Creating an FAQ for the college admission process

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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Thanks for including me, @Lindagaf. I think this is a GREAT idea.

I do agree with @thumper1 that this could get really long quite quickly, but CC is just an amazing repository of information. The 4+ years I have spent here have made me so much more knowledgeable about education in the US (and around the world).

@CC_Jon, we love CC to bits, but as noted above, the search engine needs to be improved. I have trouble finding stuff that I have posted or that I know exists. It takes far too much search time to find things. IMO, that should be improved ASAP no matter what.

But the idea of FAQ is still a great one. Rather than have a narrative FAQ with lots of text and a requirement to be updated, have basically a map with links pointing to CC fora where people can find the information themselves? Perhaps there can be a short paragraph for each link. Going with a full narrative FAQ will take a lot of time, with a lot of caveats/exceptions, and will need to be maintained. With a short description and links, the FAQ will maintain itself.


I agree the actual FAQ shouldn’t be so long. But I assumed this thread would be used to brainstorm more, then trim to the best ones.


Maybe you can sub-categorize them with drop downs. For example, “What to look for on a college website” could include
Net Price Calculator
Common Data Set
Most recent admitted student profile
Types of Admissions (SCEA, REA, EA, ED, RD, rolling)
Admission dates and deadlines
Admission requirements (courses, tests, essays, LOR)
Financial Aid and Scholarships - especially what the difference is between merit and need based aid

Another category could be something to do with how to search, edit, like, change name, link, quote, PM, etc. on CC

Another category could be commonly used abbreviations on CC and in college admissions


I think the FAQ page should be a list with links to each one - perhaps with a statement for each, but not long reading.

The most common things I see at school are:

  • Kids wondering when to start with everything (a real timeline, not just deadlines) - when to start looking, when to take the SAT/ACT, when to apply, when to look for scholarships, etc

  • Kids/parents being clueless about the cost or assuming there are scholarships out there that will cover essentially everything - or that they will/can take loans for it all

  • Kids/parents thinking because their GPA/SAT is in the range for the school means they will be admitted

  • Kids not understanding Pre-med - lots of questions with this from Pre-med being a major to needing to go to a college with a med school (both no by the way) to not realizing the implications of taking cc courses while in high school (grades will count, and not all med schools are ok with pre-reqs from cc)

  • Kids not understanding that some schools don’t let you get specific about an engineering field until after you’ve been there for a year, others do

ETA: Forgot a biggie - the difference between state schools and private, and the difference between IS and OOS for the state schools, esp as it relates to admission and cost for both average students and top students


I really like the idea of sub-categories that are linked.

Beyond that there is a need for the definition of the types of colleges, like “flagship”, “public research”, directional", and all the other types, but with the common names used here and elsewhere, not the Carnegie Classifications.

Like other, definitely basic use of the forums.


When should I start making a college list/visiting schools?

Do rankings matter?

What should I do if I’m waitlisted?