Answers to frequently asked questions.  Do you have questions about how to use this website? Check out our help page.


Your Options

  • College is expensive, is it worth it?

    College is the first step to having the future that you want. Overall, college graduates earn more money over their lifetime and have a better quality of life.  Higher education not only helps you prepare for the workforce, but creates lifelong relationships, offers you a valuable professional and social network, and grows your likelihood of becoming a lifelong learner. 

  • Is college right for me?

    College is the first step to having the future that you want. Overall, college graduates earn more money over their lifetime and have a better quality of life.  Higher education not only helps you prepare for the workforce, but creates lifelong relationships, offers you a valuable professional and social network, and grows your likelihood of becoming a lifelong learner.

    If you are worried about affording college, you should know that there is help out there to pay for college. See our section on paying for college to find out more.

  • I don’t have good grades, does that mean I have to go to a community college?

    Not necessarily, you could qualify to go to senior colleges and universities. Not all colleges are looking for the same profile. There may be a four-year college that may be realistic for you. Make sure to look at the grades and SAT scores the school normally accepts and compare it to your scores.

    Also, colleges consider more than just grades when considering an applicant. If your grades don’t quite make it, make sure you attach a great essay and recommendations or consider scheduling an interview if that is an option.

    If a four-year degree is your ultimate goal, attending a community college is a very good starting point. At community colleges, most programs are open admission. This means that you can go to college even if your high school grades aren’t strong.   You can complete your general education requirements for any major and then transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.

  • If I don’t know what I want to major in, does it make sense to go to college?

    Yes. You have plenty of time to choose a major, both before and after you enroll in college. In fact, declaring your major early limits one of the opportunities college offers: to experiment and explore different fields, and perhaps discover ones you haven't even heard of yet. At most colleges, you don't have to choose a major until the end of your sophomore year. Until then, you can take courses in a variety of fields. You’ll earn general education credits that count toward your degree, no matter what you major in. As you take different classes, you’ll probably find a subject area you love.

  • What is the difference between a community college and four-year school?

    Going to college means you have a range of options: short-term vocational/technical courses, certificate, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs, graduate degrees and post-doctoral studies. Four-year colleges offer programs that lead to a bachelor's degree. These include universities and liberal arts colleges, among others. Two-year colleges, often called community colleges, offer programs that lead to a certificate or an associate degree.

    In New York City, the City University of New York offers eight community colleges and eleven senior or four-year colleges throughout the five boroughs.  In New York State, the State University of New York has 64 campuses throughout New York State that offer a range of programs including community colleges and four-year programs.  There are also a range of other options across the City and New York State. 

  • What is the difference between public and private colleges?

    Public colleges are funded by the government, and usually offer lower tuition rates for students who are residents of the state where the college is located.

    Private colleges rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding. Their tuition rates are the same for everyone and tend to be higher than public college tuition. Private donations can sometimes provide generous financial aid packages for students. 

  • What are the different kinds of degrees, and what do they get you?

    There are several types of college degrees. The main two undergraduate ones are associate and bachelor’s.  The Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees are awarded after the completion of 60 credits of study. Generally, these degrees should be completed after two years of full-time study but can take longer. Community colleges and some four-year colleges offer these. After earning this degree, a student can transfer to a four year college to complete a bachelor’s degree.

    The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is awarded after the completion of a technological or vocational program of study, generally at two-year colleges. An AAS is considered a “terminal degree” which means that it is designed to help students go right into jobs in certain fields like hospitality and nursing. AAS degrees do not easily transfer into a bachelor’s degree programs.

    The Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees are awarded after the completions of 120 credits at a four-year college. After completing this degree, you may choose to go straight to work. Just by having a BA or BS you are opening up additional job and career possibilities. You also have higher earning potential. If you want to continue building your jobs and earning possibilities, you can continue on to graduate school.

  • What is a proprietary school?

    Proprietary schools are private, profit-seeking businesses that offer a variety of degree programs which typically prepare students for specific careers. They typically have higher costs than public colleges, but don’t have the generous sources of funding of private colleges, which can mean that their students graduate with more debt. Credits earned at these schools may not transfer to other colleges.  Before deciding which college is right for you, be sure you do your research to understand what is included in your education, the length of time it will take you to get your degree, and if it is the right fit for your needs.

Get Support

  • How do I find a program to help me with college applications?

    Search the NYC College Line directory for programs in your neighborhood.  Call programs that you are interested in to make sure that you qualify and to ask what the next steps are to enroll.

  • My college counselor is so busy, how can I get additional help?

    Your school college counselor is an important resource for the college application process. If you’d like his/her help, make sure to be proactive. Make a list of questions based on what you’ve read here and make an appointment! The questions will keep you focused so you can use your time wisely. Your counselor is the person that sends your transcript to your colleges and he/she also writes a recommendation for you. It is important for you to have a relationship with him/her. If this is your first time seeing your college counselor, ask questions about specific college application deadlines for your high school and upcoming college events.

    If you’d like additional help, search the NYC College Line directory for programs in your neighborhood. Call programs that interest you to make sure you qualify.

  • I’m the first in my family to go to college. Where can I find resources?

    There are many different people who can help guide you. Start with your school’s counselor. Your counselor is the person that sends your transcript to your colleges and he/she also writes a recommendation for you. It is important for you to have a relationship with him/her.  Make sure to attend school events about college so you can familiarize yourself with the process.

    You can also get additional help from programs in your neighborhood. Some programs offer guidance for students interested in going to college and their families. Others allow you to take classes on college campuses. Some programs help you connect with a mentor who has gone to college and can help guide you. Use our directory to find programs in your neighborhood.

    Don’t forget to involve your parents! Getting them informed can create another resource for you. Make sure they attend programming at your school and in community organizations when possible.

  • I’m in foster care. What do I do?

    In addition to getting help from your school college counselor, you should work closely with your case manager. Case managers can connect you to supports such as application fee waivers, special grants like the Education and Training Voucher, and other resources.

    If you need additional support, search our directory for programs in your neighborhood.

  • I’m undocumented. What do I do?

    Whatever your situation, you should work closely with your school college counselor. He/she can help you talk through any special steps in your application process.

    If you aren’t sure about your immigration status or if there is anything you can do to gain documentation, you should seek free legal help. Try City University of New York (CUNY) Citizenship Now initiative.

    Get more information about your application process and peer support at the NYS Youth Leadership Council (http://www.cuny.edu/about/resources/citizenship/about-us/contact.html). They offer peer support groups as well as other services for undocumented students.  

    Additionally, you should use our NYC College Line directory for programs in your neighborhood that can help.  Call programs that you are interested in to make sure that you qualify and to ask what the next steps are to enroll.

  • I want to be recruited for a sports team. What do I do?

    Whatever your situation, you should work closely with your school college counselor.  In addition, you should speak with your team coach. He/she can help map out the steps you need to take. He/she can also help connect you to the right people at colleges.

Academics Matter

  • I’m not the best student. Should I try going to a training program instead of going to college?

    The decision to go to a training program or to college is not all about your grades. You need to think about what careers you are interested in and what skills you need to develop to get there.  College can be challenging, but “bad” grades do not have to hold you back.  You have options, especially at community colleges that offer open admissions. Talking with your school counselor or a college adviser can help you make the best decision for yourself.

  • I’m in 9th grade and I want to go to college. What can I do now?

    It’s never too early to start thinking about college. There are a lot of things you can do before your junior and senior year. One thing you can do is take the right classes. Meet with your guidance counselor to check-in about your classes. Make sure you take classes in your five major subjects (English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language) each year, if possible.

    Also talk to your guidance counselor about taking a challenging course load in high school, including advanced math or science courses, Advanced Placement courses, Career and Technical Education (CTE) program courses, and other college preparatory classes. If you are a New York City public school student, take advantage of dual enrollment programs like College Now to earn college credit while you are in high school.

    If you are having a difficult time as a new student in high school, ask for help. Speak with your guidance counselor or another trusted staff member about what you can do to make a better transition. This may mean joining a club to make new friends (and build your resume for colleges). If you’re overwhelmed by your classes, you might get tutoring from a classmate or an outside service. Don’t forget that colleges will look at all of your high school grades.

    If you are serious about college, make early contact with the school’s college counselor. He/she can help you find opportunities to learn more such as college fairs and visits. It’s never too early!

  • How will colleges evaluate my transcript?

    The transcript is one of the most important documents in your college application. It is a record of all of your high school grades as well as your regent’s scores. Colleges look for a number of things on your transcript.

    Colleges will notice grade trends. If your grades improve over time, it will reflect positively on you. If your grades dip at times or decline overall, they will wonder why.  If this is the case for you, you may want to spend some time explaining this in your essay, personal statement or an additional letter.

    Colleges will notice the classes you took. They will look for challenging courses such as AP and honors courses. They will be pleased to see that you took that fourth year of math, even though it wasn’t required, for example.

    In addition to noticing your GPA, which is your average for all of your classes, colleges will notice your Cumulative Academic Average.

    This is the average of your academic courses (English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language).

  • My high school doesn’t offer any advanced courses. What do I do?

    Colleges are looking for students who challenge themselves, so it is important that, if possible, you take advanced courses in your best subjects. That said, not all schools offer these opportunities. If this is your situation, take advantage of opportunities outside of your school. One example is the College Now program at the City University of New York (CUNY) (http://collegenow.cuny.edu/). If you are a public school student, you can apply to take a free credit or non-credit course at a CUNY school, during after school hours or on weekends.  Most colleges also offer summer programs. Start exploring now so you can beat the deadlines and apply for scholarships, if necessary.

  • I didn’t do well on the SAT. Will I get into college?

    If you didn’t get the score you wanted on the SAT, you should know that it is just one of the many things colleges will consider. They also look at your transcript, your essay, your resume, and your letters of recommendation.  College admission decisions will be based on the strength of your application package as a whole. In addition, some colleges are “SAT optional” and do not require you to submit SAT scores as part of your application.

  • Where can I get help preparing for the SAT?

    Check-in with your school college counselor. Many schools offer SAT courses for their students.  Many community based organizations also offer free SAT courses. Search the NYC College Line directory for programs in your neighborhood.  Call programs that you are interested in to make sure that you qualify and to ask what the next steps are to enroll.

  • Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

    The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that, together with your transcript, are supposed to predict college success. Most students in NY take the SAT. However, more and more students are turning to the ACT for many reasons. Some students are under the impression that the ACT is easier than the SAT. The truth is that most students score similarly on both tests. If a student scores on the 23rd percentile on the SAT, she will most likely score on the 23rd percentile for the ACT.

    If you think you might do better on one of the two tests, we recommend taking a full-length timed practice ACT and SAT. Score both tests and see how you do. This way you can make an informed decision about which test to take.

    You could always take both tests but we don’t recommend it. Taking both tests means that you will have to prepare for both, which will take a lot of work and that’s not a good use of time when you are going through the college application process.

  • Do I have to take other tests other than the SAT or ACT for college admission?

    This depends on the schools you are applying to. Some competitive schools will also require one to three SAT Subject Tests. These tests are hour-long content-based tests. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests which focus in one of the five major subjects (English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language).

    Also, if you did all or part of your high school years in a non-English speaking country, some colleges may require you to take the TOEFL exam. This test evaluates your listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in English.

    Make sure to research using the school’s web site or communicate with your college counselor or the admission office at the schools you are applying to in order to check whether you will have to take any of these tests.

  • Why should I take the PSAT?

    The PSAT assesses your verbal and math skills. There are many reasons to take this test. It is very similar to the SAT, so it helps you practice. All students who take the test get a free account with the College Board’s My Road program, which helps with college and career planning. Lastly, taking the test puts you in the running for the National Merit Scholarship competition. Also, if you are a 10th or 11th grade student in a NYC public school, you can take the test for free. You can’t lose!

  • I haven’t been in school for a long time. What can I do to get ready for college?

    If you’ve been out of school for a while, you may feel you’re not ready to go back. There are a number of programs that can help you get ready. Check our NYC College Line directory for community organizations that offer tutoring or college prep programs for adults.

    Additionally, if you are applying to the City University of New York (CUNY), rest assured that CUNY offers a number of support programs for its students. CUNY Start helps students to develop their reading, writing, and math skills, before they register for classes. CUNY ASAP helps enrolled full-time students graduate within three years by offering a number of supports. There are several other programs you may be able to take advantage of. If you want to go to college, you can make it happen!


Get Started

  • How do I find the right college for me?

    For a college to be a good fit for you, it should match your interests, skills, and needs. Sometimes we hear that a college is a great or prestigious school, but the question to ask is, “Would it be great for me?” Finding colleges that would be a good fit requires three basic steps:

    • First, assess yourself. Ask yourself some specific questions that will help you clarify what you are looking for in a college. For example, you might ask yourself whether you want to attend a small or large college, what kind of majors you want your college to offer, or how far away from home you are willing to go.
    • Second, do research to find schools that meet these criteria. When researching colleges, you should look broadly at first, find lots of colleges that fit your wants and needs, and then narrow down your list. (See FAQ on college research below.)
    • Third, create a balanced list of schools to apply to. Narrow down your research to a list of approximately 8-15 schools that best fit what you are looking for. It is important that your final list include affordable options and be divided into different levels of difficulty. For example, your list may include a “reach”, “target”, and “safety” category. Review your list with a college adviser.
  • When should I get started on my applications?

    The best time to start working on your applications is right after they are released, about a year prior to when you plan to enroll. For example, for students starting college in fall 2013, colleges released their applications on August 1, 2012. Check with the schools on your final college list to find out their deadlines – all of your applications must be in by their deadlines! If you are in high school, it is likely your school may have some internal deadlines as well. Starting a year ahead of time is ideal, but if you are getting a late start, it is possible to complete the process in much less time so long as you meet the deadlines.

  • How do I begin applying?

    Find out what documents are required for an application to each college on your list. Generally, colleges require your application to include an official high school transcript or GED, SAT or ACT scores, an essay, and letters or recommendation. Create a folder for each college you are applying to. At the front of each folder, put a checklist of what you’ll need for the application and when it’s due.

  • How do I research colleges?

    You should use a variety or resources including online college search sites.  Consider factors like size, location, available academic programs/majors, costs, and campus life.  Spend time researching different colleges to get a sense of which ones might be right for you. There are also helpful books like the College Admissions Data Sourcebook, College Board’s Book of Majors, or The Insider’s Guide to Colleges. Other valuable ways of learning about colleges are to attend college fairs and visit college campuses. Reach out to students attending schools that interest you through mutual friends, campus visits or the NYC College Line forums.

  • How do I find college fairs?

    Many high schools host college fairs where representatives from different colleges are available to answer your questions. Ask your school’s colleges office if they will be hosting a college fair. Colleges will have fairs at designated sites that are open to students from any high school. Call college admissions offices to find out about upcoming college fairs. A national college fair is held each year at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

  • How do I visit colleges?

    Call the admissions office at a college you are interested in visiting to find out when they host campus tours or open house days. You can also check with nearby community based college access organizations to see if they are hosting college trips.

Opportunity Programs

  • What are the NYS Opportunity Programs?

    The New York State (NYS) Opportunity Programs were designed to increase college access and success for students who have been educationally and economically disadvantaged. Opportunity Programs allow students to be admitted to colleges that they would not normally be admissible to because their grades and/or test scores are a little too low. Once in college, Opportunity Programs provide substantial support including pre-freshman summer programs, tutoring, advising and additional financial aid. 

  • What are the differences between SEEK, CD, EOP, and HEOP?

    SEEK, CD, EOP, and HEOP are all names of different NYS Opportunity Programs. SEEK and CD are for CUNY students. SEEK (Search for Elevation, Education and Knowledge) exists at CUNY four year institutions, CD (College Discovery) at CUNY two year schools.  EOP, the Educational Opportunity Program, exists at SUNY schools. HEOP, the Higher Educational Opportunity Program, exists at certain NYS private schools.   

  • Does participating in the NYS Opportunity Programs mean I’m going to school for free?

    No. While many Opportunity Programs do offer financial aid to students, it is not a requirement of the program. Opportunity Programs are admissions programs – not financial aid programs. 

  • Does applying for financial aid affect my chances of being admitted?

    Not usually. You are generally admitted based on your academic performance and the qualities you possess as a student. Some colleges are 100% need-blind in their admissions, whereas others may consider students financial needs as they try to admit a diverse class. Most colleges want diversity and use financial aid to achieve that goal. Applying for financial aid early can help give you the best chance of being admitted with a good aid package because colleges do have a limited amount of funds to award each year.

College Applications

  • How many colleges should I apply to?

    There is no exact number of colleges a person should apply to. 8 – 15 schools is the common range. Make sure the list is “balanced”, meaning it includes schools that would be difficult for you to get in to, schools where you are very likely to get in, and those in between. They should all be colleges you’d be happy to attend.  Most should feel like good, realistic matches.

  • What is the difference between ED/EA?

    ED and EA are early deadlines that allow a student to also receive an early admissions decision. ED or Early Decision is a binding contract, meaning that you commit to attend the school. EA or Early Action is non-binding. You do not have to tell the school you plan to attend until the May 1st deadline.

  • Should I apply Early Decision?

    ED or Early Decision is only for students who have found that dream school, and should not be used just as an admissions strategy. If you apply ED, you will not have the opportunity to take advantage of NYS Opportunity Programs and you will not be able to compare and contrast different financial aid packages. You might be missing out on much better financial aid offers.

  • What is the Common Application?

    The Common Application is an online application used by 488 colleges around the country. Once completed online or in print, you may send it to any number of participating colleges. Be aware that you may need to submit additional or separate documents to some colleges. You also still need to pay individual application fees for each college.

  • How much does it cost to apply to college?

    Each college sets its own application cost.

    • CUNY charges a flat rate of $65 to apply to up to six of its colleges
    • SUNY charges $50 per application
    • Private school costs vary.

     Fee waivers are available to those who qualify (See next FAQ on fee waivers).

  • How do I get fee waivers to pay for my application?

    Fee waivers are available for those who meet the income guidelines. Talk to your school counselor or get help from a college access program to learn what steps you have to take to receive fee waivers to pay for your applications. Certain fee waivers are given to counselors in limited numbers, so you’ll want to make sure you ask for them early in the fall before you plan to enroll.                                                             

  • What are the parts of the application?

    Different colleges will ask for different parts of the application – but in general, this is what applicants will be asked to submit:

    • Application and Fee
    • Transcript
    • Standardized test scores (ACT/SAT)
    • Essay(s)
    • Recommendations
    • Interview (not required by most schools)
    • Portfolio/Audition (not required by most schools)
  • Who should I ask for recommendations?

    First look at how many recommendations you are required to submit in your applications. Most schools require a recommendation from your counselor, and then recommendations from two teachers. In choosing the teachers, choose teachers who:

    • Speak to your positive qualities
    • Had you later in your high school career. Colleges don’t often want to read a rec from your freshman English teacher, because it doesn’t usually give an accurate picture of where you are now as a student.
    • Pick teachers from different subjects. Ideally, you would get a rec from someone in the humanities and someone in the math/sciences.
    • While you can get additional recommendations from outside involvements (maybe your coach or your boss), make sure you meet the school’s required recommendations with academic teachers.
  • How do I apply for CUNY?

    First, determine to which CUNY schools you plan to apply. Then:

    • Go to http://www.cuny.edu/admissions/apply.html
    • Register as an applicant with CUNY
    • Continue on to submit your application online
    • After you submit, you will be prompted to pay the $65 application fee; you can choose to pay via credit card, fee waiver (if eligible) or money order
    • If you currently are a NYC public school student, your transcript will be automatically sent to CUNY. If you attend any other school, you will be asked to submit a transcript. Your application summary package will provide more information  on where/crihow to send in your transcript
    • If you applied to any four year institutions, you will be required to send your SAT scores. You can send them through College Board (College Board code 2950 to send them one score report to all schools), or have your school counselor send in a copy of your score report.
    • While recommendations and an essay are not required, if you submit them, CUNY will evaluate them with the rest of your file.  That can be mailed to the UAPC, with the “additional materials” page of your application summary package.
  • How do I apply for SUNY?

    First, determine to which SUNY schools you are applying. Then:

    • Go to https://www.suny.edu/applysuny/
    • Create an account with SUNY
    • Continue on to submit your application online
    • After you submit, you will be prompted to pay $50 for each school you apply to; you can choose to pay via credit card, fee waiver (if eligible) or money order
    • You can choose to submit your grades via SOAR (https://www.suny.edu/student/app_suny_soar.cfm) or have your school counselor submit your transcript
    • Four-year institutions will require an additional supplement which can be filled out at https://www.suny.edu/applysuny/; it will include an essay, and provide further information about sending of recommendations
    • Four-year institutions will require you send an official score report of your SATs from College Board.  Each SUNY must receive a separate score report
  • How do I apply with the Common App?

    First, determine which among the colleges you’re applying to accept the Common Application. Then:

    • Go to https://www.commonapp.org/Application/RegisterApplicant.aspx to register
    • Continue on to submit your application online
    • You will be prompted to submit each individual school’s fee; you can choose to pay via credit card, fee waiver (if eligible), or money order
    • Certain schools may require additional supplements to be filled out
    • Your counselor must send in your transcript and recommendations to each individual school. The counselor can decide to send this information electronically or via mail.
    • Your teacher(s) must send in your recommendation to each individual school.  The teacher can decide to send this electronically or via mail. 
  • Should I even bother applying to colleges I don’t think I can afford?

    Absolutely. Remember that after financial aid packages are determined, most students will pay far less than the "sticker price" listed on the college website. You don’t know if you can afford a college until after you apply and find out how much aid that college will offer you (if you’re accepted). Fill out the FAFSA as early as possible after January 1 to qualify for the most aid. Even if the aid package the college offers is not enough, you have options. Many colleges are willing to work with students they have chosen for admission to ensure that those students can afford to attend.

    To help determine what kind of financial aid a school might be able to offer you, utilize the school’s Net Price Calculator.

  • Should I use an online or a paper application?

    Check with the college to see which is preferred. Most colleges prefer online applications because they are easier to review and process — some even offer a discount in the application fee if you apply online. Applying online can also be more convenient for you — it’s easier to enter information and correct mistakes. Whichever method you choose, be sure to tell your school counselor where you have applied so your school transcript can be sent to the right colleges.

  • Is it OK to use the same material on different applications?

    Definitely. There’s no need to write a brand-new essay or personal statement for each application. Just make sure that you read the question or essay prompt carefully to confirm what you have written responds to it. Also, look out for any mentions you might have made to a specific college.

  • Should I apply to colleges if my admission-test scores or grades are below their published ranges?

    Yes, so long as you balance these “stretch” schools with others where you fit in or exceed the range. The admission scores and grades that colleges show on their websites are averages or ranges — not cutoffs. There are students at every college who scored lower (and higher) than the numbers shown. Remember that colleges consider many factors to get a more complete picture of you. For example, they look at the types of classes you take, your activities, recommendation letters, your essay and your overall character. Colleges are looking for all kinds of students with different talents, abilities and backgrounds. Admission test scores and grades are just two parts of that complete picture.

Make a Decision

I Made My Choice, Now What?

  • Can I lose my spot if I have already been accepted?

    Yes, when a college accepts you, the admissions office gives a deadline by which to tell them if you are going to attend. Take note of the deadline. If you are late, you could lose your place. The college will send you instructions about what to include with your decision letter. Pay close attention.

  • What deposits will I have to pay? Can I use financial aid to pay them?

    Many colleges require that you pay a deposit (between $25 and $300) to hold your place. This usually called the “admissions deposit”. If you plan to live on campus, you will probably have to pay a housing deposit as well to hold your room. Deposits are usually non-refundable, but will be subtracted from your bill when you enroll. Deposits are due before your financial aid will be released, so you will have to save up or get help to pay them up front.

  • My friend had to take some placement tests. How do I know if I have to take a test?

    Check with your college to find out about specific testing requirements. If you are entering a CUNY school, you must take the CUNY Assessment Tests in reading, writing, and mathematics (unless you demonstrated that you meet the University's skills proficiency requirements based on SAT, ACT, or NY State Regents test scores). If any of your scores on the CUNY Assessment Tests are below the minimum level set by CUNY, you will need to take non-credit basic skills (remedial) classes in that area. It is strongly recommended you prepare for the placement tests before you take them. Some practice questions and other information can be seen here.

  • I haven’t heard back from the college I decided to attend. Classes start in a month. What should I do?

    There are steps that you have to take before enrolling in school, like taking placement tests and turning in your immunization records. If you haven’t heard from the college since you accepted their offer, you should call and email the admissions office. Confirm that you will be enrolling in the fall and ask them to re-send information about the steps you need to take before then.

  • Do I have to attend orientation?

    Yes, attend orientation. This is often mandatory, and allows you to get to know your campus and register for classes.

  • I have a learning disability, is there anything different I should do?

    If you had an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) in high school, or you know that you have a learning disability, check with the Office of Disability Services at your campus to find out what type of paperwork you need to provide to ensure that you get the support you need.

Pay For College

Price Tag

  • Can I really afford college?

    Yes. Public and private colleges can both be affordable, and both offer financial aid. Public colleges are generally less expensive than private colleges. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure you will be able to afford college:

    • Apply for all types of financial aid.  See below for more details!
    • Apply to both public and private colleges to ensure you have a range of cost options.
    • If living at home and going away are options for you, apply to both colleges near home and those farther away so that you have a range of costs.
    • Make sure you know about New York State’s special admissions programs,like the Opportunity Programs (HEOP, EOP, SEEK and CD), CSTEP and others, BEFORE you apply to schools. If you qualify, these programs can sometimes help make college more affordable.
    • Learn about loans so you can make informed decisions about whether and how to borrow money for college.
    • Keep in mind you can attend part-time if you need to work full-time to support yourself or your family. Working through the three-month summer breaks can help you earn and save money during college.
    • Work with the college adviser at your school or at a College Access Program to help you work through your financial options.
  • Private colleges are really expensive, should I even bother applying?

    Yes, keep your options open! Affordability is one factor to consider when you apply to schools, but you will never know which ones will offer you the best financial aid if you don’t even apply. In some cases, you might receive enough aid from a private college to make it cheaper for you than going to a public college. This can be true even when the cost of attendance at the private college is much higher. Focus on finding a college that is a good fit overall — one that meets your academic, career, personal and financial needs.

  • How much does college really cost?

    That is a good question, but the more important question might be how much will you have to pay to attend college? College costs range from around $5,000-$10,000 a year to attend a CUNY college to more than $50,000 per year to attend some private universities. BUT THAT IS BEFORE FINANCIAL AID IS APPLIED. For example, students who receive Pell and TAP grants may be able to attend a CUNY college without taking out loans and only paying out of pocket for books and personal expenses. Even a $50,000 price tag for a selective private college can be reduced, with financial aid, to a gap of $1,000 for you to cover after grants and loans are awarded.

  • What is Cost of Attendance (COA) and how do I find out how much it is for the schools I am considering?

    Cost of Attendance (COA) for one year includes tuition, housing and food (aka room and board), fees, books, travel (to and from campus and to and from home for breaks if going away), and personal expenses. Sometimes the Cost of Attendance is called the “sticker price.” Keep in mind that for high-income families, the sticker price may be very close to the actual price students will pay for college; but, for low- and moderate-income families, students may end up paying thousands of dollars less than the sticker price. There are even cases where students get “full rides,” and need to pay very little towards college expenses.   

    To find a college’s total COA you can look on its website, call the college, or use resources like the College Board search and College Navigator.

  • Why are out-of-state public schools so much more expensive than CUNY and SUNY?

    This is because public colleges provide discounts to residents of their own states. The “in-state” tuition is usually significantly less than the “out-of-state” tuition (the price for students from other states). This is true in New York as well. Students from outside of New York State pay more to attend CUNY and SUNY schools than New York residents.

  • How can I pay for my books?

    If you are eligible for a financial aid refund, you can use it to pay for your books. Some Opportunity Programs and scholarships can also help pay for books. If possible, plan ahead to save money from a summer, part-time or Work-Study job to help pay for books. If you need your books before you get your financial aid refund or have the funds saved up, you can consider renting books, sharing books with classmates, reading books in the library, or copying selections from books you borrow until you can buy your own. If none of these are an option, talk to your professor or academic adviser. Take action: don’t fall behind because you can’t afford your books.

  • Does applying for financial aid affect my chances of being admitted?

    Not usually. You are generally admitted based on your academic performance and the qualities you possess as a student. Some colleges are 100% need-blind in their admissions, whereas others may consider students financial needs as they try to admit a diverse class. Most colleges want diversity and use financial aid to achieve that goal. Applying for financial aid early can help give you the best chance of being admitted with a good aid package because colleges do have a limited amount of funds to award each year.

Financial Aid Eligibility

  • Do I qualify for aid even if I don’t get straight A’s?

    Yes. It's true that many scholarships reward student performance in high school, but most government aid is based on financial need. Remember, if you do receive a merit scholarship, you may need to keep your grades up to renew your aid annually.

  • I’m not sure I can get financial aid because of my immigration status. Who is eligible?

    In order to be eligible for federal financial aid, you must be a US citizen, US permanent resident or eligible non-citizen (refugee or political asylee). It is your status that matters, not that of your parents or other family members. You may be eligible for financial aid regardless of whether your parents have social security numbers (see the FAFSA application question 63 for further details). If you are an undocumented student, you are not eligible for federal financial aid, but you can apply for certain private scholarships, and some private colleges have sources of scholarship funding available. You can find a list of scholarships, the majority of which are accessible to undocumented students, at the Web site for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund: (www.maldef.org/education). The CUNY Citizenship & Immigration Project provides free services at 14 centers located throughout New York City. You can find additional information online: (web.cuny.edu/about/citizenship.html).

  • How do I know how much financial aid I am eligible for?

    When you are accepted to a college, the financial aid office at that college reviews the financial aid applications you completed and determines what types and amounts of financial aid you are eligible to receive. The college then sends you an award letter with an outline of the financial aid it is offering you. It could include grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. This collection of resources is called your financial aid package.

    From the award letter you should be able to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money your family is expected to pay towards your education each year you are in school. This step helps determine how much it will cost your family for you to go to college.

    You can estimate your EFC prior to the application process by using the College Board’s EFC calculator: (apps.collegeboard.com/fincalc/efc_status.jsp). EFC factors in anticipated expenses, such as student fees, room/board, books, personal expenses, transportation, and more. There are several considerations in calculating your EFC:

    1. Family income and assets (for parents and/or students);

    2. Family size;

    3. Number of children in the family who attend college;

    4. Unusual circumstances, such as medical expenses.

    When you add up the sources in your financial aid package, you can decide if that college has offered enough financial aid to make it affordable. Sometimes one college won’t offer enough financial aid, and another one will. This is another reason why it’s important to apply to several colleges. If you choose the colleges you apply to carefully, you are more likely to end up with at least one option—and probably more—that is affordable.

  • Is my family’s income too high to qualify for aid?

    Financial aid is intended to make college available to students from many different financial situations. College financial aid officers consider family income, the number of family members in college, medical expenses and many other factors when reviewing your financial aid application. So, even if you think your family income is too high for you to qualify for aid, you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. This form determines your eligibility for federal and state student grants, work-study and federal loans. The best way to get an estimate of how much financial aid a college will offer you — and therefore how much you’ll really pay to go to that college — is to use the college’s net price calculator. Most colleges have these tools on their websites. Net price calculators give you an estimate of your net price for a particular college — that is, the cost of attendance minus the gift aid you might get. Learn more about net price.

  • What kinds of financial aid am I eligible for?

    You may be eligible for scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans.

  • Do I have to sign up for the draft in order to get aid?

    If you are a male age 17 ½ or older, you must sign up for the draft in order to get aid.

  • I don’t have a co-signer; am I still eligible for federal loans?

    Yes, you are eligible for federal loans without a co-signer.

Financial Aid Process

  • Is it worth taking out loans for college?

    It can be, but it depends on how much you borrow. Federal loans require that you fill out the FAFSA. Financial aid packages from different colleges include different total loan amounts. You will need to think about how much it is worth borrowing to go to a specific college. It may be that another college will require no loans or a much smaller amount in loans. 

    Not all loans are the same. Learn as much as you can to make a smart choice. A Perkins or Stafford loan subsidized by the federal government might have a much lower interest rate and better terms  that a private loan – meaning that in the end, you will pay a lot less even if you borrow the same amount. Also be sure you understand when you have to start paying the loan back. Some loans require you to start making payments right away while you are in school; others give you up until six months after you graduate to start paying.

    Whenever you borrow money, you have to decide if it is worth it. A college loan can be an excellent investment in your future. Borrowing a little now to earn a lot later can be the best investment you ever make. It’s an investment in you.

  • Can I ask for more Financial Aid?

    You can appeal to colleges for more financial aid. It won’t always produce more aid, but it is usually worth a try. Generally, colleges will consider you for more aid if you give them relevant family financial information they don’t already know through the FAFSA or other forms that indicates you have greater financial need. Before you ask for an appeal or reconsideration, think about the differences between your FAFSA and your actual situation. For example, did your parent lose a job? Did your parents get a divorce in the last year? Do you have significant health care or childcare costs? Colleges may ask you to put your appeal in writing.  Your counselor/adviser can help you draft an appeal letter that you will send to the financial aid officer assigned to you through the college. You can also ask for more aid during a face-to-face visit by sitting with the financial aid officer and explaining your situation. If you have a better package from another school, you should bring that award letter to help the financial aid officer think about how the school can better meet your needs.

  • I received Financial Aid last year. Do I have to apply again?

    Yes, you must submit a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or a Renewal FAFSA for each new award year. This will also allow you to be considered for the TAP multi-year application process, so students who have received TAP in the previous year may not be required to submit a new electronic TAP application if they renew their FAFSA.

  • When is the FAFSA available?

    It is available January 1st of each year.

  • What is the priority filing deadline?

    The priority filing deadline varies by school but it is best to file by early February.

  • I’ve been “flagged for verification;” what does that mean?

    “Flagged for verification” generally means one or more of your answers on the FAFSA is incorrect, raises questions, or requires further explanation. Some students are also randomly flagged. Verification documents must be submitted to the financial aid office of the schools to which you applied.

  • What happens after I submit my application for financial aid?

    After you submit your FAFSA, it is processed and assessed by the federal government. From there, you will be issued a Student Aid Report (SAR). This report will also be accessible to the schools to which you applied. Each school that accepted you will send you a financial aid package informing you of how much aid it will provide. 

  • How do I determine which financial aid package is better?

    In order to understand which of your financial aid packages is best, you need to add up how much money each school is giving you in grants (such as Pell, TAP, scholarships and other “free” money you do not have to pay back), and how much in loans (Stafford, Perkins, Parent PLUS, etc…). You also need to look at how much of the cost of attendance is covered by your financial aid package. It may not cover the whole amount, which would mean you would have to take out more loans or pay out of pocket as you go to make up the difference. Basically, you want to choose the package that leaves you with the least amount of debt. Try using a financial aid comparison worksheet or talk your school counselor or a college access program in your neighborhood if you are confused.

  • This financial aid package letter is confusing – how much am I responsible for paying?

    The amount you are responsible for paying up front is equal to the total cost of attendance minus the financial aid they offer. This is also referred to as the “gap” amount. Remember, you are also responsible for paying back your loans.

  • When can I expect to get my financial aid award letters?

    You should be receiving your financial aid packages by March or April.

  • When do I have to accept a financial aid package?

    May 1st is the deadline for accepting your financial aid package. By accepting the package, you are making the decision that this is the school you will attend.

Financial Aid Applications

  • What financial aid applications do I need to complete?

    If you are a US Citizen, Permanent Resident, or eligible non-citizen (refugee or political asylee), you will need to complete at least two forms, including:

    • FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (this application is for all federal financial aid, including Pell Grants);
    • TAP: Tuition Assistance Program, a grant for New York State residents to attend an approved college in New York State. You complete the TAP application by clicking on the link at the end of the FAFSA application.
    • You may also have to complete other forms, such as: a CSS Profile, if you are applying to this list of colleges; forms from individual colleges, if required. 
  • What is the FAFSA?

    FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, administered by the federal government. Students must complete the FAFSA before each year of college to be considered for any federal grants or loans. It can be accessed at www.fafsa.ed.gov (be sure to go to this site for the free application, other sites will charge you for it.

  • How do I apply for TAP if I missed the direct link from the FAFSA form?

    You must wait 3 to 4 business days for New York State HESC to receive and process your completed FAFSA information. After those days have passed, you can go to www.tapweb.org to file your TAP application. 

  • What is the TAP Application?

    TAP is the Tuition Assistance Program, which is a New York State grant application administered by HESC. Applying determines your eligibility for the TAP grant, a New York State grant that goes to state residents attending college in New York. The maximum TAP grant amount is $5,000 yearly. It can be accessed at www.tapweb.org

  • What is the CSS PROFILE?

    The CSS Profile, the College Scholarship Service Profile, is a financial aid application used by particular colleges and scholarship programs. It is administered by the College Board. The CSS Profile is used by colleges to determine which students will receive financial support directly from the school. The questions go much more in depth on a student’s and family’s finances. It can be accessed at https://profileonline.collegeboard.org/prf/index.jsp. 

  • I’m undocumented. Should I file financial aid applications?

    Undocumented students should not file the FAFSA or TAP online.

    If an undocumented student is applying to a school that requires the CSS Profile, only after receiving assurance from the school that they will not share information with the government, should the student submit the CSS Profile online.  Please note that the student will not be eligible for fee waivers for the Profile.

    If student is attending CUNY, they might be asked to turn in a paper copy of the FAFSA to their CUNY school to determine financial eligibility for certain programs. Students should feel safe in doing so because all CUNY employees are not allowed to share student’s immigration status with anyone.

  • My parents are separated and I live with my mom. Do I have to provide my dad’s information on my financial aid applications?

    For the FAFSA and TAP applications, they only care about your custodial parent (the parent with whom you spend the most time). So for the FAFSA and TAP, you would not have to include any information about your non-custodial parent (the parent whom you spend less time with). 

    For the CSS Profile, you will have to fill out information about your non-custodial parent and your non-custodial parent will have to fill out the Non Custodial Parent Profile. 

    If you do not have contact with your non custodial parent, you will need to reach out to the financial aid office at each college to discuss your situation. If you can prove you have no contact with the parent, no support was paid or you don't know where s/he is, many colleges will work with you. Some colleges will consider waiving the requirement, but you might have to request a waiver formally in writing or the school might have a special form. Again, you should discuss your situation with the financial aid officer.

  • Who do I put in the parent section of the FAFSA?

    Only the financial information of biological or adoptive parents should go on the FAFSA. If your parents are married, provide information about both parents. If your parent is widowed or single, provide information about that parent. If your parents have divorced or separated, provide information about the parent that you lived with most during the last 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, provide information about the parent who provided most of your financial support during the last 12 months.

    Note: The following people are NOT considered parents unless they have legally adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

  • I don't live with my parents and they can’t help me pay for school; why do I need to include their information?

    All students are considered dependent by the federal government unless they can answer yes to one of the following questions:

    • Were you born before January 1, 1989?
    • As of today are you married?
    • At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.)?
    • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
    • Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
    • Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013?
    • Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2013?
    • At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
    • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
    • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?
    • At any time on or after July 1, 2011, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
    • At any time on or after July 1, 2011, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
    • At any time on or after July 1, 2011, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

    In the eyes of the federal government, being 18 or older and supporting yourself is not enough to deem you independent for the FAFSA.  Students in this situation are still required to include parental information. 

Managing Your Money

  • Should I work while I’m attending college?

    Being able to support yourself financially while attending college is a great thing, and for some students a necessity. But remember, successfully completing your academic program is what is most important to your long-term financial stability. If you do have to work, working a moderate amount of hours (10-12 hours) per week is best. You may find that working on your college campus is a good way to manage college costs, get experience, and create new relationships with staff, professors and other students while putting some money in your pockets. If you cannot find a job on your campus you should look near your college or near your home, which will cut down on travel time and make your schedule easier to manage.

  • Do I have to live on a budget? If so, how do I create one?

    Attending college is a huge investment that requires you to be financially smart. Creating and sticking to a budget is always a great way to manage your money. A budget is simply a plan of how you intend to spend the money you have. Budgeting is not only encouraged in college, but also beyond your collegeexperience. Here are some tips that can help you create your own budget:

    1)      List and add up all of your sources of income (such as financial aid, support from family members, income from your job) for one semester

    2)      List and add up all of your expenses for one semester (such as rent, food, bills, clothes, transportation, toiletries, health care costs, money to go out with friends)

    3)      Review your plan. Do you have enough income to cover your expenses with some left over for emergencies or things you haven’t thought of? If not, where can you cut back?

    4)      Stick with your plan.

  • What exactly is work study and how much does it pay?

    Federal Work-Study is a financial aid program that provides paid, part-time employment to eligible students on college campuses to help them cover their college costs. Work-study assignments are either on-campus positions (in the library, cafeteria or computer lab, for example) or off-campus assignments related to community service or a student’s area of study. Hourly rates are at least minimum wage, and the amount you earn cannot be more that your total work-study indicated on your financial aid award letter.

  • What are some things I can do to cut back on my expenses?

    To save money, consider living at home while in school, renting textbooks instead of buying them or purchasing used textbooks, utilizing free campus transportation, taking advantage of all free campus resources such as the library, gym and clinic, and more. Opening up a student bank account can be also beneficial. Additionally, students receive discounts at many local businesses.

  • What is a 529 savings plan?

    A 529 plan allows users to set aside money tax-free to invest toward future college expenses. If you have some time before college, a 529 savings plan may be a good idea for you.

Use Your Summer

Before You Apply to College

  • What’s the best thing to do with my summer?

    Colleges want you to be active in the summer. Whether you take a course, get a job, do an internship or participate in a community program – colleges want to see that you’re doing something. In the eyes of a college admissions office, any of these activities is valuable. Colleges want to see that you are motivated to use your free time in a productive way, so it’s just important that you do something.

  • How can I find classes to take over the summer?

    If you attend a NYC Department of Education high school, College NOW has a lot of wonderful course offerings in the summer. College NOW courses are offered free to NYC public high school students and allow students to earn college credits. You can find a listing of their courses at http://collegenow.cuny.edu/summer-programs-list/.

    For those not able to participate in College NOW, there are still a lot of courses that are available to you. Many colleges offer programs for high school students during the summer.  Check each college’s website to see program focus, dates and cost. Financial aid may be available. In addition, there are some excellent online courses from top universities that are available for free. Check out Coursera.

  • Where can I find a summer job?

    If you live in NYC and are between the ages of 14 – 24, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) can be a great resource for summer jobs. During the summer of 2012, 30,000 youth were placed in summer jobs through SYEP. To apply, you need to fill out an online application (available in April). More information can be found here.

    If you are under the age of 18, you need working papers to work. If you are still in high school, your school can give them to you. If you are out of high school, you can call 311 to find the closest school to your location to receive your working papers.

  • I like having summers off, does it really matter that much if I just hang out?

    Colleges really like to see students involved in something over their summers, especially the summer before their senior year of high school. Search to find an activity, program or job that will keep you occupied, but also give you time to hang out. It will be worth it to have an additional thing to put on your college applications!

  • I work during the summer, is that something that I can include on a college application?

    Absolutely! Colleges want to know what you’re involved with, and a job is a serious commitment. You should include your job in your resume and also on the activities part of your applications.

  • How can I find summer programs to participate in?

    If you are in high school, check with your school counselor about any programs s/he might know. If you are a NYC public high school student, strongly consider taking part in College NOW (collegenow.cuny.edu/). If you are not in high school, NYC offers many great summer opportunities. Try contacting colleges that you are interested in to see whether they have any programs. You can also search NYC College Line and Google for summer programs related to your particular interests (such as biology or dance). You can also participate in free activities at many of NYC’s museums.

  • I have to apply to college this fall. What can I be doing now to get ahead?

    Summer is a great time to get a jump start on your applications. Research! If you’re not sure what schools you’re interested in, take the college search quiz on College Board to get you started. Take this time to really get to know the schools you’re interested in. If possible, visit the campuses. Read about them on their website. Send away for their promotional material. Research the majors that interest you.Work on your essay. Study for the SAT or ACT.Begin your applications.

    After August 1st, the applications should be available online. Begin to fill them out!  Remember, it is a good idea to talk to your school counselor or other adviser about your college choices before submitting them.

Before You Enroll in College

  • Do I have to attend orientation?

    Yes, attend orientation. This is often mandatory, and allows you to get to know your campus and register for classes.

  • What do I absolutely have to do in the summer before I start college?

    Check your emails or mail for upcoming dates, deadlines and events. Your school will send you important information about due dates for commitment fees and housing deposits, placement test dates, and/or summer programs (such as EOP/HEOP) and orientation. The summer before college is also a great time to explore your college and become familiar with the area.

  • What is summer immersion?

    There are two different types of summer immersion. One is a non-credit program intended for students who must complete their basic skills requirements and improve their proficiency in Reading, Writing and Mathematics.  The other is for students who want to get a head start in their college career, earn college credit and perhaps deepen their knowledge in a specific subject area.

  • Do I have to take a placement test?

    Check with your college to find out about specific testing requirements. If you are entering a CUNY school, you must take the CUNY Assessment Tests in reading, writing, and mathematics (unless you demonstrated that you meet the University's skills proficiency requirements based on SAT, ACT, or NY State Regents test scores). 

    The placement test for most schools is mandatory in order to register for classes. In general, not taking the test can mean that you cannot register for classes, or it may mean that you miss an opportunity to take part in special programs that happen during the summer.

    If any of your scores on the CUNY Assessment Tests are below the minimum level set by CUNY, you will need to take non-credit basic skills (remedial) classes in that area. It is strongly recommended you prepare for the placement tests before you take them. Some practice questions and other information can be seen here

  • I can’t afford my deposit. What should I do?

    Check with your college to see if you qualify for a waiver. Talk to your school counselor or other adviser to see if any other resources might be available to you.

  • I’m living on campus. What do I need to bring?

    Most colleges provide a suggested packing list. See if one is available for your school. It might have some hints and tips about specific dorms as well as rules about items not allowed (for example, candles and incense are banned in nearly all dorm rooms). Here is a sample list from SUNY Albany. 

    Stick to the necessities and avoid over-packing. If you’re living with roommate(s), make sure you contact them before moving day so that everyone can organize a list of items to bring with them. This will avoid duplicate items and maximize space.

  • When and how do I register for classes?

    There a multiple ways to register for classes such as during orientation with your academic adviser, online registration, or the college registrar’s office. Check your school’s academic calendar for registration dates.

  • How do I pay for books and other necessities if I haven’t gotten my refund check yet?

    Contact the financial aid office to inquire and confirm that you will be receiving a book stipend. If you will not be receiving a stipend or if you need your books before you get it, you can save money by renting books, sharing books with classmates, reading books in the library, or copying selections from books you borrow until you can buy your own. If none of these are an option, talk to your professor or academic adviser. Take action: don’t fall behind because you can’t afford your books.

  • What is a certificate of residence, and do I need one?

    It is an official New York State document that says that you are a resident. Yes, you need it to guarantee that you will be charged in-state tuition and fees, which are much less than those charged to out-of-state students.

  • How do I complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN)?

    Log into www.studentloans.gov and sign in. First, you must complete the entrance counseling and submit it. The next step is to complete the Master Promissory Note (MPN). Click on MPN link and fill in your information including two references. Type your name and date and submit. Be sure to print a copy for your records.

In College

  • Will financial aid pay for my summer classes?

    Yes, in some cases. Usually any financial aid you have left over from the previous fall and spring semesters can be applied toward summer courses. Check with your college’s Financial Aid Office to learn more. In New York State, there are some requirements that you must meet in order for TAP to cover your classes; check out this link   (www.hesc.ny.gov/content.nsf/SFC/Student_TAP_Coach_Summer_Study) with the specific information.

  • Is it worth it to have an unpaid summer opportunity/internship?

    Internships are about more than money. You also gain valuable work experience, skills, and knowledge and make professional connections. Of course a paid internship is more immediately desirable, but future rewards may outweigh immediate ones. Acquiring skills, developing a solid work background and establishing a strong professional network will pay in the long run.

  • Can I stay on campus during the summer?

    You usually can stay on campus during the summer if you are taking summer courses or working on campus. However, you may have to live in a different room or residential hall.  Colleges may allow you to stay on campus based on other personal circumstances as well. Check with your resident life office.

  • I just got my new financial aid package letter – what do I do with it?

    The letter should clearly list the total cost of attendance at the college and the total amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive. This information will let you know how much you would need to pay out of pocket or take out in loan money to attend the college. It may be different from your package the prior year, so it is crucial to look at it carefully. If you have trouble understanding your renewal package, contact the college’s financial aid office. It may help to review your letter with a professional college adviser.

  • Where can I find a summer job? A summer internship? A summer program?

    First, check to see if your college has an office of internships or a career services office. They may help you find summer opportunities on or off campus. There are SUNY Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs) in each NYC borough that can help you find programs, jobs, and internships. NYC’s Workforce 1 and Summer Youth Employment Program can help students find jobs as well.

  • I’m at a CUNY school; can I take classes at a different CUNY school over the summer?

    Yes, but you must get permission from both schools first. Start by finding the course you want and which colleges offer it. There may be specific requirements around which classes you can take outside of your college.

Succeed in College

The First Year

  • I have so much more homework than I did in high school; how am I supposed to finish all of it?

    In college, you can expect to have fewer hours of class but more homework outside of class. Full-time students take between 12 and 15 hours of classes per week; these classes may be more challenging, and will likely be structured differently than in high school.  You should expect to spend at least 2 – 4 hours a day studying outside of class. To keep yourself on track, find a good study environment without distraction (for example, go to the library and turn off the internet on your phone or computer so you won't be tempted to procrastinate) and sign up for peer tutoring or academic advisement to build good study habits. Many professors or teaching assistants will hold office hours where you can ask questions about class readings, or get help on assignments. If you are falling behind on your coursework, reach out to someone immediately. You are more likely to get an extension on a project if you plan ahead and ask early than if you ask the night before an assignment is due. For big projects or assignments, make a checklist of smaller tasks you need to complete to get there.

  • Do I really need to read the syllabus my professor gave me?

    YES! Your syllabus has a lot of important information on it.  It has basic information – such as when and where the class meets and the professor’s office hours and contact information.  Often times, syllabi also have a listing of class reading or assignments as well as exam and paper dates, which are important to make note of when planning your study schedule.  Pay close attention to the attendance policy or what to do when you miss a class – professors have procedures in place that they expect you to know.  For example, if you miss a quiz the professor may send you to the learning center to make it up.  Without reading the syllabus, you wouldn’t know this critical information!

  • Our professor says that class participation is part of our grade, what does that mean and how can I make sure I’m doing well in that section?

    In college, professors like to ensure that their students understand the material that is being taught in class.  One of the best ways to show the professor that you are listening to the lecture or discussion is to speak up.  Make sure you’re prepared to do this by doing your homework, and reading for class.   Then, during class time, you can:

    1.) Ask a question about the material.  Don’t be afraid to ask!  If you have a question about something, other students are probably wondering about it too.  Asking questions shows that you are listening to the discussion.

    2.) Agree with and provide additional support for what the professor or another classmate said.

    3.) Provide a different opinion than your professor or another classmate. 

    While it is important to contribute to class discussion, it is equally important to do so in a productive and respectful manner!  Try starting your comments with “I agree because…” or “I disagree because…” 

  • Do I really need to buy all of my books? I didn’t know they were going to be so expensive and I haven’t gotten my refund check yet! What are cheaper options for getting books besides buying them at the campus bookstore?

    Yes, you really need to get all of your books, but no you don’t have to buy all of them!

    There are less expensive options than buying them full price at the bookstore. First, try to get there early – there might be some used books available that you can buy. You can also find them online on websites like amazon.com or half.com. You also have the option to rent books for the semester at websites such as chegg.com. Check your syllabi to see which books you need within the first couple weeks of class and make sure to get those first if you can’t get all of them at once. While you’re waiting for your books to arrive, you can also go to the library and borrow books on reserve. You can’t take the book home with you, but you’ll be able to use it for a set amount of time while in the library.

  • What happens if I just stop going to a class?

    If you stop going to class without "dropping" or "withdrawing" through the Registrar’s Office, you will almost certainly get an F in the class, which brings down your GPA. You can usually withdraw up until the midpoint of the semester (check with the Registrar’s Office at your college to confirm the withdrawal deadline), and receive a W (or Withdrawn) on your transcript, which doesn’t affect your GPA (though some colleges may note this differently). Even with a “W”, you will not gain credit, and you will not get a refund on the tuition you paid.  If you are struggling in a class, don’t wait to reach out to your professor and academic advisors to get support and discuss your options.

  • What are remedial classes?

    Before enrolling in college-credit courses, many students need to take remedial, or developmental education classes.  These zero-credit classes are designed to provide extra preparation for students who haven’t yet tested into college-level courses.  If you are required to take any remedial or  developmental education classes, complete them as soon as possible (ideally, in the summer before you enroll!).  You’ll need to complete these requirements before you can take the classes you need to graduate.

  • Are remedial classes free? Do they use up any of my financial aid?

    In general, even though remedial courses do not count towards degree credit, they use your financial aid, which is not unlimited. Some schools offer free summer classes to students in remedial subjects; you should check to see if your college offers them because it can save you lots of money.

  • How should I pick what classes to take?

    Hopefully you’ll be able to go to a New Student Orientation before school starts, or to set up a meeting with an advisor in your school’s Academic Advising Office. They should be able to help you pick out a good set of classes to get started with. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

    • Take a full load. If you plan to graduate in 4 years, you’re probably going to have to take about 15 credits (or 4-5 classes) per semester. It might sound like a lot of classes but it will help you on your way to your degree!
    • Understand your degree requirements. Most schools have set of required courses you need to take to graduate, like Introduction to College Writing or a foreign language requirement. It’s a good idea to start taking some of these requirements first semester.
    • Explore majors. It’s ok if you don’t know what you want to major in yet! But if you have some ideas of potential majors you’re considering, take a class from that department to try it on for size.
  • How do I pick a major? Should I consider double majoring or earning a minor?

    Each school is different when it comes to majors and minors, but an academic advisor, professor, or peer tutor can help you choose what is best for you. Think about your favorite classes in high school as well as your career interests, but keep an open mind and gather as much information as possible. Many students use their first year to explore different interests before deciding on a major, and many are surprised to love classes they never liked or took in high school. Also look carefully at credits, especially if you want to transfer to another school, and finish remedial courses as soon as possible. Be realistic about double majoring and minoring--it might be great for your interests, but if it won't fit in your schedule, you can still explore other fields by taking classes or joining related clubs and activities.

  • What do I do if my school doesn’t offer the major for my career interest?

    Meeting with your school's career services office and with academic advisors from the very beginning of your time in college will help you pick courses and a major that will get you through college and to a great career. You may be able to major in something related to your interest even if it isn't an exact match. Your professors and administrators may be able to help you hold "informational interviews" with professionals currently working in the career you're interested in, which will also help you determine if it's truly necessary to have a certain major.  You can also explore your career interest and become a competitive applicant through internships, student clubs, and volunteering.  If you are interested in a specialized major that only a select number of other colleges offer, you may also want to explore the possibility of transferring.  Make sure you reach out to advisors and professors on your campus to discuss all your options.   

  • Should I join student clubs or other non-academic programs like a sports team or a musical group?

    Student clubs and outside programs operating on campus are a great way to explore career and academic interests as well as build relationships. If you are trying to pick a major or a career path, a leadership position in a related student club can help you explore that interest. Applying for leadership programs and fellowships is a great way to get additional support, guidance, and even money. Visit your school's scholarship, student life, and career offices to see where you can get involved.

  • I’m going to be commuting and I’m worried about feeling like I’m just still in high school since I won’t be living on campus.

    College is a big change from high school, even if you’re living at home and commuting. Here are some things to keep in mind:

    • You can still get involved on campus and it’s a great way to meet new people. Most schools have a club or activity fair at the beginning of the school year so you can see what’s out there. Love Anime? Find the Anime Club! Want to help the community? Join the Service Society. Want a way to socialize with other students? A lot of commuter schools still have fraternities and sororities.
    • Your campus still has a lot to offer you, even if you don’t live there. It’s easy to just show up on campus for class and leave right afterwards, but spending time on campus is a great way to feel connected. Study in the library with a friend, play basketball in the gym in between classes, grab lunch with some of your classmates after class. You can still find a community at a commuter school, but you might have to put in the effort to find it!
    • College classes are a lot different from high school classes, even if you’re commuting. You’ll still get to explore new subjects that you didn’t know about in high school, and you can still visit professors in office hours to hear about their research and discuss course topics.
  • I heard that at college you have to be really independent and people aren’t there to help you! Is that true?

    You certainly have to be independent, but there are lots of people at college to help you! Professors have spent their lives researching and studying the topic they are teaching, so they typically welcome questions and conversations from students. Don’t hesitate to email them or stop by their office hours to chat about any topics you have questions about or are excited about. Colleges also have tutoring and writing resources on campus. Tutors are often upperclassmen who have done really well in that class and are available to help you (often for free!). Colleges also often have a writing center that is staffed by students who are really great writers and editors. Bring drafts of your papers there to have them help you make it perfect before you submit it to your professor. Sometimes professors will even give extra credit to students who go to tutoring or the writing center. Take advantage of these resources! You are paying for it along with your cost of attendance.

  • I am feeling really overwhelmed and stressed out; what resources are there for me?

    It's important to reach out to services around you. If you are living on campus, reach out to your Residence Hall staff so that they can help guide you to proper resources. In addition, reaching out to counseling services is always a good option. Counselors are available to talk with you about stress and to help you come up with tangible solutions. Often your school's website has information regarding counseling services.

Make it to Graduation

  • How do I decide which classes to take, and what do I do if some of the ones I need for my major are already full?

    Selecting classes can be incredibly daunting because of how many there are. A good start is to meet with your academic advisor to come up with a plan of action. Do you have to take core classes? If so, when is the best time? How can you stay on track to complete all the requirements for your major?  Your advisor can help you figure these things out. If some classes for your major are full, its great to be proactive and advocate for yourself. Emailing the professor, sitting in on the first class, and building a relationship with the professor are great ways to increase your chances of being added to the class.

  • I failed my last math quiz and have class during my professor’s office hours. What should I do?!

    Take a look at your syllabus to check if the professor listed other resources available for your class, such as a TA or tutor.  If not, you can email the professor with your concern about your grade and ask if he or she can meet you outside office hours.  You should also explore other campus resources – if there is not a math-specific tutoring center, go to the general learning center and sign up for an appointment for extra help! One poor grade does not mean you will not do well in the class, as long as you are proactive about seeking help to bring your grade up.

  • What should I do if I really don’t like one of my classes/professors but it is too late to drop the class?

    Unfortunately, it's very rare that every student will love every professor they have and every class they take. Unless you choose to withdraw through the Registrar’s Office, it's important to continue on in the class, and to find support systems to make it through. Find other classmates who you can work with, or other professors or tutors who can provide extra help and encouragement. For the future, keep in mind what you did and did not like about your experience in the class, so that next time you can pick classes and professors more aligned with your interests and needs.

  • How can I raise my GPA?

    It's always important to start off your semester strong!  Develop a study plan to ensure that you have enough time to complete course readings and assignments outside of class.  In addition, make time to attend professors’ office hours, and take advantage of tutoring opportunities available on campus, including those offered through the writing center.  Know what works for you when creating a study plan: if you need time to study on your own, find a quiet corner in the library; if you work best with others, don’t be afraid to form a study group with your classmates.  Finally, set concrete goals for yourself, and talk to your advisors and supporters about your efforts to improve your grades.  They can provide extra guidance and encouragement to keep you on track towards a 4.0!

  • I really need a job to make some money during the school year, but I’m also taking a lot of classes this semester, playing on the soccer team, and I’m the vice president of the Spanish club! How do I balance my time for all of this?!

    Time management is a big concern for most college students.  The first thing to do is to take a look at all of your weekly activities and estimate how much time you will need for each.  Remember to take into account time for homework, meals, commuting to and from class, and downtime with your friends; all of these things are important to maintaining a healthy balance in college.  After you have calculated the time needed for your activities, create a weekly schedule for yourself that lists the days of the week, and each hour of the day, and what you plan to do during that time.   Follow the schedule that you have created for yourself for a week; if it does not seem like it’s working, make some changes for the following week and see if it helps.  If it looks like there will not be enough time to do any one thing very well, consider dropping an activity.  Remember to prioritize class time, and homework time; this is college, and you’re here to learn before anything else.

  • Will my financial aid (federal and state grants, scholarships, work study, and loans) stay the same each year I’m in college?

    Your financial aid will be re-evaluated every year, which means that you must complete the FAFSA every year.  Each new financial aid package you receive will take into account changing school costs, new information about your family’s income and resources, as well as whether you are meeting GPA and academic progress requirements. In general, if your family’s situation remains stable, your aid should not change much. Scholarships, on the other hand, vary greatly: some may not be renewable, or may have a particular process for renewal. Students should speak to the Financial Aid Office at their school for more information. 

  • Why am I not getting all of the TAP I thought I would? I heard if you drop classes, don’t take enough credits, or get a high enough GPA this can happen – is that true?

    There are a few reasons why this might happen. To receive TAP, you must be in good academic standing, which consists of “pursuit of program” and “satisfactory academic progress.” Basically, you have to (a) get a grade in a certain percentage of classes (this means you have to be careful about withdrawing from too many classes!) and (b) maintain a minimum GPA per credits received during the semesters you receive TAP. Eligibility requirements are found here, under section g: http://www.hesc.ny.gov/content.nsf/CA/Chapter_3_Student_Information. You can view the chart to determine if you are making “satisfactory academic progress” according to TAP here: http://www.hesc.ny.gov/content.nsf/CA/TAP_Coach_Satisfactory_Academic_Progress.

     Another reason you might not receive a full TAP award could be if you are retaking a class that you’ve already passed. TAP requires that you have a full schedule (at least 12 credits) to be eligible for the full aid amount. If you passed the class, TAP won’t count the credits towards being full time, even if your college does. If you previously failed the class or are retaking it at a different college because your previous grade was not high enough for their academic requirements, the class will count towards being a full time student according to TAP standards.

     Yet another reason could be the courses you are taking. TAP requires that all classes be applied towards your program of study as a general education requirement, major requirement, or elective. If you are taking classes that fall outside these requirements you can either (a) change your schedule or (b) temporarily change your major to become more general or “undecided” – this is especially useful advice for freshmen.

    Also, by registering for fewer than 12 credits (including equated creditsfrom remedial classes), you are not eligible for a full-time TAP award, but may be eligible for a part time award (APTS – Aid for Part Time Study).

    A fourth reason could be that your TAP wasn’t yet processed when your college estimated your award. Once TAP is confirmed, the aid amount might be slightly different than the estimated amount. Or, it still might not be processed – by logging into your TAP account online, you can see if that’s the case and what they are missing to complete the TAP application. If you still have questions, call the HESC hotline (1-888-NYSHESC – 1-888-697-4372).

    Whatever the problem may be, check with your Financial Aid Office to see what the hold-up is – they’ll be able to help you and direct you to ways to fix it.

  • Should I study abroad?

    Studying abroad is a spectacular way to broaden your perspective. Not only will you learn a lot by studying abroad, but it looks good on your resume. However, before you decide to study abroad, look into how much it will cost and make sure you can take the classes you need for your major. Consider the strength of the study abroad program as well as the country you would like to visit and speak to your adviser before making the decision. If you get homesick, you should think carefully before choosing to study abroad; but, remember that opportunities to study abroad do not come around often. Learning a new language can prove difficult, but it will be a benefit to you in the long run.

  • I want to study abroad during college, but I’m not sure if an entire semester is a good idea for me. What are my options?

    There are a lot of study abroad options out there for all kinds of interests and comfort levels. There are semester and year-long programs as well as month-long programs, depending on your school. You can even study at another university within the U.S. if you want to stay local. If your school doesn't offer the specific program you want, you can often study abroad with partner colleges. Check out your study abroad (or advising office) for more information.

  • I’m thinking about transferring. What issues should I consider?

    If you are considering transferring, it’s important to understand the potential advantages and disadvantages of attending a different college.  Will you gain access to new degree programs?  Have the chance to live closer – or farther away from – home, or to attend a college that may be a better fit for you?  When exploring the answers to these questions, make sure you reach out to advisors and professors on your campus to discuss all your options.  It may be that your own campus has programs and resources you didn’t know about that you’ll want to pursue before you choose to transfer.  When exploring the possibility of attending a different college, it’s also important to have a clear understanding of transfer application deadlines, and to know which of your credits will transfer to the new college.  Additionally, you’ll want to find out about the cost of attendance at the colleges you’re considering, and about how your financial aid package might change.

  • How do I transfer from a community college to a 4-year college?

    If you would like to transfer from a community college to a 4-year college, visit the transfer office at your community college; this is a good place to start. Advisors at the transfer office will be able to help you explore your options and find out which of your credits will transfer to your new college. Often, the best way to transfer without losing credits is by earning an associate degree at your community college before you go elsewhere.     

  • I think I might need to take a semester off; what should I do?

    First, evaluate the reason(s) why you feel you need to take time off. If you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, think about paying a visit to counseling services on your campus, or talk to another advisor, mentor, friend, or family member about your challenges to find ways to cope. Keep in mind the effects of taking a semester off on your scholarships, school health insurance, class registration, and loans (most creditors provide a 6-month grace period before you have to start repaying your loans, so if you're only taking one semester off, you likely won't need to start repayment, but call and check to be sure!).

Life after College

  • Do I need to do an internship during college? How do I find one?

    Internships are a very effective way to find a job after graduation, and build skills and experience to make you an attractive applicant. You may end up taking an unpaid internship; while this could be hard financially in the short-term, it can have long-term financial advantages. In fact, according to a recent Rutgers study, students who did internships during their college years had a 15% higher starting salary after college than those who did not do internships. You can find internships through your school's career services office, through outside organizations and fellowship programs, and by searching online or talking to contacts and professors. Remember: you have to look for internships early; many deadlines for summer internship applications are January-March, so don't wait until May to apply!

  • What exactly is “networking” and how can I do it in college if I don’t know any professionals?

    Networking is a term for identifying and building relationships with a group of people who share a similar interest, such as a passion for a particular industry. Networking will be important throughout our entire professional life, but it is especially essential while you are exploring fields of interests and applying for jobs. In fact, many job openings are never even posted, and most people get jobs by hearing about them from someone they have met. Even if you don't know any professionals in college, there are many ways to establish and grow your network, including talking to other students who share your interests, attending company presentations, getting to know your professors, contacting alumni from your college through the career services office, and visiting career fairs.

  • How do I decide between a higher paying job or career path and one that I’m really interested in?

    The best way to make a decision between two career paths is to be as informed as possible.  You may discover roles that pay a wide range of salaries within the career path that you love, or you may find a function that you really enjoy in a higher paying job.  In order to learn more about different careers and the lifestyles associated with those careers, consider taking steps such as visiting your career services office, or requesting an informational interview with someone who has your dream job.  In addition to trying to gain a better understanding of careers, make a sincere effort to reflect on yourself and what is most important to you.

  • I want to go to graduate school but don’t know where to start. Help!

    First off, seek help at your college’s career services office! They can help you decide if graduate school is the right decision for you, and they have valuable information about programs, requirements, and timelines for applying to graduate school.  You can do some research on sites such as gradprofiles.com or gradschools.com to further explore different programs offered and learn about specific requirements.  You should also make sure you are aware of the required tests and application deadlines for your desired program.  Finally, make sure and start early! If you know you need to go to a graduate program for your intended career – such as medical school or law school – you should be thinking about prepping for tests and applications your junior year.

  • When do I start applying to jobs or graduate school?

    Before you think about applying to jobs and graduate school, it's important to work on building a resume that will make you a competitive applicant for any program or position.  From your first day at college, begin by focusing on leadership opportunities, internships, and student clubs related to your long-term goals. Timelines for applying to jobs and graduate school can vary greatly across different industries.  With this in mind, visit your career services center no later than the fall of your second year to start exploring timelines and requirements for particular graduate school programs and jobs that you find interesting.

  • What do I do if the companies or organizations I’m interested in working for don’t recruit on my campus?

    You are not limited to interning or working for companies that recruit on your campus.  If you are interested in a particular organization that is not represented on campus, visit their website to learn about their recruiting process and deadlines for applying to work there.  In addition, examine your own network and reach out to your college’s career services office to find alumni from your college who work there.  By asking for advice or an informational interview, you may be able to increase your chances of working at their company.  Finally, explore the qualities that you like about your companies of interest, and then look for those same qualities in companies that do recruit through your college.  After all, you do not want to miss an excellent opportunity right on campus.

  • I’m about to graduate from college but I will not start my new job until several weeks after my graduation. I took out a few loans to pay for my tuition in college; do I have to start paying them back right after I graduate? I don’t think I can afford that!

    Loan companies understand that most students will not be able to start paying back their loans immediately upon graduation.  Therefore, they have what is called a “grace period” of about 6 months right after you graduate; this means that for the first 6 months after you finish college, you will not be expected to make payments on your loan.  However, you should contact the company that granted you the loan before you graduate and confirm the date on which they expect you to start paying, and the amount you will be asked to pay each month.

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