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Happy 2020!


It’s the start of a new year and a new decade (possibly – there’s debate about that).  However, there’s no denying that January 1, 2020 is an opportunity to take on new challenges.  Start the New Year with these resolutions:   

  1. Use your phone for something more than social media!  Get organized in 2020 by trying a new app or two.  Apps like My Study LifeTodaitTinyCards, and Forest – will all help you organize your schedule and study smarter.  Here’s another list of the best apps for high school students.     
  2.  Learn about yourself.  Take a personality or learning styles survey.  Find free online or ask your counselor for links to surveys.
  3. Use social media responsibly.  Does it pass the “parent” test?  If it isn’t something you would want your parent to see- don’t post it. 
  4. Pick up a book!  Make an effort to read a novel each month, or at minimum try reading one long-form journalism piece each week.  Reading will improve your vocabulary and make you a better writer.
  5. Make someone smile.  Find ways to bring happiness into someone’s life each day.

 Happy New Year from the GuidedPath team. 


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Wishing you a Joyous Holiday

In this special season of sharing and celebration, we send a greeting from our hearts to yours.  We wish you a relaxing winter break filled with family, friends, and time to reflect on the past year with happiness and gratitude 

Happy Holidays to you and your family!


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Are you done with college applications?  Check your list twice!

First semester of senior year is winding down.  The holiday break and the new year are almost here.  Are you finished with your college applications?  There are multiple steps to getting a COMPLETE application into the college of your choice.  Use the following checklist to see where you are in the process.  All of these steps are detailed in your GuidedPath account. 

College Applications 

Filling out the college application is only the first part of the process.  

  • Common Application 
  • Coalition Application 
  • State Colleges/Universities Application (like Apply Texas, or the UC System) 
  • Individual College/University Applications 


Check transcript requirements for each college you are applying to.  Are you required to send your transcript at the time you apply, after you’ve been admitted, or at the time of enrollment (or all of the above)?   

You may need to send another transcript in January.  This is known as the “seventh semester transcript.”  It shows your grades from your first semester in senior year. 

Test Scores 

Be sure to request the following test scores to be sent to all your colleges.  Be sure to include both past and future test scores for ACT, SAT, and/or SAT Subject tests.   

Submit your AP test scores after you graduate, unless requested otherwise. 


Check to be sure your counselor and teachers have completed any recommendations you have requested. 

Financial Aid forms 

College is expensive.  Work together with your parents to get your financial aid forms completed.  

  • FAFSA – ALL colleges use the FAFSA 
  • CollegeBoard CSS Profile – some private colleges and other programs use an extra financial aid form.  It is quite involved and takes a lot of time to complete.  Watch for deadlines. 

Special applications 

Some special programs (such as honors programs) or scholarships require additional applications.  Check college website for additional applications and deadlines.  

Take Action 

Check your GuidedPath account and take a look at your application plans Have you submitted all the requirements for each application?  Make a note of any outstanding requirements and get those to the college as soon as possible 

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Making a list – no, not that list…

It’s that time of year – making a list and checking it twice.  And no – we’re not talking about a Santa list.  Now is a good time to begin thinking about your college list.  Use some of your down time during winter break and the steps below to get a jump start on your college list.   

  1. Identify and prioritize your criteria.  Size, location, academic programs, cost, extracurricular activities, campus life – there are many factors to consider when thinking about a perfect college.  What are you looking for and what factors are most important to you?   
  2. Gather and organize information.  Maybe you’ve received brochures from colleges in the mail, or perhaps you went to a college fair this fall.  It’s likely that you’ve already collected materials from some colleges.  Organize those materials (make a folder for each school) and list what you like and don’t like about those schools.  
  3. Do an online college search.  Use your GuidedPath account or a free college search engine like College Board’s BigFuture or College Navigator (by the National Center for Education Statistics) to do a search for schools that meet your most important criteria.  Add criteria to narrow your results to a manageable number for research (think less than 50 schools).       
  4. Start to categorize schools.  From your initial search, start grouping colleges into categories like “Favorites”, “Needs more research”, “Schools I want to visit”, etc.  You can also look at the profile of the students who were offered admission.  What were their grades and test scores and how do you compare (higher or lower)?  Would this school likely offer you admission based on your grades and test scores (Likely or Target school) – or is it a “Reach.”  Just because a school is a reach doesn’t mean you should take it off your list.  However, you don’t want to end up with a final list of only “Reach” schools.  

Take Action 

Get an early start on your college list by doing some online research now.  Getting organized can help you plan college visits this spring.  It will also help you prepare for any college fairs or events your high school might be hosting next semester.   


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Early Decision and Early Action 2

The process of applying to college has become increasingly strategic for both students and colleges.  With students applying to more colleges and colleges receiving more applications than ever, there’s increased pressure on both sides.  Students want to know “Will the college accept me?”  Colleges want to know “Will the student enroll here?”  That’s where early deadline come in.  Applying early typically gives you a slight advantage in the application process and signals to the college (especially with Early Decision) that their school is at the top of your list.   

So, what’s up with Early Decision or Early Action 2?   

Early Decision 2 (ED2) and Early Action 2 (EA2) are the second round of early deadlines.  Perhaps things didn’t work out as you planned with your first round of early applications, or maybe you just weren’t ready to apply at the time of the first deadlines.  ED2 and EA2 give you a second chance at an early application. 

As with the first-round of these same application plans – you may only apply to one school as an Early Decision applicant, but you can apply to multiple schools as an Early Action applicant.  

Should I apply with Early Decision 2 or Early Action 2?     

ED2 and EA2 may give you a slight admission advantage just like you had with ED1 or EA1.  Schools tend to admit a higher percentage of students from their early pools as compared to the percent they admit from the regular decision pool.  If there is a school that is top on your list but you still haven’t applied, it may help to apply in the ED2 or EA2 round. But, remember!! If you apply as an Early Decision 2 applicant – you are committing yourself to attend that school if they admit you.  Meaning ED2 should be reserved ONLY if you are willing to enroll!  

But my Early Decision 1 application was accepted… 

Congratulations!  You are done with the admission process!  Your early decision admission is a binding offer meaning you committed to enrolling at that school when you applied ED1.   

What about my Early Action 1 applications…? 

You have likely received decisions from schools that you applied to in the first round of Early Action.  Admitted or denied, you can still submit applications to other schools if you like (EA1 is non-binding).  

What if I was denied as an ED1 or EA1 applicant – can I apply again in ED2 or EA2?  

You can’t apply to the same school again – just one application per school.  And while it doesn’t feel good to get a “no” decision from a college, ED2 and EA2 give you an opportunity to set your sights on a new first choice school.   

Take Action 

If all these deadlines have your head spinning, be sure to talk to your advisor about your application strategy.  Don’t forget –  

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Gap Year Programs

Have you considered taking a year off after high school? 

What? Is that insane?! Not at all. This is the perfect moment to take a deep breath and consider taking a break from school before plunging into the next pressurized step. Now is the time to think about a gap year or semester that allows time and opportunity to refocus, polish skills, explore an interest, or simply re-energize. 

Gap years still are more common in places like the United Kingdom where up to 25 percent of students who go to college take a year off. In the United States, that number is closer to 1 percent, according to the nonprofit Higher Education Research Institute. The statistics don’t tell why students take off a year, but the American Gap Association (AGA) reports increasing interest and attendance at the gap year fairs it holds around the country to familiarize students with gap programs. 

Why even consider a gap? For starters, researchers in Australia found that taking time out from school helped with motivation once students got to college. Gap benefits even outweighed other variables for college success, such as gender and socio-economic status. Researchers even argued that their 2007 survey of 338 gap year students showed that taking a break helped students focus on what they were going to do after college. 

And more than 90 percent of 600 gap students responding to a 2015 AGA survey said their time off from school increased confidence, maturity, communication skills, or the ability to get along with people with backgrounds different from their own. 

A gap gives teenagers that important chance to be independent outside of the structure of school and athletics and away from the watchful eyes of the usual mentors – parents, teachers, and coaches. It can help develop the grit that students need to be independent and resilient once they get to college. 

Gaps have become so acceptable that some colleges, such as Princeton, have set up their own fully-funded programs to encourage students to explore the world and themselves before entering college. 

Don’t be swayed by some of the myths about “gap years.” For example: 

Myth: A gap lasts a year. 

Fact: A gap can be whatever length works with your plan. It could be just a semester or quarter of work and travel, interning, or participation in a political campaign or community service program. Many colleges offer January start dates. 

Myth: A gap is exotic. 

Fact: Of the students surveyed by AGA, the largest percentage spent their gaps in the United States. A teenager could work on language skills, for example, tutoring in a local immigrant center. 

Myth: A gap is out of reach financially. 

Fact: A student might work part of a year or semester and use that money to travel or pay for a structured gap program. Some programs or schools offer financial aid or fellowships. And crowdfunding gives students more options to raise money to support time off from school. 

Myth: A gap is just for kids who are unmotivated or unsure about college. 

Fact: All students can benefit from a break to learn problem-solving, dealing with conflict, understanding their own limits, managing time, and being responsible for themselves in ways that are so very, very important freshman year. 

If you’re considering taking a “pause” from your studies, go through the college application process but ask about deferral policies both for academics and financial aid. Thinking about those things now provides time to decide if a gap is a practical option. In the meantime, start exploring gap programs and options. Do you want something structured or freewheeling? Do you want to climb a mountain or work with children? Is this a time to work in a lab or volunteer at an animal hospital? Would you like to become fluent in a language, understand the inner workings of health care, or meet decision makers in Washington, D.C.? You can do all those and more on a gap. 

Take Action 

Explore options for Gap year and college policies regarding gap years through GuidedPath.

written by Marie Schwartz, CEO and President of TeenLife 

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