Through a highly individualized program that involves both students and their families, the College Counseling office helps students find the college or university that best matches their goals and interests—a place where they will thrive, excel, and contribute.
We are proud of our 137 seniors who will attend 71 different colleges and universities in 25 states, England, and Ireland. Country Day Ready!
Zoe Conner is the 31st Country Day senior to be offered the prestigious and highly selective Morehead-Cain Scholarship to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. In fact, she is the sixth Country Day recipient in seven years.
Click on the image below to play a video about Naviance | Student
- Standardized Testing Info (SAT/ACT)
- Year-by-Year College Planning
- College Search Process
- Summers and Extracurriculars
- Applying for College
- Scholarships & Financial Aid
- Other Helpful Information
SAT Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests are one hour, multiple-choice tests in specific subjects, which measure students’ knowledge of particular subjects and the ability to apply that knowledge.
In general, only the most competitive colleges require Subject Tests for admissions purposes, and most require two Subject Tests. Students should consult the colleges he/she are interested in to determine if Subject Tests are required for admission, and to determine which tests he/she should take and how many.
Comparing ACT and SAT
The ACT and SAT are nationally administered standardized tests that are used by colleges and universities to evaluate applicants. Most colleges and universities will accept either or both exams. The chart below provides an understanding of the structure and content for both tests.
|Length of Tests||2 hours, 55 minutes
(does not include optional 40-minute Writing Test)
(does not include optional 50-minute essay)
|Evidence-Based Reading & Writing
|Sections||4 sections: English, Math, Reading, Science (plus optional Writing test)||4 sections: Evidence-Based Reading, Writing and Language, Math w/out calculator, Math with calculator (plus optional Essay)|
|Math||Arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry||Algebra I & II, Problem Solving & Data Analysis, Geometry, Trigonometry|
|Reading||Measures reading comprehension based off 4 reading selections: social studies, natural sciences, literary narrative/prose, and humanities||Emphasis on words in context, command of evidence, interpretation of informational graphics, and text complexity|
|Science||Measures interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills in the natural sciences||N/A; no science section but there are data graphics and interpretation skills throughout Reading, Writing and Language, and Math sections|
|Essay||Optional: “evaluate and analyze” three different perspectives, “state and develop” personal perspective, and “explain the relationship” between own and those given||Optional: comprehension focused, emphasis on analysis of argument, and use of clear written evaluation|
|Scoring||Composite Score is average of the four test scores from a range of 1 (low) to 36 (high)||Two sections (ERBW & Math) scored on a 200 to 800 scale; total score ranging from 400 to 1600|
SAT and ACT Prep Courses
ACES (Academic Counseling & Educational Services), Pat Throneburg, 704-614-0380, email@example.com, www.acestestprep.com
One of the oldest continuing test prep groups in Charlotte. ACES offers customized one-on-one tutoring for the SAT, PSAT, ACT, SSAT and ISEE. A former Country Day parent and lawyer, Pat has been tutoring since 2004.
Darrell Bach, 803-396-3911, firstname.lastname@example.org
Country Day Upper School teacher and parent who specializes in math.
RC Deer, 704-968-0669, email@example.com
Country Day Middle School teacher and parent who specializes in math.
Debi Medlin, 704-502-7625, firstname.lastname@example.org
Math teacher, The Fletcher School
Mindspire, 919-335-8387, www.mindspire.com
Mindspire believes that test preparation is a critical opportunity to hone core academic skills.
Bryan Stanton, 704-290-4711, email@example.com
Country Day Upper School teacher and parent who specializes in math.
Test Optional Policies
Did you know there are more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities that no longer require ACT/SAT scores to admit students into their schools? Visit www.fairtest.org for more information and to see the searchable database of schools.
- Get your academic footing—study and read.
- Get to know your teachers.
- Map out a tentative four-year course selection with your advisor.
- Join a few clubs. Try some new activities.
- Take the PSAT in October.
- Set up your Naviance Student account and explore its features.
- Think you want to play sports in college? Check out and sign-up with the NCAA Eligibility Center online.
- Drive through college campuses when traveling.
- Think about your summer plans.
- Choose the most challenging courses you can, particularly in your areas of strength.
- Be earnest about your school work.
- See your teachers with questions you may have.
- Find out about the IB program and its requirements.
- Find out about AP classes.
- Take the PreACT in October.
- Attend the College Admissions and Case Studies program.
- Start compiling your activities on the Resume Builder section of Naviance Student.
- Visit colleges. Attend an information session and take a tour.
- Try a new activity. Volunteer to take on a leadership role. Implement a new initiative in one of your clubs that has never been done before.
- As part of your summer plans, do some SAT/ACT preparation.
- Buy a guidebook about colleges that will give you an “insider’s” look at the colleges.
- Challenge yourself in class. Participate. Ask good questions. Find your “voice” so teachers can write about your academic pursuits.
- Spend time with your teachers outside of class with specific questions and establish a rapport with them.
- Attend the "College Night for Juniors" event in November.
- Seek out leadership opportunities in your clubs and with sports teams.
- Think about what you might do for the “good of the whole” for your school or community.
- Attend college information sessions when college admissions representatives visit campus.
- Fill out questionnaires on Naviance Student to prepare for your junior college conference.
- Start building a list of colleges with your college counselor.
- Spend school breaks visiting colleges. Attend an information session and take a tour. Speak with students who you know attend that college.
- Take the PSAT in October; remember that it is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship program.
- Take an ACT and a SAT. Decide which test you prefer and take it again in the spring or fall of your senior year. Take SAT Subject Tests if they are required by the schools you plan to apply to.
- Fill out the Common Application over the summer.
- Read the supplements for each college and determine whether you can use the same essay for multiple schools’ questions?
- Dig in! Really perform well during first semester, as colleges may ask for mid-year grades.
- Attend college information sessions when college admissions representatives visit campus.
- Visit colleges to see them when school is in session.
- Take the last of your standardized tests.
- Give your self time to write, reflect, and edit your essays.
- Make a lasting impression in your extracurricular activities. What can you implement, start, influence as your legacy at Country Day?
Interested in travel, service, adventure, and experiential learning before enrolling in college? Taking a “Gap Year” between high school and college can provide valuable personal insight and an opportunity to recharge in a meaningful way. Learn more information here.
- What to Look for in a College
- Visiting Colleges
- Questions for College Reps
- College Interviewing Tips
What to Look for in a College
Your choice of a college should be an extension of yourself, and your search for the best college for you should be guided as much by looking at yourself as it is by looking at the colleges, rankings, and guidebooks.
Focus your decision-making on what is important to you. College is not simply a place where you will study and live for four years; it will be the place where you make lifelong friends and begin to shape your adult identity both intellectually and socially.
Some factors to consider in the college search process:
- Availability of intended major
- Possibility of combining majors
- Library and computer resources
- Class sizes and faculty/student ratio
- Availability of full-time faculty vs. graduate assistants as professors
- Reputation for academic quality
- Availability of off-campus programs
- Quality of facilities and faculty in area of intended major
- Opportunities to try out career interests through internships
- Percentage of graduates accepted to intended graduate school
- Percentage of graduates employed after graduation
- Quality and accessibility of faculty
- Intellectual level of students
- Friendliness of students
- Accessibility and responsiveness of the administration
- Social opportunities—percentage students in Greek life
- Quality of social facilities for students
- Major athletic programs
- Diversity of enrollment
- Cultural opportunities
- Appearance of campus
- Size of campus
- Availability of housing
- Metropolitan area vs. rural
- Residential vs. commuter students
- Availability of good places to study
- Food—dining halls and near campus
- Nearby shopping, restaurants
- Convenience of transportation
- Total cost (tuition, fees, books, etc.)
- Cost of travel to and from home
- Availability of financial aid and scholarships
- Employment opportunities on campus
Campus Culture:Visiting the library and classes are important, but alone they won’t tell all that you need to know about academic quality. In fact, a common bit of wisdom about college is that half of the education is what you learn outside of your courses, especially from your peers. So do a bit of eavesdropping. Visit the student center, walk through the mail room and have lunch on campus. Listen to conversations, read bulletin boards, pick up a student newspaper. Trying to absorb the culture of campus life will help you find out what students are thinking and care about most, and if you have things in common with them.
Athletics:If you’re into athletics, take time to see the sports facilities and programs. Relatively few students can be varsity athletes though, so be sure to ask about club sports, the intramural program and recreational athletics. Because availability is as important as quality, find out what hours those impressive new fitness centers and swimming pools are open for general student use.
Keep Notes:Finally, keep a notebook to organize your thoughts about what you see on your travels: interesting people you meet, special programs you want to remember and your impressions of a campus’ overall atmosphere. Later when you need to narrow your list—and your memories of several visits have faded and blurred into each other—you’ll be glad to have a record of what you saw and heard at each school. Good luck and enjoy!
Questions for College Reps
Whether you are on a campus visit or meeting with a college representative who is visiting Country Day, be prepared to ask questions about the school. Here are some suggestions:
- What do you consider to be the college’s strongest majors or departments? The most popular majors?
- When do you choose a major? How easy is it to change majors?
- What are other distinctive or unique majors or programs offered? (i.e., study abroad, internships, Washington semester, independent study, etc.)
- What percentage of your students go on to grad school and/or are employed after graduation?
- To what extent will graduate students teach my classes?
- Does the college have an honor code, and how effective is it?
- What percentage of students stay on campus on the weekends? What are some typical weekend activities? What cultural and recreational opportunities are available on and off campus?
- What percentage of students are in sororities and fraternities? Are students who choose not to join considered “outsiders?” What are the rules about alcohol on campus?
- What is the college’s policy concerning the credit and advanced standing for AP/IB tests?
- What percentage of students return for their sophomore year? Graduate? Continue on to grad school?
- Can you describe the atmosphere/personality of the campus?
- How many freshmen do not get their first choice of classes due to closeouts?
- What percentage of the college’s students live in campus housing? Describe the various residence halls.
- Is an interview required? Is an interview a possibility at your school? What part does the interview play in the admissions process? What part does an area alumni interview play?
- Do you require SAT Subject Tests?
- Do you super score the SAT and/or the ACT?
- How many students typically apply for admission each year, how many are accepted and how many enroll? What percentage are accepted Early Decision? Is this an advantage?
- What are the burning issues on campus?
- What is the general political climate on campus?
- What is the average class size? How many students are in the largest classes?
College Interviewing Tips
Many colleges and universities do not have admissions interviews available because of the size of their applicant pools. Others do; either with an admissions officer or with an alumni interviewer. Most colleges will tell you that the interview is not evaluative; that is, while the interviewer may take notes to share with the admissions office, the interview is primarily in place for you to ask any questions you may have.
No matter what, look at the college interview as an opportunity to share information about yourself. You want to put your “best foot forward.” Here are some suggestions:
- Dress as you would for an assembly day at school. Or something you might wear to church or synagogue. Look nice!
- Arrive early. Take the campus tour before your interview, if possible.
- Look your interviewer in the eye. Smile and give them a confident handshake to start.
- Be honest and be yourself.
- Be ready to answer the question, “Why are you interested in this college?” Be prepared to discuss several reasons why you are serious about attending the school.
- Have some questions ready, other than those you can find the answers to on the college’s Web site. Perhaps there was something on the tour you would like clarified.
- Have five attributes about yourself that you want to get across during the interview. Try to work them into the answers you give.
- Provide examples. If you say that you are a good leader, have an anecdote about a time when you demonstrated that.
- Answer questions thoroughly, but watch the length of your answers. You don’t want to answer with one sentence, but you also don’t want to continue talking too long.
- Humor is a good thing, if you use it properly. It lightens the moment and helps you take a deep breath.
Questions usually center on some themes. They include your goals, your strengths and weaknesses, your values, your individuality, your intellectual interests and accomplishments; they might also concentrate on what you might contribute to the college, what you’ve read lately, or what you do for fun. Occasionally, colleges will ask students about current affairs, but typically they want to know about you.
Think of this as a conversation rather than an interview. What kind of conversation would you have with a friend of your parent(s)? Typically, after the first few questions, the interviewer will find out what you enjoy and will focus on that idea. Be ready with your five attributes!
Thank the interviewer for his/her time. Be sure to write a thank you note or e-mail to thank them again when you return home.
The College Counseling office has a list of questions that might be asked as well as questions you might ask. Stop by for a copy.
Making Most of Your Summers
In general, colleges want to see that you are active and interesting; what you do with your summers can help colleges know about what you like and enjoy. You do not have to do “high priced” experiences to be competitive. Often, staying in Charlotte and pursuing something in your “own backyard” is going to be helpful to your applications.
- Rest, rejuvenate, sleep.
- Read, read, read.
- Go on a family trip. With as busy as you are during the school year, a trip to the beach or to a family reunion is a great way to spend part of your summer.
- Get a part-time job; colleges love students who work.
- Travel. There are lots of programs for study abroad in the summer. Perhaps you are interested in a language immersion. Perhaps you will take a trip with Country Day’s International Studies office. Try a homestay experience. A program where you are learning to speak the language or living in the culture is often considered a better option than a sightseeing kind of trip. (*Note: the outdoor adventure kinds of trips are great experiences, but they are high-priced and colleges are aware of that. Do these if you love the outdoors, but keep in mind how colleges look at these trips).
- Attend a summer academic program at a college. Many colleges invite students to live in the dorms, take a few classes, and experience life on a college campus. If you have a favorite school, visit their web site and type in “summer programs” in the Search tab to see what might be available. If you do well in your courses, professors might be someone you can ask to write a recommendation for you. Just remember that attending a summer academic program does not necessarily enhance your likelihood of admission at that college or others.
- Attend a summer camp in an area you enjoy. There are camps for creative writing, engineering, architecture, art, photography, film—so many options. Try something you think you may be interested in studying in college.
- Volunteer. Think about your gifts and talents, how could you put those to work in a volunteer opportunity? Are you a computer whiz? Could you help older adults in a retirement community? Are you a lacrosse player? Could you help with a summer camp at Country Day or offer lessons in your neighborhood? Are you a book fiend? Is there a library that could use your talents? Volunteering in your community is a real bonus to your college applications.
- Leadership programs, like outdoor adventure trips, are often very costly. The content is good; you will hear great speakers and you will be with like-minded students from across the nation and world. These programs often send very formal impressive looking invitations to participate. It is likely they got your name and address from standardized tests that you’ve taken or perhaps from a recommendation by a faculty member. The “value-add” for these programs for college applications is minimal.
Web sites to Explore for Ideas:
Extracurriculars and the College Process
Similar to what you do with your summers, what you do during the school year is important. What story do you want to tell when you are applying to colleges?
There is not one “best” activity to fill your time outside of class. What do you enjoy? What do you think you would enjoy? Start doing those things in an intentional way.
Think in categories:
Academic pursuits/Academic honors
What do you hope to learn and do in your time in the Upper School?
There are no parameters and no formula for extracurriculars for the college admission process. The most selective colleges look for a depth in involvement rather than a breadth of involvement. Is there a way that your activity gives you local, state, or national attention? Does your academic passion lead you to do research in the summer? Are you the best soccer goalie in the region? Are you doing something great for the good of your community?
What IMPACT are you making? Colleges want students who will add value to their college community in meaningful ways. How will you contribute?
Early College Application Tips
Early Decision (ED)
- You may only apply to one college under an Early Decision plan and you are committing to attend that college if accepted.
- If you are accepted, you must withdraw all applications to other colleges.
- Your application will be evaluated on the basis of your record through your junior year.
- In order to be ready to apply Early Decision, you must do extensive research and visit college campuses and be absolutely sure of your ED choice.
- Early Decision applications generally fall around November 1.
- At some colleges, an Early Decision application increases your chance of being accepted. This is a question you should ask a representative of each college.
- You must be absolutely certain that the ED school is your first choice and you will not regret losing other possible college options.
- If you are NOT sure, do NOT apply ED!
- Also, if you think you will need financial aid, you should probably not apply ED—talk to the college rep.
Restricted Early Action (REA)
Restricted early action is a nonbinding plan where students apply to a first-choice college early and receive an early decision (admit, defer, deny), usually in December. Students have until May 1 to respond to this offer of admission. You may apply to other schools under regular or nonbinding rolling admission plans, but you may not apply to any other school under an early action, early decision, or restricted early action plan. Check on individual college websites to find the verbiage that each college uses in the restrictions of their early plan.
Early Action (EA)
- Many colleges and universities have Early Action or Early Notification plans.
- EA works the same way as ED, but is not binding—you do not have to commit to attending the EA college if you are accepted—you have until May 1 to decide.
- EA deadlines are also around November 1.
- Pay careful attention to the college’s Early Action policies—many schools have “Restricted Early Action” programs that do not allow students to apply to any other schools early.
- Many state universities as well as some smaller colleges have rolling admissions plans.
- These schools review applications as they come in, and the earlier in the process, the better—usually in September and October.
- Generally, four to six weeks after your application has been received, you will receive a decision.
- Financial aid is assistance based solely on “need”--the family’s ability to pay versus the cost of attending a college.
- To determine the amount of need your family has at a particular college, the college will require your family to submit a standardized financial statement--the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).
- Families may also be required to answer additional questions on a separate, non-federal form in order to be considered for state or institutional aid--the CSS PROFILE form from the College Board. A fee is charged for processing this form.
- Parents must complete both of these forms online.
- The college will try to offer a financial aid package (consisting of work/study, loan, and grant) which will absorb the difference between the expected family contribution (EFC--based on the college’s computation of the family’s ability to pay) and the actual cost of attending that college.
- The actual cost of attendance includes not only tuition, room and board, but also transportation, books, etc.
- Since college costs vary, the amount of your financial aid package may also vary from college to college.
- Many colleges have a Net Price Calculator on their website-–a useful tool for families to estimate their cost of attendance.
- The best source of information on financial aid and scholarships can be found online.
- Avoid any web sites that require payment! The best sites are free.
- Parents should also contact the financial aid offices at the colleges and universities their students are applying to; it is the financial aid office’s job to help and provide parents with the appropriate information.
Financial Aid Tips
Helpful Financial Aid Web Sites
College Board: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college
College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC): www.cfnc.org
CSS Profile: https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): https://fafsa.ed.gov/
Going Merry: www.goingmerry.com
U.S. Department of Education Net Price Calculator: https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/netpricecalculator/#/
Financial Aid 101 (presentation by Queens University of Charlotte)
Recommended Books from College Counseling
The College Admissions Mystique, by Bill Mayher
Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best for You, by Jay Mathews
College Admissions Without the Crazy, by Nancy Donehower
Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be, by Frank Bruni
So, You Are Going to College?!, by San Bolkan
Countdown to College, by Edward Fiske
College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family, by Goodman and Leiman
Admissions Matters, by Springer, Reider, and Morgan
Colleges that Change Lives and Looking Beyond the Ivy League, by Loren Pope
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel
Decide Better for College, by Michael E. McGrath with Christopher K. McGrath
The College Majors Handbook: The Actual Jobs, Earnings, and Trends for Graduates for 50 College Majors, by Neeta P. Fogg, Paul E. Harrington, Thomas F. Harrington, and Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D
Subjective College Guidebooks
Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different, by Donald Asher
The Fiske Guide to Colleges, by Edward Fiske
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, by Yale Daily News
How Colleges Admit Students “Who Get In” Books:
The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, by Jacques Steinberg
Questions and Admissions: Reflections on 100,000 Admissions Decisions at Stanford, by Jean H. Fetter
Understanding Athletic Recruiting: A Comprehensive Guide for the High School Student-Athlete, by Jeffrey Durso-Finley and Lewis Stival
Specific to Parents:
College Admissions: A Crash Course for Panicked Parents, by Sally Rubenstone and Sidonia Dalby
Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger
I’m Going to College—Not You! Surviving the College Search with Your Child, by Jennifer Delahunty
The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child), by Harlan Cohen
How to Navigate College Web Sites
College Web sites are packed with information, but it is sometimes challenging to find what you’re looking for. Here are a few suggestions:
- Undergraduate Admissions or Prospective Students tab. Within these web pages, you will find information about required admissions criteria, such as, testing, deadlines, financial aid and scholarships, how to visit the college, and how to request information. This section also introduces students to their admission representative, which is typically under the “Meet the Staff” or “Contact Us” page.
- Virtual tours are available on most college websites. Remember that they are typically photos of the landmark buildings on campus—and at the prettiest time of the year! Some college websites will have virtual tours of dorm rooms and specific departments.
- If you have an interest in a particular academic department, type that discipline in the Search area. Once there, you can find information on required courses, descriptions of courses, how to declare a major, research possibilities, faculty members, and more.
- Some schools have a separate web page for scholarships and financial aid, where institutional scholarships will be listed, along with deadlines and requirements. Additionally, information on the cost of attendance or tuition and fees will be provided.
- Visit the Athletics website if you have an interest in playing intercollegiate athletics. It will provide information on what level (DI, DII, or DIII) the college competes at, which conference it is associated with, how the season went for the team of the specific sport you’re interested, etc. Also, do not forget to fill out the “Recruiting Request Form” for your specific sport. Doing so will add you to that coach’s recruiting list.
- Information about AP and IB testing (scores needed for credit) can be found on the Registrar webpage, or within the individual department sites. Search AP or IB credit on the homepage to find this information.
- Search Housing for information about dorm life. Many colleges have virtual tours of the different housing options on campus.
- Under Student Affairs or Student Life, you will find information about housing, food services, clubs and organizations, Greek life, health services, career services, and much more.