College Counseling

College Counseling Resources

College Counseling Calendars

At the beginning of senior year each student makes an appointment with the director of college counseling to discuss summer visits and interviews, to define more clearly goals and aspirations for college, and to plan the busy year ahead. The student should have at least one application filled out by this time, especially the personal essay.
We start with a group meeting but individual conferences must occur regularly to ensure that we are moving forward. Each student must keep a record of visits, interviews, SAT and ACT test registration numbers, check numbers, and dates. There is a great deal of paperwork involved in college admissions procedures, and orderly record keeping is crucial.

Junior Year College Counseling Calendar

All juniors take the PSAT. Results come back in December.
Junior class college workshops during English elective periods.
Individual meetings for each junior with the director of college counseling, using the completed self-audit as a springboard for conversation.
  • Junior College Night for students and parents. (Parents receive Parent Questionnaire to complete.)
  • First ACT administration for juniors.
  • Students are encouraged to use March vacation to make initial visits to colleges and universities.
  • First SAT administration for juniors.
  • SAT & ACT Reasoning Tests for juniors.
  • Family conferences with college counselor.
  • Common Application essay draft assigned April 1.
May 1
Completed Common Application essay is due.
  • Advanced Placement testing for qualified students.
  • Students, parents, and the director of college counseling meet to discuss a range of colleges that match each student's career plans, interests, and abilities. By the end of junior year, all students should have made some plans for summer college visits.
SAT & ACT Tests.
Potential college list is mailed to each student after we review final junior grades and standardized test scores.

Senior Year College Counseling Calendar

Late August
  • Senior College Counseling Workshop
  • First SAT available for seniors.
First ACT available for seniors.
Sept. 15
Visits to PCD by college representatives begin.
SAT & ACT tests.
October 1
By this date, and no later, students must ask their teachers for recommendations.
On this date, families applying for need-based financial aid can begin filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS PROFILE financial aid forms.  The FAFSA is required for all students. The PROFILE is specifically required by some colleges.
October 15
Last day for seniors to inform College Counseling that they are applying early action or early decision.
  • Early Decision and Early Action applications due at colleges.
  • SAT
All applications must be completed by students and sent to the colleges. Students must also ensure that two teacher recommendations are sent to each school.
Financial Aid Night
  • Early Decision and Early Action results received from most colleges that have these plans.
  • Winter: Early Decision II, Early Action, and Rolling Admissions results released.
  • SAT & ACT (last SAT available for seniors).
Last ACT available for seniors.
All decisions made by colleges, except Waiting List students.
May 1
Students must respond to offers of admission by this date.
Advanced Placement Tests are given during two weeks in early May.

College Testing

There was a gradual tendency for colleges to go “test optional” before the COVID 19 pandemic. With the pandemic, because it became difficult for students to schedule ACT or SAT tests, most colleges went test optional. For the upcoming admissions season, most colleges will remain test optional or test free (blind).

Nonetheless, it makes sense for PCD students to be take either ACT or SAT at least once in case test scores are needed.
Given this, we work hard to make sure each student is prepared to take these tests and do well on them.

Every college will accept either SAT or ACT results. Starting in the junior spring we work to help students determine which test suits them best.

Advanced Placement tests are never required for college admission, though strong results may result in higher placement or extra credit once one begins college.

Both the pre-ACT and the PSAT are practice exercises designed to help students prepare to take the ACT or SAT. Scores on these tests are never part of a student’s college applications. Test results are only shared with the student, his/her family, and the College Counseling Office—never with the colleges.

All PCD sophomores take the pre-ACT exam in April and all PCD juniors take the PSAT exam in October. Both experiences introduce students to college admissions testing before the official ACT and SAT test dates begin in the second half of junior year.

Test Prep

We advise every student to engage in test preparation. Students who don't are at a competitive disadvantage in today’s college admissions world. Here are some options:
  • The least expensive is to take advantage of the free test preparation materials available on the ACT and College Board websites.
  • Students can buy a test prep book and work through it independently. For self-motivated students, this can be a very effective strategy.
  • Test prep classes are available both at PCD* and through a number of local resources.
  • Individual tutoring can be arranged for more personalized attention and flexibility in scheduling.
We will help students determine which method is most appropriate for their circumstances and learning/studying style.
The school does not have an affiliation with any outside SAT-ACT preparatory organizations. If you choose to use an outside resource we urge you to contact the companies directly and decide which one will best suit your needs.

Tutoring Options Near Providence Country Day

List of 5 items.

College Counseling Glossary

List of 24 items.

  • ACT

    This is a standardized test that every college in the United States accepts. Here on the East Coast, we are used to the SAT, but the ACT is equivalent to the SAT in every important respect.
  • Common Application

    This is an online application form that about 500 colleges use or hold in common. The student can fill out the Common Application once and use it for as many colleges as he/she wants. It saves a lot of time.
  • Deferral

    When a student applies either Early Action or Early Decision, he/she can be deferred, which means the college is declining to make a decision on the student’s application until the regular decision group applies later in the year. A student who is deferred early is still very much in the running and could be accepted later in the year. See Mr. Ward for information about how to manage a “deferral” decision.
  • Demonstrated Interest

    Admissions offices like to understand why you want to attend their college/university. In addition to answering the question on an application it is important to "demonstrate your interest," which you can do in several ways: visit the college, interview with a representative of the college, attend a meeting at PCD with the college's representative, fill out a card at the college's booth at a college fair, and/or ask question(s) by writing or emailing the college admissions office. You should make sure you express and show your interest to every college to which you apply.
  • Discount Rate

    Every college has a unique discount rate—a simple calculation that tells us something about a college’s financial health. The discount rate is calculated as follows: Divide the total amount of money the college will offer to incoming freshman students in financial aid by the total amount of money the college will collect in tuition and fees from freshman. In other words, the discount rate tells us what percentage of the amount of money the college collects from families for tuition and other fees needs to be used to offer in incentives and aid to get the class they want.  A discount rate less than 25% indicates especially strong financial health. A discount rate of 25% tells us that a college uses 25% of tuition revenue to recruit the class.   A college with a discount rate of 60%, for example, is using 60%, more than half, of tuition revenue to recruit the class.  That’s a lot.  A discount rate about 70% is quite worrisome.   Discount rates are climbing.  The average discount rate now among all colleges is over 50%.  This indicates the financial health of higher ed institutions, overall, is not especially robust.
  • Early Action

    Admissions procedure through which a student applies early to a college and receives early word of its decision. If the student is admitted, the student generally has until May 1 to decide whether to accept the offer, though deadlines vary by college.
  • Early Admission

    This to be distinguished from both early decision and early action. It refers to when a student elects to start college after the junior year of high school. Colleges rarely select students who apply for early admission as the student must demonstrate that he/she has exhausted the high school’s curriculum and is academically and emotionally ready for college earlier than one’s peers.
  • Early Decision

    Admissions procedure through which a student applies early to a college and receives early word of its decision. If the student is admitted, the student is obligated to attend that college. Deadlines vary by college.
  • EFC

    This is a financial aid term and stands for “Estimated Family Contribution.” On the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the EFC is calculated after the family fills in all the information requested about its financial circumstances. The Estimated Family Contribution, is used by colleges to determine financial aid awards. If the EFC is lower than the total cost of the college, then the student is eligible for need-based aid. Most families feel that the EFC does NOT really capture their financial circumstances and that the EFC calculation suggests that they can afford to pay more than they can. But the EFC is currently the accepted instrument used to determine financial need.

    Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Everyone who applies for financial aid must fill out the FAFSA. Financial information from the end of the prior year is required, so the FAFSA cannot be completed until January. The FAFSA is available every year on October 1. Students use financial data from two years prior. For example, students in the class of 2018 used their 2016 family financial data to complete this form.

    This stands for the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. Once known as “the Buckley Amendment” (for James Buckley, one time Senator from New York State and the sponsor of the bill in 1973), FERPA gives everyone access to any recommendation letter that is written on his/her behalf. Students may elect to waive their FERPA rights to ensure that recommendations are confidential. College admission offices prefer that students waive their rights, so the colleges know that the recommendations they receive are not written under any kind of duress. We recommend that students waive their FERPA rights, not only because the colleges prefer it, but also because PCD students can rest assured that the recommendations they receive from faculty and administration will serve their best interests.
  • Financial Aid

    Financial aid is the awarding of monies to a student to help pay for college based on the financial needs of the student and his/her family. Financial aid is awarded in three forms: grant aid, which does not have to be repaid; loans, which do have to be repaid after college, usually with reasonable repayment terms; and work study, which is an on-campus job for the student, usually for about 10 hours a week. Financial aid is based entirely on financial need. See SCHOLARSHIPS for another way in which colleges award monies.
  • Interim Year

    Some students call this "a year off." It's not a vacation year, however; rather it is the opportunity for a student to pursue an activity or activities for a year prior to going to college. Most colleges will allow a student a one-year deferral of entrance in order to pursue an Interim Year.
  • Merit Aid

    The common word for this is “scholarship.” These are funds that a college will offer to an admitted student that are not related to the student’s financial need. The colleges use a wide variety of criteria these days to determine how they award merit aid. The common denominator is that the student’s financial need has nothing to do with the merit aid that is awarded. While students do apply for some merit aid awards, or scholarships, the vast amount of merit aid given out by the colleges is given to the student without any application procedure. Merit Aid is also known as “non-need-based aid” to distinguish it from “financial aid”, or “need-based aid”, money given to students because they need it.
  • NCAA Eligibility Center

    The NCAA Eligibility Center is the office that determines if a student is qualified to participate in NCAA intercollegiate athletics. NCAA colleges are divided into three divisions. Only Divisions I and II must work with the Eligibility Center, because only those divisions may offer students athletic scholarships. The Eligibility Center reviews the academic transcripts of all potential athletes to determine if a student has a strong enough record to be prepared for academic work in college. In addition, the Center uses SAT or ACT scores, along with the student’s high school academic performance to determine the student’s eligibility. Every student interested in playing DI or DII athletics must be vetted by the NCAA Eligibility Center. The goal is to prevent colleges from exploiting students who are talented athletes, but marginal students. Colleges can only admit students who are academically qualified.
  • Need Blind & Need Aware

    These are terms refer to a college’s policy with regard to how a family's financial need affects the college's admissions decision. A need-blind college says that the family’s financial need has no bearing on the admissions decision it makes. A need-aware college says that the family’s financial need could have an impact on the admissions decision it makes. Even at need-aware schools, financial need has a bearing only on those students who are considered on the borderline of admissions acceptability.
  • Net Price Calculator

    By Federal law, every college that accepts any form of support from the Federal Government must provide a Net Price Calculator on its public website. Using this instrument, one is able to determine the “net price” of that college, i.e. the cost per year after receiving the financial aid for which one is qualified. Go to the Admissions tab on a college’s web site to search for their Net Price Calculator.
  • Post-Graduate Year

    In contrast to an "interim year," a student takes a Post-Graduate Year as a 13th year of scholastic (high school) education. Often this is done at a private boarding school for reasons of further athletic or academic preparation.
  • Prior Prior

    This is a policy for the FAFSA adopted by the Federal Government.

    Families use financial data from two years prior. For example, students in the class of 2018 used their 2016 family financial data to complete this form.

    This policy allows parents to fill out the FAFSA months earlier, starting in October of their child's senior year. (So, they are not using prior year data, but "prior prior" year data.)
  • Profile

    Some private colleges use the PROFILE form in addition to the FAFSA. For those colleges that require it, the PROFILE must be filled out. It can be obtained from the College Board website. Consult the colleges or check with Mr. Ward.
  • Rolling Admission

    Some colleges do not have a set deadline, but rather practice rolling admission. This means that they read and decide upon admissions applications as soon as they receive them. If a student is applying to a college with a rolling admission plan, it behooves him/her to apply as early as possible.
  • Scholarship

    A scholarship is an offer of a fixed amount of money to help the student pay for college. Scholarships are based on merit—that is, on the talents of the student—either academic, athletic, or artistic. Scholarships do not take financial need into account. 90% of scholarships are awarded automatically by the colleges—that is, one does not have to specifically apply for them. There are other kinds of scholarships as well. Consult Mr. Ward for further information.
  • Waiting List

    Students can be offered admission, their application for admission can be denied, or they can be placed on a waiting list. Colleges offer the waiting list to those students who qualify for admission and who they would like to take, but who they are unable to accept initially due to space constraints. If the student is placed on the waiting list, he/she may choose or not choose to accept that offer. If colleges find out they need more students than they originally thought, they can offer admission to students on the waiting list. This usually happens in late April or early May. There are ways to optimize one’s chances if one is on the waiting list. This takes several steps, so students should consult Mr. Ward if they are on the waiting list.
  • Yield

    Every college has a unique yield rate, determined by dividing the number of incoming freshman students who have accepted a college’s offer of admission by the total number of freshman admission offers that the college has made. A yield rate above 50% is excellent. A 50% yield rate means that 100 students have been offered admission and 50 of them have accepted the offer. A yield rate between 35% and 50% is strong; a yield rate between 25% and 35% is acceptable; and yield rates below 25% are weak. The highest yield rates are enjoyed by West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. Their yield rates are above 90%. The yield rates for Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are in the 70% range.

Standardized Test Taking Tips

  1. You do not need to rush on these tests, but work steadily. If you find yourself spending a lot of time on one question, circle it, move on to the next problem and plan to get back to the circled one if you have time.
  2. Every question on the test is worth the exact same amount. So, don’t rush through “easy” problems and risk making sloppy errors. And, don’t spend too much time on the difficult ones either (see #1).
  3. For both ACT and SAT, you receive 0 points for a wrong answer. You also receive 0 points for a blank answer. So, therefore, never leave any question blank. If you feel like you are running out of time or if you have no idea what the answer might be, make your best guess. This is an essential strategy for maximizing your score.
  4. And that’s what you are trying to do, MAXIMIZE YOUR SCORE. These standardized tests are different than tests you take in the classroom. You cannot expect to answer every question right; very few people do. Rather, you want to get as many right as possible.
  5. These are “scaled tests”. That means they grade them so that there are equal numbers of high and low scores and the midpoint grade is always the same. You can get some questions wrong and still do quite well on these tests.
  6. Trust your instincts. Generally speaking, the first answer you decide upon is probably the right answer. Unless you are absolutely certain, I advise against changing your answer when you review your work. Chances are, you will change your answer from a right answer to a wrong one! This is not always always true, but in the aggregate, this is the best strategy.
  7. Do not expect to be thrilled or enthralled with the questions and the reading passages on these tests. They are not designed to entertain you. Find a way to get yourself engaged in every question on the test, even if the topic is not of great interest to you. Think of it as a job. Your job is to do your best to concentrate while you take these tests.
  8. For many questions, one of the answer options is some form of “none of the above” or “no corrections”. Regard this choice as a legitimate possibility. If the questions offer you four choices, studies show that the answer, “none of the above” or “no corrections” is the correct answer about 25% of the time.
  9. There will be no pattern at all to the answer choices. So, don’t think, “Well, I haven’t answered “C” in a while, I bet that’s the right answer here.” OR “The answer for the last two problems was “D” – it can’t be “D” again”. Oh, yes it can! There’s no pattern at all in the answer choices. They are completely random. No one has ever been able to detect a pattern. Treat each question separately.
  10. Make sure to answer the question that is asked. Do not assume, for example, on math problems that they want you to completely simplify the expression. Pay attention to what they ask for.