Professor Tonya Rondinone speaks to Daniel Trust Foundation students about College Admissions and Fi

Tonya Rondinone speaks to Daniel Trust Foundation students in Bridgeport, Connecticut

For the past 3 years, Tonya Rondinone, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Housatonic Community College and a Member of the Daniel Trust Foundation Monthly Giving Program, has been volunteering her time and skills to Daniel Trust Foundation by speaking to students in the Foundation’s Mentoring Program about the College Admission and Financial Aid Application Process.

This past Tuesday, Tonya gave a very powerful presentation to the 10 high school juniors who joined the Bridgeport, Connecticut mentoring program in January. The Foundation’s staff was so impressed with the way Tonya answered the questions students asked her, that they thought it was a great idea to share these Q&As with members of the Foundation’s greater community online.

If you find the answers below helpful, please share them with an adult or a student in your community who is planning on attending college soon.

How soon should students apply to the colleges they want to attend?

Every college has an application deadline – pay attention to early admission deadlines: these are for specific programs, scholarships, sports, etc. Make sure you meet the deadline. As soon as you know which colleges you want to attend, research the application process and make sure all your materials (letter of recommendations, SAT/ACT scores, and essays) are submitted prior to the deadline. A good rule of thumb is to submit applications prior to the end of the year.

When is the right time to start working on the college essay?

As soon as you know which colleges you are applying to, you should start the essay. Ask a teacher or trusted friend, family member, or mentor to proofread the essay. If you are asked to write on a specific topic, include that with the essay you are having proofread. Provide yourself enough time for someone to proofread it, and for you to make edits

Is it important for a student to submit their resume with their college application?

You do not have to do this; however, if you feel that the application does not allow you to include information that will make you stand out (and this information is in your resume), you may include it. The place to discuss your accomplishments is in your essay; just make sure your essay does not read like a resume – the purpose of the essay is for you to sell yourself.

When should students ask their teachers and counselors for letters of recommendations?

You should approach your teachers early in the fall and ask if they are willing to write a letter for you. The key is to ask a teacher, coach, or counselor who really knows you and your strengths.

How many colleges should students apply to; Is there a minimum or maximum?

You should have a list of a minimum of 5 colleges; do not assume you will be accepted to your “safety” school. There is no maximum, however a solid list of 5 – 10 colleges is good. Apply to those you want to attend; do not waste your time on applying to colleges you will not attend.

What is the difference between a public and a private college? Is one better than the other?

Money! Private and public colleges offer a variety of majors/degrees. However, accreditation guidelines mean they must meet academic and industry standards. Therefore, you can and will receive an excellent education at a public, less expensive college. However, if you like a program at a private college, apply and request financial aid. Sometimes, after receiving financial aid, the price tag of a private college will be the same as a public college.

The best college is one that you feel is a good fit for you:

  • Can you picture yourself there for several years?

  • When you visit, does it feel comfortable?

  • Is the distance compatible with you and your needs?

  • What will be the final cost of your education?

  • Does the college have the major you are interested in?

  • What is the faculty to student ratio?

  • How large is the campus?

Should students research professors on before registering for classes?

This site is frequently used by students; however, keep in mind that the students who post are the ones who love or hate the class. A better source of information is to ask other students who they recommend.

When is the best time for students to complete their FAFSA?

The best time to apply for Financial Aid is in October, since the Department of Education allows FAFSA's for the next award year to be completed a whole year, three months earlier, during the past two years now. If a student wanted to start school Fall 2018, they could have completed their 2018-2019 FAFSA October 1, 2017 at

Doing it so early gets student’s application in the pipeline earlier and hopefully they can get unsatisfied requirements to the Financial Aid Office earlier as well, so they can be awarded sooner. Complete early, much of college-based aid is often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

What type of grants, scholarships and loans are included in financial aid package?

Every college is different – at Housatonic Community College we offer Financial Aid in the form of: Federal Pell Grants, Institutional Funding in the form of an HCC Grant, State Funding in the form of Roberta Will Need Based Scholarship, and private funding. Lastly, if needed Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans. HCC students needing a Federal Direct Student Loan must come in to our Financial Aid Office to meet with a Financial Aid Staff to discuss their requests and see if they are eligible for student loans.

To see eligibility for all financial aid fund sources, a FAFSA is required. We urge students to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, to get their FAFSA information reviewed and awarded before the Non-Federal Funding dries up. As for outside Scholarships students usually find and research scholarships on their own using sites like and scholarship search sites, high school guidance counselors, companies, etc. You must get creative when looking for outside scholarships. Most outside scholarships are paid to the school’s Bursar’s Office who credits the funds to the student’s account.

What are the benefits of attending a community college and transferring to a university?

Money – you will save a lot of money. The four Connecticut State Universities (Southern, Eastern, Central, and Western) have articulation agreements with all 12 CT Community Colleges. This means, if you earn a degree from one of the 12 CC’s and have an acceptable GPA, you are guaranteed to have your credits transfer to the CSU (assuming you take the courses that are transferable). Most CC’s have professors who have worked in their prospective occupations, thus the professors can bring real-world experience into the classroom. Additionally, many CC professors also teach at the 4-year Universities; therefore, you will receive equivalent instruction.

Should students buy or rent their textbooks? Should they get them at the college or online?

I believe that once you know which major you plan on pursuing, it is a good idea to buy the textbooks for those courses (if you major in Psychology, you will want to keep your psychology textbooks). Renting is a great option if you know you will take care of and not write in your textbook. Buying textbooks online is a great way to save money and most students use this option.

However, if your financial aid covers textbooks, it makes more sense to purchase through the campus bookstore (and some colleges will require this). Bottom-line→ save money and obtain the textbook using the most affordable option. Keep in mind, some courses will require workbooks, so you will not be able to purchase a used copy (the professor will make this clear). As soon as you know your course schedule, research which textbooks are required and search online for the best options.

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