Participants

Students: Students in the United States face entrance specifications among the top colleges that is becoming increasingly competitive.

Private and affluent public primary education, test-prep courses, 'enrichment' programmes, volunteer service projects, international travel, music lessons, sports activities - all the high-cost building blocks of the perfect college application - put crushing pressure on the upper middle class and their offspring.
-- Yale professor William Deresiewicz, quoted in the BBC about his article in The New Republic, 2014

Universities send admissions officers to high schools and college fairs to encourage high school students to apply. While the chance of admission to highly selective colleges is typically under 20%, increased numbers of applications helps maintain and improve colleges' rankings.

Some high schools have one or more teachers experienced in offering counseling to college-bound juniors and seniors. They usually work in conjunction with the guidance department who assist students in planning their high school academic path. Counselors handle many students and schools and generally do not have a role of overseeing or managing a student's college applications. Counselors do not complete interviews, write essays, or arrange college visits. Parents often meet with the school counselor during the junior year. Only about a quarter of public high schools have a counselor devoted to college counseling issues full-time, while almost three quarters of private schools have a dedicated college counselor. A report suggested that private school counselors have substantially more contact with university admissions people than public school counselors.

College admissions staff: A typical admission staff at a college includes a dean or vice president for admission or enrollment management, middle-level managers or assistant directors, admission officers, and administrative support staff. The chief enrollment management officer is sometimes the highest-paid position in the department, earning $121,000 on average in 2010, while admissions officers average only $35,000, according to one estimate by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Planning: The admissions process usually begins during a student's junior year when a student meets with a guidance counselor, selects some colleges, and perhaps visits a few campuses. The summer before senior year is a time when many students finalize application plans and perhaps begin writing essays. Further, they decide whether to apply by early or regular decision. International students may need to take tests showing English-language proficiency such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic. Senior year is when applications are submitted. The CSS can be submitted by October first of the student's senior year, while the FAFSA becomes available on the web after January first.

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