Junior College Planning


Who Does What in the College Admissions Process?


  • Take an active role in deciding your future. Don’t let anxiety or stress about your decisions prevent you from engaging in exploring your options. Ask for our help when you need it!
  • Be sure to use your Naviance account.  Naviance can help you search for college options, determine a career/college major and track your applications among many other helpful features.
  • Take the initiative to make connections with admissions representatives at the schools that interest you. It is best that you, the applicant, make the phone calls or send the emails to ask any questions you might have.
  • Take it step by step. There is a lot of work to do and you will be busy with classes at CDH, activities and work.  Keep yourself organized and watch your deadlines.


  • Be an active participant in the college exploration process and help your student determine important criteria for a “good fit” for post-secondary options.
  • Assist your student in evaluating information amidst all the marketing inherent in this process.
  • Visit campuses (in person or virtually) with your student, but let your student take the lead in asking questions.
  • Be certain your student follows procedures properly and completes all college admission application and CDH sending requirements by the stated deadlines.
  • Make sure your student keeps up with CDH schoolwork and maintains good study habits throughout senior year.
  • Encourage patience, persistence, and a sense of humor during this often-stressful process.


Cretin-Derham Hall Counseling Office

  • Assist students and their families explore post-secondary options.
  • Guide students through the college search and admissions process.
  • Act as a resource in problem-solving and provide academic and emotional support.
  • Complete secondary school reports as necessary and coordinate process for requesting teacher recommendations if required.
  • Inform students of private scholarship opportunities.
  • Send supporting college application materials (official transcript, senior class schedules, secondary school reports, recommendations, CDH Profile) in a timely way.
  • Send mid-year reports and grades (senior first-trimester grades) as requested.
  • Send one official final high school transcript to the college where the student enrolls. CDH will send only one final transcript per student.

Post-Secondary Planning Calendar



  • Think about your plans for life after Cretin-Derham Hall.  Do your plans involve further education?  If so, what are you looking for in a school.  Discuss your hopes and plans with your parents and significant others.
  • Become familiar with your academic record and with college admission requirements.
  • Sign up and attend a Junior Meeting with your college counselor.  Bring your questions and make good use of this time.
  • Formulate a “long list” of possible college choices and list these in your Naviance account.  Begin researching these schools online.
  • Register for the ACT or SAT this spring.  Be sure to take at least one college entrance exam spring of junior year.  Use the CDH school code 242245 when you register.
  • CDH will host an in-school district ACT on April 9, 2024.


  • Continue your college research and visit schools in-person or virtually. 

  • Keep your list of prospective colleges updated in your Naviance account.  Be sure to plan for “likely”, “target” and “reach” schools according to your academic abilities and admission criteria of the schools you are considering.

  • Complete career inventories in your Naviance account if you haven’t already.

  • Decide who you want to ask for teacher letters of recommendation and follow the procedures provided by the counseling office to ask them.


Summer Months


  • Continue to evaluate your college list – revise if necessary.

  • Visit colleges as possible, either in-person or online.

  • Register for the ACT/SAT if you would like to take it again in the fall.

  • Work on a rough draft of your college essay






  • Meet with your counselor early in the year to review your progress.

  • Reduce your preliminary college list to those to which you will apply (usually 3-7 schools).

  • Determine your college application deadlines and if you decide to apply “Early Action” or “Early Decision” work on your applications now.

  • Decide if you will retake the ACT/SAT, register, and take exam


  • Finalize your college essays.

  • Submit CDH College Application Contracts at least two weeks before your first deadline so secondary school reports and transcripts can be sent on time.  

    • If you plan to apply by a November 1 deadlines your contract needs to be in to our office by October 10.

  • Attend/view the financial aid program.

  • Complete the forms necessary to apply for financial aid. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens October 1.

  • If you intend to apply to Minnesota Technical or Community Colleges, apply this fall as some programs fill fast and have waiting lists.


  • Complete college applications.

  • All CDH College Application Contracts are due by December 5th.


  • If you have not already done so, complete the forms necessary to apply for financial aid.  Both the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the CSS Profile (required by some schools) are available online.

  • Be sure to meet deadlines for financial aid and housing at the colleges you are considering. 

  • Search and apply for private scholarships by checking the scholarship listings in your Naviance account.

  • March-April
  • Review your results; acceptances, waiting list, denials and financial aid packages.  If you are concerned about your options, see your counselor immediately.

  • If you have been placed on a waiting list and are still interested in that school, be sure to let them know by completing the steps they outline in their correspondence to you.  

    • Information including additional grades or accomplishments may also be sent to the school at this time.

  • Decide which college you will attend, accept your offer of admission and pay your enrollment deposit by May 1st

  • Notify the other colleges to which you applied and graciously decline their offers of admission.


  • Write a thank you note to all those who wrote letters of recommendation for you.

  • Carefully review the end of year email from the College Counselors for important information including: 

    • Information to file for “reciprocity” if you plan to attend a state university in WI, ND or SD.

    • Information on how to request transcripts for dual enrollment courses.

    • Information on requesting AP scores.

  • Complete your graduation survey with your College Counselor and indicate where you would like your final transcript sent.  CDH school policy is to send only ONE final transcript to the school the student will attend.  

    • Transcripts are sent mid-June when third trimester grades have been posted and tuition accounts are up-to-date.  

    • No other final transcript request is necessary.

Finding a fit

You will hear this phrase over and over as you begin your college search …but what does it mean? You want a good match between you and each school you are considering so you will be successful in the classroom, make friends and graduate.  Colleges want those same things, so they are also very concerned about “fit." Here are three categories to consider when determining fit:

Academic Fit

  • Does the college meet your academic needs and do you have the right academic foundation to succeed?  This is a critical question in college admissions.  A college will look carefully at your transcript, course selection and test scores to determine your academic fit for their campus.

  • Consider how you learn best. What kind of classroom environment works well for you?  Discussion based? Lecture? Is it important for you to know your teachers well? Does the school have the academic programs/majors you are interested in? What happens if you are still deciding on an academic direction?

Environmental Fit

  • What factors will shape your college experience beyond the classroom? Think about where you would consider being geographically and what kind of student body you would prefer.

  • How far away from home are you willing/able to go? Are you looking for an urban, small city or rural setting? How large and how diverse a student body might work for you? What activities do you want to continue doing and what new opportunities would you like to try?

Financial Fit

  • Can you afford to attend a particular school? This is an increasingly important question given the costs of a college degree. We recommend that families consider these tough questions and communicate about costs right from the start of the process:

    •  Is there money set aside for college (savings)?  

    • What is the family’s ability to pay as you go (current income)?  

    • What are the family expectations for college debt for both the student and parents (future payments)? 

  • What is the total cost of attendance for each school under consideration? How does each school distribute funds?  Need-based financial aid? Merit aid? Both?  Every college will have a “Net Price Calculator” on its website that will help you to determine costs.

Where to begin:

  • Try the Fiske Sizing Yourself Up Survey posted on the CDH website. This will help you get some clues about what is important to you in a school.

  • Do some “practice visits” either online or in person. Try one large school, one medium-sized school and a smaller school so you can see what the advantages/disadvantages for you might be.

  • Get your questions ready for your Junior College Counseling Meeting with your CDH College Counselor and ask for her suggestions.

College entrance exams - ACT & SAT

While the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape for college entrance exams, it remains uncertain how these tests will be used for the Class of 2023 and beyond.  Many colleges adopted a permanent test optional policy, some colleges are still reviewing their policies, and others have returned to exam requirements.  In order to be prepared for a variety of testing policies, the CDH counseling office recommends that students in the Class of 2023 take a college entrance exam.

Testing terms you may encounter 

  • Test-optional:  

    • Test scores are not required, but most colleges will look at them if submitted.  

    • Applicants will not be disadvantaged for admission if scores are not submitted.

  • Test-blind:  

    • Colleges do not look at test scores even if submitted.

  • Superscore:

  • Some colleges will use the highest subscores from different test dates to create a new higher composite “superscore”. 

Summary of college entrance exams 

  • ACT:

  • Achievement test in four areas: English, Math, Reading, Science.  

  • Score up to 36 in each of the four sections, 36 max score.

  • Optional writing section not factored into composite score, 12 max score.


  • SAT:

    • Achievement test in two main areas: Math & Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. 

    • Score up to 800 in each of the two areas, 1600 max score.

    • Optional writing section not factored into composite score.

Students register for test at www.act.org (ACT) or www.collegeboard.com (SAT).  CDH school code when registering is 242245.

Key take-aways 

  • Each college website will outline their most up to date testing policies so check and re-check their website if you have questions.

  • You can find a comprehensive list of test-optional colleges at www.fairtest.org.

  • Very few colleges require the optional writing section from either test.

  • Students normally take a test for the first time in spring of their junior year.

Strategies to Reduce College Costs

Before you go

  • Save money. If you have a job during high school, try to put away at least some of what you earn for college expenses. Save money for a laptop, for emergencies, or for extra costs like study abroad. 

  • Take college credits while in high school. Colleges vary on what credits they will accept, but here are some ways to earn college credit at CDH: AP classes with AP test scores of 3 or above, PACC classes sponsored by the University of St. Mary’s, College in the Schools classes sponsored by the University of MN. PSEO credits allow students who have exhausted the CDH curriculum to take courses at local colleges and the State of Minnesota pays the college tuition. 

  • Take a CLEP test. CLEP credits are college credits you can earn by taking a test on the knowledge you have from life experience or prior learning. If you score well on a CLEP test, a college may consider giving you credit for this learning that will count towards your college degree. More information can be found at www.clep.collegeboard.org. 

  • Apply to schools where your academic profile puts you in the top 25% of students typically admitted. This will increase your chances of being awarded a merit scholarship if the school awards merit money. Merit awards are based on your high school performance and not your family’s finances. 

  • Consider going to college in the State of Minnesota where you may qualify for a Minnesota State Grant for college. These grants are need-based, and can only be used at colleges/universities in Minnesota. More information  can be found at www.ohe.state.mn.us

  • Take advantage of tuition reciprocity programs. Minnesota has reciprocity programs with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Manitoba, Canada. 

  • Take advantage of the Midwest Student Exchange Program where Minnesota applicants can get tuition discounts at out-of-state participating Midwest colleges and universities. (www.msep.mhec.org) 

  • Investigate how to become a state resident in another state for purposes of qualifying for in-state tuition at public universities. For example, the state of  Missouri has a path to state residency that, if followed, can reduce your tuition to the in-state costs after your freshman year, saving you thousands of dollars. You can also inquire about out-of-state tuition waivers. 

  • Consider military options like ROTC or attending a Service Academy which provides funds for college in exchange for a commitment of military service after graduation. Students should carefully investigate these options to be certain they want this type of program. 

  • Investigate scholarships for the children of alumni/ae. Check your parents’ alma mater’s tuition discount policies. 

  • Look for sibling discounts. Some colleges offer special discounts if more than one child from the same family is enrolled. 

  • Apply for private scholarships. Check with local organizations, where you work and where your parents/guardians work for opportunities. Private scholarships are also listed on your Naviance account under the “colleges” tab. 

While you are there

  • Live like a student when you are in college so you won’t have to after you graduate! Budget your money wisely and borrow the least amount possible. Live with roommates. Don’t have a car. Go to events with free food. Eliminate non-essentials. Do not open credit cards! 

  • Attend a community college for one or two years and then transfer to a four-year school.  Tuition costs are substantially lower and you can make progress towards your four-year degree at a fraction of the cost of a four-year college.  Work with your community college advisor to create an academic plan that will allow you to transfer to and graduate on time from a four-year school.

  • Commute to college.  A student living at home can save money even after spending on transportation.

  • Look for alternative housing options.  Some colleges provide lists of local housing options that provide free room and board to students in exchange for a certain number of hours per week of work (nanny, yard work or snow shoveling for example).

  • Buy used textbooks or find a college with a book rental program to reduce these costs.  Buy your books on-line instead of the college bookstore.

  • Apply to be a resident advisor.  Most colleges sponsor resident advisor programs that offer financial assistance to students in the form of reduced tuition or reduced room and board costs in exchange for work in the residence halls.

  • Consider Cooperative Education.  Cooperative education programs at certain colleges allow a student to alternate between taking classes on campus and working full time in their field of study.  It may take longer than four years to complete your degree, but you will be earning money to pay for school as you go.

  • Take the maximum number of credits allowed if your college charges one price for a specific number of credits taken in a semester.  This will reduce the time it will take you to graduate, thus saving you money.

  • Consider graduating in three years.  Some colleges offer three year programs that enable students to take all courses needed for graduation in three years instead of four, thus eliminating one year of college costs.  Most of these programs require going to school in the summers.

  • Take less expensive summer classes either at your full-time college or at a community college and transfer those credits back to your full-time school. Always check with your academic advisor prior to taking any of these classes to be sure the credits will transfer before you take the class.  Many summer classes can be taken online, making them easier to combine with a summer job.

  • Visit your school’s career office for part-time job listings or go to the school’s human resource office for employment opportunities. Even if you don’t qualify for a Federal Work Study job, you may be able to work on campus.  

  • Use your college career development center.  They will have information about off-campus jobs, internships and summer jobs and can help you decide on a major and/or career plan.  Having an academic plan can help avoid changing your major multiple times which can, in many cases, extend your time in college at additional expense.

  • Try to pay the interest on your unsubsidized Federal student loans while you are in school.  While you are not required to pay the interest while you are a student, interest will accumulate during your college years and substantially increase the total amount you will have to pay back.

  • Explore the Federal Education Tax Credits.  Information about the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit is online at www.irs.gov.

After You Graduate

  • If you have Federal loans, set up auto-pay from your bank account.  This will give you a slightly reduced interest rate for the duration of your loans and save on the total cost of the loan.

  • Investigate Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs which are available for borrowers working in certain fields. More information can be found at https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay.

How the money works

It is very important to understand college costs and how students are funded in order to make good decisions about where you will apply and ultimately attend college.  Here are three kinds of funding that are used to help families shoulder college costs:

Need-Based Aid

  • These funds are distributed based on parent and student income and assets which determine financial “need”. To apply, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is required to be filed for each student for every year in college. Prior-prior year tax information is used for income calculations and you can file a FAFSA beginning October 1st of the senior year in high school for the following fall.  https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa 

  • Once the FAFSA is submitted, you will get a Student Aid Report (SAR) with a “Student Aid Index” (SAI). Your SAI is subtracted from the total cost of attendance at a school to determine your “need”.

  • Colleges try to meet financial need with a combination of:

    • Grants – funds that are need based and do not have to be repaid.

    • Federal Loans –available for both students and parents and are repaid.

    • Work Study – funds that pay you to have a job on campus.

  •  Filing a FAFSA is the only way to access need based aid and Federal Student or Parent Loans (loans are an entitlement program so are awarded to everyone who files).  Filing a FAFSA does not commit you to anything … you can always decide what parts of a financial aid award you want to accept.

  • More selective colleges & universities may also require the CSS Profile, a College Board product that collects additional family financial information and is used to distribute their institutional funds. (https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org)

Merit-Based Aid

  • Better known as scholarships. These are institutional funds that schools award to applicants to attract the students they want. Merit awards vary from school to school, generally do not depend on family finances, are most often renewable, and are more common at private institutions.  

  • Merit scholarships can be awarded for anything … academics, artistic talent, athletic talent, service, overcoming obstacles, first-generation college students, and a host of other reasons.

  • Highly selective schools are less likely to award merit scholarships as all successful applicants are “meritorious”, but they often have generous need-based financial aid policies.

  • Merit awards can be hard to predict and change from year to year.  Some colleges are very straightforward with merit award amounts on their websites.  All colleges are required to post a “Net Price Calculator” where you can anonymously input your financial information and get an estimate of your awards.

Private Scholarships

  • These are scholarships awarded by outside organizations such as churches, employers, and civic organizations. Awards tend to be smaller ($500, $1,000) and are generally not renewable. Private scholarships can range from being very easy to apply for to requiring a multitude of tasks including essays, interviews, contests etc. It is rare for a private scholarship to fill a large aid gap.

  • Applying for private scholarships should be done after you have made sure that you have applied for all the need- and merit-based funding at the schools where you have submitted applications (the vast majority of funds will come from them).  

  • Check your Naviance account often to see an updated list of private scholarships we have been made aware of and to register for a national scholarship search function. Colleges Tab > Scholarships and Money > Scholarship List or National Scholarship Search.

Factors Influencing College Admissions Decisions










Grades in all






Grades in College

Preparatory Courses





Strength of 






Admission Test






Essay or

Writing Sample






Demonstrated Interest




























    First Generation






State of Residence





Alumni/ae Relations


12 %



Ability to Pay





Taken from a survey of colleges and universities conducted by the National Association of College Admission Counseling in 2019.

Highly Selective College Admissions

In order to be seriously considered for admissions to a highly selective college or university, in almost all cases, you must have:

  • Taken the most rigorous CDH course schedule during all four years of high school and have a cumulative GPA well over a 4.0

  • Very high test scores – at least a 30 on the ACT, more likely a 33 or above - although many highly selective colleges are now test optional!

Even if these qualifiers describe you, admissions to these schools is extremely competitive as entering classes can be filled multiple times over from equally qualified pool of candidates.  Please look at the scattergrams on your Naviance account to see how previous CDH applicants have done to get a realistic idea of your chances before you add one of these schools to your list.

If you do decide to apply to a highly selective school, there are many factors you cannot control … and several you can.  Here are some tips:

  1. Work hard on your application and tailor what you submit to each school.  Be on time with everything and show them you are serious about your post-secondary education.

  2. Take your essay and short answer questions very seriously.  As most applicants will have very similar numbers (GPA and test scores), the essay becomes an important way to distinguish yourself.  Make sure you are communicating something about you that they will not see in other parts of your application. Of course, the essay needs to be well written and error free.

  3. Choose your teacher recommendations carefully.  Choose teacher from core subject areas from your junior year.  Make sure you thoroughly fill out the forms we require you to submit to your teachers so that they can write a detailed letter of support for you.  Make sure you thank your teachers!

  4. Make sure you and your parents complete the senior questionnaires.  We ask for input from you and your parents so that we can completeyour Counselor Report or Secondary School Report.  The more detailed information you give us the better!  Our task is to advocate for you, explain any extenuating circumstances and to distinguish you from other equally qualified candidates.  Hard to do if we do not know you well so get to know your CDH Counselor.

  5. Take advantage of an interview if offered.  Interviews are often with alums of the school, but sometimes with admissions officers.  Make sure you prepare answers to some likely questions and have some intelligent questions to ask them.

  6. Demonstrate your interest.  Get to know the college admissions representative responsible for CDH.  Go to information sessions they offer in the Twin Cities and come down to see them in the Counseling Office if they come to CDH.  Make an official campus visit if at all possible.

  7. Consider Early Decision.  Depending on the school, applying ED can give you an admissions advantage.  ED is a contractual agreement that stipulates that if you are admitted, you are agreeing to attend and withdraw all of your other college applications.  Talk to your CDH College Counselor for more information.


For more detailed advice, please feel free to talk to your CDH College Counselor at anytime!



Introduction to Paying for College (MN Office of Higher Education)