January Rant from the College Guy - The "Follow Letter Package" and some reminders

January Rant from the College Guy - The "Follow Letter Package" and some reminders

Hey Seniors - greetings from the College Guy!

Hope everyone had a safe and restful Holiday break. Winter seems to be playing peekaboo with us here in Maine as the Patriots are well on their way to another Super Bowl! But like the college admissions process, ya never know! (See how deftly I segued the topic of this Rant in to my opening? Yuk yuk!)

For those of you have sent all your applications in to your colleges and are now playing the waiting game, congratulations and nice job! For those of you who have not gotten all your applications out yet - not to worry (unless you were planning on applying to a college with a January 1 or 15 deadline - then you’ve got troubles). For most schools you've still got time to apply, but what the heck is holding you up? If you need some help getting organized and getting things done, give me a holler by phone or email. I'm happy to read and comment on essays, review your list of schools and answer questions you may have regarding the application process. 

This email explains and elaborates on my idea of sending a "follow letter package" with supporting items to each of the colleges you've already applied to. This is neither a required nor a commonplace thing to do, but I think it's a smart and potentially helpful thing to do (in terms of getting accepted, and being considered for merit money from the colleges with offer it) . Some call me crazy and I agree: crazy like a fox!

Before jumping in to it, three quick reminders:

1. Confirm that all your applications have been received in their entirety at each of your schools

2. PARENTS: Make sure you’ve completed and filed all required financial aid forms, and don’t forget to add additional schools your student decided to apply to recently to the FAFSA (and, if required, the CSS PROFILE)

3. Mid-Term Grade Reports


1. If you’ve applied and have not received confirmation that your application materials have been received from each college within two weeks after applying, CALL THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE AND ASK THEM. Be nice and polite, but DO THIS! Things can get misplaced or misfiled - happens all the time. And most schools won't begin reviewing your application until it's complete.

If you call you should ask specifically whether the following things have been received:

- your high school materials (transcript, counselor's letter, etc.).

- your application and supplemental materials.

- SAT (and/or ACT) scores. Some schools will accept them if they’re on your official transcript; others require that they be sent by the testing agency - you can inquire about this.

- Letters of recommendation from each of the persons you asked to send them.

Only make this call after waiting two weeks from when you applied, by which time you will hopefully have gotten email or postal or on-line confirmation. If you do get notified that something is missing don't panic, but deal with it immediately with a phone call, and if necessary bring it to your guidance counselor and get him/her involved. Chances are the missing items are hung up in the college's intake system and will turn up, but the safest thing is to offer to fax them duplicate copies. Your guidance office will do this for you.

If anyone runs in to a gnarly problem give me a holler and I'll help you solve it.


2. All families who plan to apply for financial aid should have completed the 2018/19 FAFSA at this time. In addition to this form some schools require an additional form, either the CSS PROFILE or their own institutional form. To find out whether a school requires such an additional form (they ALL require the FAFSA), go to their web site and look under 'admissions' and find a link to 'financial aid', and read the instructions about how to apply.

Each of these forms ask for a family’s 2016 tax numbers, which you completed last winter or spring. Easiest way to report them on FAFSA is to use the IRS data retrieval tool. 

Parents, if you aren't crystal clear on what I'm talking about here or if you feel like you need help with this process, give me a call at the phone number below for instructions and support.

This stuff isn’t hard. Annoying, yes, but not difficult!


3. All colleges expect and in fact require mid-term grade reports. Most high school guidance offices will automatically send them providing you've let them know where you've applied. Check with your guidance office on this particular task.  Those of you who attend schools which operate on a trimester basis won’t have mid-year grade reports, but your school will know what to do.




Okay, the rest of this email is devoted to what I call the "follow letter package", which I suggest you put together and send at the end of this month to all the schools you've applied to and are waiting to hear from. I've included an example at the end of this email. Look it over, rework it in your own words, and if it makes sense, do it!

Hey, I know you're busy, but this could be important, so give it your consideration. Read on...


Now I know there are some of you who are snickering cause you've already gotten acceptance letters via early decision or early action from your first choice school, so you can take a hike and not read any further (but remember to write 'em a "thank you" and follow directions about submitting a deposit to reserve your space and any $$$ awards they've offered you.)

For the rest of you, recall that I've mentioned sending a "follow up" letter to your schools at the end of the semester. This is a "hi,-how-you-doing-thought-I'd-check-in-with-you-and-remind-you-of-what-a- wonderful-person-I-am-and-what-an-injustice-it-would-be-if-you-don’t-accept- me!!” letter.

The timing is to send this letter when you receive your mid-term grades. For most of you that’s going to be over the next week or two, certainly by the end of the month. 

The idea, as you'll see, is to have an additional contact with the admissions folks, who are right now engaged in the process of reviewing applications. Mid-term grades are the excuse for the letter, but the real reason is to give them yet another slice of your personality - to impress them with: 

a) how wonderful you are, and

b) how motivated you are to be accepted (remember the “demonstrated interest” factor"?)

I suspect some of you are saying you don't wanna do this. Certainly it’s your call, but here are a couple things to consider:

It's not that hard, it doesn't cost you anything (other than postage), and believe me I've heard from many fine schools that a gesture such as this can make a difference by demonstrating your interest in attending that college.

So what exactly do you put in a follow letter/package of additional information?

I suggest you include at least two of the following items:

- a newsy update, where you share your mid-term grades (comment on them if necessary) and your new schedule, and whatever else of note may be going on in your life.

- one or two additional letter(s) of recommendation the college hasn't seen. Don't send the letter(s) yourself of course, but have them sent by either the writer of the letter, or ask your guidance counselor to send it. Be creative here - ask a coach or an employer or even a peer (who would write a responsible but edgy letter about you). The more interesting the letter, the better!

- an additional essay. Remember those extra essays I suggested you do last spring, summer and fall? Plug one in here. Or use the odd supplement you wrote for Cornell or U. Chicago or some other school! If it's good, now's the time to recycle it to the schools who haven't seen it already.

- a 'graded writing sample' from a class. This is a paper you've done recently which reflects hard work and a sound effort on your part. Important thing here is for it to represent something you're proud of.

- a 'show and tell' piece - remember these? Some of you sent art work or poetry, an audio tape or film or photo essay or CD or a link to your web page at the time you sent your applications. Others wanted to do it but didn't get around to making it happen. Here's your second chance. Remember, 'eye candy' (or 'ear candy') can work by livening up your application - just make sure it's tasteful and contributes to an understanding of who you are. 

You don't need to send all of the above items - just your grades and one or two additional things will be fine. On the other hand, if you've got something good they haven't seen, use it!  Just make sure you write why you want the school to have that particular item.

Below is an example of such a letter. Rewrite it in your own words - the following is only to give you an idea of what to say. Make sure to keep the idea I've expressed in the next to last paragraph - that you hope they will consider your letter and other material IF APPROPRIATE...

Okay, nuff said. Give me a call or email if you have questions. For those of you who haven’t checked in with me in a while, don't be a stranger! And if you've already received acceptances from schools I'd appreciate hearing about them from you.

From your application authority, your marketing maven, your activity enumerator, your additional information inspirer, your anxiety alleviator (I hope!),


Gary the College Guy


Gary L. Canter

College Placement Services

210 St. John Street

Portland, Maine 04102

(207) 772-9711 


College Placement Services provides high school students and their families assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application and financial aid process.






Your Name


______, Maine  ____


Admissions  Office

Brandeis University

Waltham, Mass.  02254


Dear Sir or Madam, (ideally send to the admissions officer you've had contact with - or the one who is responsible for your state. Call admissions if you're not sure who that is)

My name is ________ and I'm a senior at _____ H. S. in ______, Maine. I am a candidate for admission to the Brandeis class of 2022. I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of my continued interest in Brandeis - in fact, your school remains my first choice (or, say 'your school remains one of my top choices') for where I hope to be next fall.

I recently received my mid-term grades and I wanted to share them with you now, as I know it may take a while to get them from my High School. I was quite pleased with them, particularly the 88 I pulled in AP Biology (it's a bear of a course!)

(If you did poorly in any of your classes say a word or two about it here - colleges like to know that you're giving it, forgive me, the old college try...Having the teacher of the class you're getting your butt kicked in write a letter of rec for you is a good strategy as well...)


H Senior English  __.   H PreCalculus        __

AP Biology           __    French IV               __

Marine Sciences  __    Pottery                   __


New classes I'm taking this semester include ...I'd also like you to know that...(speak briefly about one or two of your continuing  or new activities or honors. Did you make honor roll? Say a word or two about something you didn't write about in your app: like indoor soccer, skiing or some other activity you've been doing. If you've gotten new test scores that you’re pleased with, mention them. The idea here is to offer a chatty sort of "here's what I've been up to" sentence or three.)

I'm also writing to inform you that I have asked for an additional letter(s) of support from___________, my ____________ teacher/coach/advisor, which you should be receiving in the near future. I'm also enclosing a copy of a paper I recently did in ___________ class which I put a great deal of effort in to. Finally, I have enclosed (a show and tell piece/copy of my resume).

I know that the admissions process at Brandeis is very competitive, and I want to make sure that you have a good notion of who I am and my potential in light of the competition I'm up against. (If your SAT scores are low you could say something like: "I know the admissions process at Brandeis is very competitive, and I am concerned that my standardized test scores viewed by themselves may not measure up well against those of the other applicants you are considering, so I want to make sure...")

You've probably figured out by now that I'm very motivated to attend Brandeis and I'm hopeful that you will favorably consider my candidacy, enhanced by this additional material! If it's appropriate, would you please include this letter and these items in my application folder for review?

Thank you very much for your consideration. If I can provide any additional information please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.


Derek Jeter