Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Prindle Institute Essay Contest

The Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University will award five $300 prizes for the best essays written by high school students on an assigned topic. Students do not have to attend Depauw University and all high school students are eligible to enter. 

This year's prompt is Does the United States have a moral responsibility to intervene in countries were human rights violations are occurring? Essays should be between 500 and 2000 words.

For more information and guidelines, visit the Prindle Post
Deadline: February 1, 2016.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Texas A&M Document Drop Off

For students who need to deliver last minute admissions documents to Texas A&M, representatives will be at the following Starbucks locations in the Austin area.

November 23, 2015  5:30-8:00 PM
Arboretum Market
9722 Great Hills Trail
Austin, TX 78759

November 30, 2015 5:30 - 7:30 PM
3328 W Slaughter Ln,
Austin, TX 78748

December 1, 2015 5:30 - 8:30 PM
Village of Westlake Shopping Center
701 South Capitol of Texas Highway
Austin, TX 78746

December 7th, 2015 5:30 – 8:00 PM
500A East Ben White Blvd
Austin, TX 78704 

December 8th, 2015 5:30 – 8:00 PM
3300 Bee Cave Rd, Ste. # 250
Austin, TX 78746

Friday, November 13, 2015

FAFSA Changes for Class of 2017

For years families have been encouraged to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st of their senior year. The tax information students and parents used to complete the FAFSA was the prior year’s tax information. For this year’s seniors, the tax information they will use will be the 2015 tax information filed by April 15, 2016.

On September 14, 2015, President Obama announced changes regarding when families can file their FAFSA. For students applying to college for fall 2017 (current juniors) they will be able to complete a FAFSA as early as October of their senior year using 2015 tax information; tax forms filed in April of 2016. This is called Prior-Prior Year tax information. For more information, read the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA Fact Sheet.

As always, students should check with the specific universities to which they are applying/attending and follow their financial aid guidelines. Many schools are still deciding how to implement the new FAFSA rules.

Current Seniors - Class of 2016
Current Juniors - Class of 2017
Students will file their first FAFSA after January 1, 2016 using tax information from 2015. These are the taxes filed by April 15, 2016.

To apply for financial aid for their second year of college (fall 2017), current seniors may be able to submit their second FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016 using tax information from 2015. These are the taxes filed by April 15, 2016.
Students may be able to file their first FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016 using tax information from 2015. These are the taxes filed by April 15, 2016.

To apply for financial aid for their second year of college (fall 2018), current juniors may be able to submit their second  FAFSA as early as October 1, 2017 using tax information from 2016. These are the taxes filed by April 15, 2017.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Camp RYLA - 2016 Application

Camp RYLA is a six day leadership camp sponsored by local Rotary clubs with all fees and expenses paid by the sponsoring Rotary club. This year's camp will be held at McKinney Roughs Nature Park from July 3-8, 2016

  • Must be a current sophomore or junior.
  • Print and complete the application and return it to Mr. Clark in D1127. 
  • Attach the supplemental information on a separate sheet of paper listing school and community activities and why you are applying. 
  • Deadline: December 11 at 10:00 AM 
  • Interviews will be held on January 8, 2016 at Westwood. 
Camp RYLA Poster
Camp RYLA Application

Friday, November 6, 2015

December 1 Transcript Deadline

The December 1st college application deadline is rapidly approaching. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, students need to order their transcripts by 4:30 on November 18 in order to guarantee they will be sent before the deadline. As a reminder, all Round Rock ISD offices will be closed the week of November 23 to 27.  Any transcript ordered after November 18 may not be sent, or received, by December 1.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

College Board Response to Delayed Scores

Some October SAT scores were delayed due to a switch to the College Board's new electronic reporting system. Click on the link below for more information from College Board. 

College Board update regarding delayed score reports

Monday, November 2, 2015

Westwood Financial Aid Nights

Westwood will host a financial aid night for students and parents on November 12, 2015 at 6:30. Stacy Flood, Campus Financial Aid Supervisor from Austin Community College, will present information regarding college financial aid and the FAFSA. Please note the location has been moved to the great room of the Westwood library.

On February 11, 2016 Westwood will host a FAFSA work night. This will be an evening for parents and students to work on their FAFSA with individuals trained in financial aid.  There will be no formal presentation on this evening. Additional FAFSA events will be hosted in RRISD and in the Austin area. Please watch the Counseling News and RRISD Website for announcements in January/February.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Baylor Invitation to Excellence Weekend & Distinguished Scholars Day

Baylor Invitation to Excellence Weekend- $2000 scholarship
Invitation to Excellence is a weekend opportunity (January 22-23) for invited students. To apply, students should have either a 1300+ (CR+M) SAT score or a 30+ ACT score and be interested in one of these academic areas. Students must submit their completed Baylor application by November 1, 2015 AND follow the Invitation to Excellence application instructions found on the Baylor website. Participants will receive a $2000 scholarship and be eligible to apply for a full tuition Faculty Scholarship.

Baylor Distinguished Scholars Day - $3000 renewable
Distinguished Scholars days vary by academic department. Please check the Baylor Distinguished Scholars Day website for required SAT/ACT scores, registration deadlines and academic programs offered. Participants can apply for a $3000 renewable scholarship.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program - Full Scholarship

The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program is a scholarship program for students who will major in English and Math education at Mississippi State or the University of Mississippi. Each institution will accept 20 fellows (10 English & 10 math) each fall. Students are encouraged to apply to the Ole Miss Honors College in addition to the METP.

Program Benefits:
  • Full Tuition, Room and Meal Plan
  • $1000 technology stipend
  • $6000 study abroad experience
  • Funding for national conferences.

Who Should Apply:
  • ACT Composite of 28
  • SAT Composite of 1250 (CR+M)
  • 3.5 High School GPA

Additional information and the program application can be found at
Priority Deadline: January 5, 2016

Students are required to teach for five years at any Mississippi public school. There is a proposal to provide an annual $10,000 salary bonus to the graduates, but this has not yet been approved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Soroptimist Youth Citizenship Award

Juniors and seniors are eligible to apply for the Soroptimist Ava Crofford Youth Citizenship Award. This award recognizes students for their outstanding contributions to home, school, community, country and the world. Application materials can be found at the Soroptimist website. All applications and supporting materials must be postmarked by December 15, 2015. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

UT Austin Document Drop Off

Members of the University of Texas Central Texas Recruitment Team will be at the Starbucks locations listed below on October 15th, 2015 from 6:00-8:30p in order to pick up missing documents from students. All items received at the location will be considered on time for the priority deadline. 

500 E Ben White Blvd Austin, TX 78704
501 W 15th St Austin, TX 78701

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RRISD Partners in Education Foundation Scholarship Applications

The RRISD Partners in Education Foundation Scholarship Applications are now available. Students are encouraged to complete the PIE common scholarship application first so their demographic information will auto-populate in the other scholarship applications. 

Students will need to create an account with Scholar Select and remember their password. The prompt to create an account will be the first step in the common PIE scholarship application. 

Descriptions of each scholarship are available by clicking on the links. 

This year students are no longer being asked to print a copy of their completed application to submit to the Westwood Counseling office. 

Applications can be found here

Application Deadline: March 21, 2016 at midnight.

Monday, October 12, 2015

RRISD College Fair - October 19, 2015

The annual Round Rock ISD College Fair will be held on October 19th at Round Rock High School from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Over 200 colleges and universities have indicated they will attend. Special sessions will be held on financial aid and scholarships. For more information, please visit the RRISD Website.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

ACC Dual Credit

ACC Advising for the second semester 2016 is on Wednesday, October 28 from 12 to 2:30 in the Library/Great Room at Westwood High School. Prior to advising, you must turn in all completed Dual Credit Enrollment forms by Tuesday, October 27th to Janet Kirk in the main office.  To receive your form, please see Ms. Kirk on any Tuesday or Wednesday during the month of October

Students and parents interested in Dual Credit at ACC for the spring or summer of 2016 are invited to attend an ACC Dual Credit Information Night. Zach Denton, Dual Credit Specialist from ACC will be the presenter.
Date: October 21st
Time: 6:30
Location: WHS Library Great Room

If you have questions, please contact Janet Kirk at

Monday, October 5, 2015

UT-Austin Jefferson Scholars Program

The Jefferson Scholars Program is a new program at UT-Austin for bright freshmen in all majors. 

The Jefferson Center’s focus is to challenge students by exposing them to enduring questions that humanity has faced throughout history.  It does this through the study of “the great books." Works like Aristotle’s Nicomachean EthicsThe Bible, Hobbes’ Leviathan, and Shakespeare’s plays.  In reading these books, students in the Jefferson Center are encouraged to think for themselves about questions asked by thinkers for millennia. 

The courses in the program fulfill basic requirements that all students at The University of Texas must complete, students in every major have room for it in their schedules.Outside of the classroom, the Center hosts a lecture series throughout the year, lunches with professors, and a book club.

JSP is looking for intellectually curious students who love to read. All of the  information about the program is online at

If you would like to ask a current JSP student a question, email James Abbott at 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Texas High School Aerospace Scholars - Current Juniors

The High School Aerospace Scholars program (HAS) encourages high school juniors from across Texas to explore opportunities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students participate in online lessons, interact with other students across Texas and qualify for travel to the NASA Johnson Space Center for a six day residential summer experience. Lodging, meals and transportation to and from Johnson Space Center are provided at no cost. For more information and to apply, visit the HAS program website at:

Click here for a program brochure and video.
Deadline to Apply: November 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM CDT

Thursday, September 24, 2015

College Admission Presentation: Big Take Aways

If you were unable to attend the college admissions panel presentation last week, the Program PowerPoint has been posted on the Westwood Counseling Blog.  We had a great turn out with approximately 350 parents and students attending and representatives from Rice, UT-Austin and the University of Tulsa. Our presenters shared so much information the presentation went a little longer than expected. I have tried to recap some of the main points.

Demonstrating Interest
Visit college campuses. Not only does this demonstrate interest in the university it helps the student determine if the school is the right fit. Get on college mailing lists early.

While all schools are required to have a Net Price Calculator, this does not always equal what the final cost will be for the student. A high sticker price at a private university can be offset with institutional scholarships.

Take the ACT and SAT; they are both widely accepted. Repeat the test on which the student scored the best. Submit all test scores. Many universities super score and subtest scores can help a student get in their first choice major.

What are colleges looking for in a student?
According to the NACAC 2012 Survey, colleges are looking for grades in college prep courses, rigor of courses, test scores (ACT/SAT), grades in all courses, and essay/writing samples. Colleges look for the rigorous courses offered at  the student’s school and what courses the student took. Colleges do not compare the competitiveness of the high school and admit students from more competitive schools over less competitive schools.

There is no magic number regarding the number of volunteering opportunities a student should complete. The student should demonstrate passion and impact.

Checking Application Status
Students should always check the status of their applications at the college website or through Common App.

Assured Admission for UT-Austin
Class of 2016 - Top 8%
Class of 2017 - Top 7%


Students and parents should complete the FAFSA by the school's priority deadline. Around March 1st.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

UT-Dallas Information

Students from Westwood have a lot of interest in The University of Texas at Dallas. For the class of 2015, it was the second most popular four year university. Recently three of the Westwood counselors attended the UTD counselor update. We have summarized some of the main topics below.

UTD will be at Westwood on September 24th at 10:15 AM in the Great Room.

Assured Admission
Top 10%
SAT of 1200 on CR+M (UTD will super score for admission)
ACT Composite Score of 26

Admission Tips
Apply Early
Take both the ACT and SAT
Write the optional ApplyTexas Essay C
Have letters of recommendation submitted which highlight the student’s character.
Submit a resume with a detailed list of accomplishments

UT-Pact - Seven year BA/MD Program with UT-Southwestern Medical Center
3 Years at UT Dallas
4 Years at UT Southwestern
Information session for current juniors on October 24, 2015 at UTD. Go to the website below.
Students are able to begin clinical experiences early in the undergraduate program.
For the Freshman class of 2015 there were 400 applicants for 20 spots.
For more information go to the UT-Pact website.

Health Profession Advising Center
65% admitted to medical school. (National average 45%)
For more information about Pre-Health programs at UTD, visit the Pre-Health page

Pre-Law Advising Center 
Support for students hoping to attend law school.
93% of students admitted to law school.
For more information, visit the Pre-Law website.

Honors College
For information about programs in the Honors College please visit

There are many generous scholarships at UTD. For information about scholarships and financial aid at UTD, visit the UTD Financial Aid Website.

Monday, August 31, 2015

College Admissions - Myth and Reality

On September 16th at 6:30 in the WHS cafeteria, Westwood will host a parent night regarding the college admission process. In order to incorporate questions from parents and students, we ask that you submit your questions in advance. 

Please submit your questions by Sunday September 13th through this Google Form.

We will not take questions during the main presentation, but the college reps will be on hand after the presentations to answer specific questions. Presenters for the evening will be:

Tamara Siler - Rice University
Senior Associate Director of Admission and Coordinator of Minority Recruitment

Jennifer Bradford - The University of Tulsa
Regional Representative

Nick Howell - The University of Texas at Austin
Director of Central Texas Recruitment

This event is open to both parents and students. While the primary target is juniors and seniors, parents and students of any grade are welcome to attend.

Passport to Aggieland - Fall

Current seniors are invited to apply for the free Texas A&M Passport to Aggieland 2015 fall program. The event will be held on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station on October 12, 2015. (There is no school this day.) All expenses, including transportation,  are covered. 

Students will:
  • Learn about traditions at Texas A&M.
  • Take part in team building and leadership activities.
  • Tour Texas A&M.
  • Learn about Texas A&M and Texas A&M - Galveston.
  • Receive admissions application tips.
  • Learn about scholarships and financial aid.
Be in the top 10% of their class 
Be in the top 25% of their class with admissible ACT/SAT scores. 
Be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

Passport to Aggieland Flyer

Space is limited. Apply by September 18th, 2015

If you have questions or to submit an application packet, contact  
David Schwartz - Senior Regional Advisor Austin/Central Texas
Tel: 512-484-6929
Fax 512-263-8954

Passport to Aggieland Application Packet

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Half Price ACT - October 24th

Westwood juniors and seniors are eligible for a reduced price ACT on October 24, 2015. ACT is testing the order of the subjects tested. Students will still take English, math, reading and science, but the order may be different.  
  • The price will be $19.75. Students may also register for the writing test for an Additional $17.00
  • Students must see Mr. Clark, Mrs. Kirk or Mr. Snyder in the main office for a voucher in order to participate. 
  • Students will not know the order of their subjects until the day of the ACT. Rooms are assigned randomly. 
  • All scores are college-reportable.  
  • Students must register by September 18, 2015 at
  • The Westwood test center code for this administration only is 204708. This special test administration is open to Westwood students only and closed to outside students. 
Please read the The ACT Order Study FAQ.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Students Interested In Golf

If you are interested in playing Golf for Westwood should contact Coach Dacia Mackey as soon as possible. Tryouts will be held during the first two weeks of school and will consist of playing 9 holes of golf. Students must have their own golf clubs, a current physical and paperwork on file with the athletic trainers. Contact Coach Mackey at

Monday, July 20, 2015

ApplyTexas Boot Camp and Evening Parent Presentation

Westwood and McNeil High Schools are sponsoring an ApplyTexas Application Boot Camp which will be held on Wednesday, August 5, 2014, at McNeil High School.  Senior students from McNeil and Westwood are strongly encouraged to participate in this event. The Boot Camp is designed to assist students with their college application and essays. All students will begin working on their ApplyTexas college application as well as receive feedback on their essays. The event will be staffed by college admissions counselors in the Austin region.  Students should bring copies of their essays and their social security number.
  • 9:30 to 10:00: Students will sign in at the cafeteria.
  • 10:00 to 10:30 Short presentation and Q&A Session in the cafeteria
  • 10:30 to 12:00: Students will work on their applications and have their essays evaluated. 
Essay Topic A
Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours.  Address your initial feelings, and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.

Essay Topic B
Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it.  Did it change you?  If so, how?

Essay Topic C
Considering your lifetime goals, discuss how your current and future academic and extra-curricular activities might help you achieve your goals.

Essays should be no more than 650 words and no less than 250 words

College Admissions Process Evening Presentation for Parents and Students
While the morning Boot Camp is for SENIORS only, an evening presentation has been scheduled for both parents and students from all RRISD high schools. Nick Howell from the University of Texas at Austin and Bob Baldwin from Southwestern University will provide an overview of the college admissions process as well as provide information about the UT-Austin and Southwestern application process. This event will be held at the RRISD PAC: 5800 McNeil Dr, Austin, TX 78729

  • 6:30: Doors will open for parents and students to speak with the admission reps and pick up recruitment materials.
  • 7:00: Presentation
  • 8:00: Admissions reps available for questions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni
If you are not aware of the book by Frank Bruni, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, it is a compelling book about the college admissions process. The book is available in the Westwood library. Two reactions to the book are presented below. The first is by a member of the Westwood class of 2015, Navya Kumar. The second is by Westwood Lead Counselor, Steve Clark.

* * * * * * * *

Amidst the plethora of self-satisfied college guidebooks promising results, acceptances and prestige stands Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, a sobering take on the mania that is college application and admission. As a student, I heard lots of things about college. I heard that I must have something super special to wow the programs I was looking at. I heard that a near-perfect or perfect standardized test score was absolutely crucial to getting into the Ivy League elite. I heard that who I am would be absolutely, completely dictated by where I would go. Frank Bruni destroys that notion with his very first paragraph.

The problem with the mania is not the focus on success and achievement. The failure arises when the school is chosen based on a popular opinion of its greatness, not the specificity of the programs or the actual rigor of the academics. How many times have I heard that I must go to an elite university to engage in real undergraduate research, to have professors, not TAs, who will teach me, to ever have a chance at earning a Fulbright or Rhodes Fellowship? Statistically and methodically, Bruni proves that most public universities, like UT Austin, University of Houston or Arizona State University, for example, which are not regarded as truly elite, provide ample resources.

Bruni says the one thing that every other book neglects to mention: who you are is who you’ll be, what you do is who you’ll be, and how you take advantage of the opportunities in your life determines the course of it. This book is precious cargo, and I recommended it highly to anyone who feels disenchanted with the process or any parent who doesn’t want to believe that their child is worth the college they end up attending. Honestly, I recommend it to everyone. It is an enlightening and fascinating read and it will change the way you view higher education.

* * * * * * * *

As Westwood celebrates the Class of 2015 and we send them off to the next phases of their lives, it has allowed me an opportunity to reflect on the process of selecting a college and the admission process. At Westwood we are fortunate that most of our graduates have a post-secondary plan. We are also fortunate that our graduates cast a wide net when selecting a school and are eventually admitted to a wide variety of universities across the country.
Over the rainy Memorial Day weekend I had an opportunity to read Frank Bruni’s latest book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be. Bruni makes the argument that less selective universities produce just as many successful individuals as more selective schools. He continues his argument that after being employed for several years, the college from where one graduates matters even less than what they have done in their field. Bruni cites multiple examples including the following:

University of Delaware
  • Joe Biden, Vice President
  • Steve Schmidt, Senior Strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign
  • David Plouffe, President Barak Obama’s 2008 campaign manager.
University of Denver
  • Condoleezza Rice, Former Secretary of State
Northern Michigan University
  • Howard Schultz, Chief Executive of Starbucks

As a high school counselor I want our students to earnestly consider the process of selecting a college. As a father I want my daughters to have more opportunities than I had. I would never tell my girls not to attend a selective school if they were to be admitted. I think attending an Ivy or similarly elite school will open doors that may remain shut for others. However, I do believe where any student goes to school does not define them. The much bigger questions to ask when selecting a college is “Why do you want to go to college?” and “What do you want to gain from the collegiate experience?” As the Class of 2016 begins the process of applying to college, I hope they ask themselves these important questions.