel, health insurance, incidentals), links to EFC estimator (Net Price Calculator), kelsmom’s AMA thread, etc.


I also think we could do more with athletic recruiting here. There is no better resource on the web than the CC posters who have experience with recruiting who generally answer recruiting thread posts, seriously it’s content gold. Seems something to showcase.

There are plenty of recruiting timelines and such out on the web, but for the nuance, nitty gritty and experience that CC posters have it’s a real strength for CC…not sure how to distill it to an FAQ…maybe something like 'Want to be recruited for your sport?", and suggest the person starts a thread in the athletic recruit section? Obviously open to other ideas, i’m not the most creative person :wink:

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What is a school’s Common Data Set (CDS), how do you find it, and how can you use it?
What is a Net Price Calculator (NPC) and what’s it for?
What is Early Decision (ED) and what are the pros and cons?
How is ED different than EA?
Is it possible to negotiate for more aid, and if so, how?
What is the FAFSA, and when is it due?
If I have calculated an EFC, does that mean schools will charge that amount?
A list of commonly used acronyms.
How and why a private school may end up cheaper than an OOS public.
Top 10 ways that applying to college has changed in the last 30 years.


I love these questions.

Maybe something like:

What is the FAFSA, and what is the CSS Profile? How do they differ?

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What are the 3 features of a True Safety, and why are they important? (affordable, assured admission, and attractive/acceptable to attend.)
How can I set a budget and communicate that to my student?
How much can a student borrow?
What are Parent Plus loans?
If my student’s SAT/ACT/Grades are above a school’s 75th percentile, is it a safety?
What is the difference between need-based aid and merit aid?
What are “outside scholarships” and is my student likely to get one?


I’m going to page a few more folks for their ideas on FAQ’s about the college admissions process.
@ucbalumnus @DramaMama2021 @DadTwoGirls @parentologist @AustenNut @sushiritto @mynameiswhatever @happy1 @MaineLonghorn @Gumbymom @brantly @blossom @aunt_bea @ProfSD @twoinanddone @BKSquared @DadOfJerseyGirl @bgbg4us @MWolf @skieurope @gardenstategal @Twoin18 @Creekland
@momofboiler1 there is an FAQ for the CC community which answers some CC specific questions, but it could also provide more answers to questions pertaining to how to use the site.

@CC_Jon Maybe a Parent FAQ and a Student FAQ?

Many parent questions have already been mentioned above.

Student FAQs that come up all the time:

This would be a good example: Teacher Letters of Rec- Does 1 have to be STEM?

As would this: Is it ok to accept multiple offers?

And this: Is a C grade enough to get my offer rescinded?

Other common questions:

Should I apply test optional?

What makes a good EC?

Should I take all APs?

Will I be rejected if I get a C or D or F?

Should I talk about my mental health issue?

This thread has a lot of good answers and I think it should definitely be included on an FAQ:


How many essays will I have to write for my college applications?
When should I start writing essays?
How do I get help with my essays?
Should I get help from a friend, parents, paid essay editing service, ChatGPT? :slight_smile:

I wrote a rescission FAQ a few years ago (formatting is messed up due to the change in forum software): FAQ? Rescission of admission offers

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  • “How much does prestige matter for a CS or engineering career?”
  • “Do we need to file a FAFSA/CSS for merit scholarships if we know we won’t qualify for any need-based aid?”
  • “Will it help others if I decline my offer of admission early?”
  • an FAQ for international applicants (no safeties if you need financial aid, most public schools will not meet need, you will need to show funds for all 4 years to obtain a student visa, you can’t rely on being able to stay and work in the US after graduation, etc)

How much does college prestige matter for:

  • getting into law school?
  • getting into medical school?
  • getting into MBA programs?
  • getting into PhD programs in [subject]?
  • jobs in engineering?
  • jobs in computing?
  • jobs in nursing?
  • jobs in general business?
  • jobs that want a bachelor’s degree but not a specific major?

@CC_Jon as you can see from the large list of questions…many of these are better addressed in the forum as posters ask the questions. Sure, some questions get repeated over and over…but there is always a slightly different slant to each poster’s question.

If you use even half of the suggestions presented….that would be a LONG list of FAQ which could be more of a problem than encouraging posters to ask!

Another thing that could help a LOT…get the search function so that it actually searches for what someone wants to know!


On the financial aid front, divorced parents is a common situation. I wrote the following a few years ago, although some information is in the process of being changed (e.g. the definition of “custodial parent”).

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Sure, there are specifics for many people, but a lot of questions are very general. I personally don’t see a downside.

If the FAQ list gets too long…new members are not likely to scroll through a lot of questions that don’t pertain to them. If all the above suggestions are used, there would be 30 or more…and some wouldn’t pertain to folks.

Right now…I personally see too many questions.

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