College Planning Process

College Planning Process


The following list of Frequently Asked Questions, developed in collaboration with parent representatives from the Guidance Advisory Council, offers assistance to both students and their parents as they navigate together through the college exploration and application process. School counselors work to support juniors and senior students as they discover their post-secondary options and plan for life after high school graduation.   Each student is unique, making this process for each young adult also unique. There is no “one size” fits all response to any query and our list of questions and responses is intended to assist in a general fashion. It is not expected that students and parents make sense of the college exploration and application process alone.   School counselors and guidance support staff are available to you via telephone, email and in-person meetings to help address your questions. If you are unable to find an answer to a question on the guidance web page or in the Documents Library of Naviance, please know you are welcome to contact the guidance department directly so we can assist you with your question.

Tools & Resources:

What is the Common Application?

Years ago, high school students submitted a unique application to every college that they were considering. In 1975, the Common Application was created by 15 private colleges that wished to provide a common, standardized first-year application form for use at any member institution. Applicants may use to apply to any of more than 900 member colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, Japan, and many European countries. The online application form is preferred by most colleges and universities.

Once completed, the Common Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges. This allows students to spend less time on the busywork of applying for admission, and more time on what's really important: college research, visits, essay writing, and senior year coursework.

Check any college’s website to determine if the college/university accepts the Common Application. 

Please Note:  Many colleges have supplemental questions and/or essays, or require additional information, for admission. Please check each college for information on supplement requirements.

What is the process regarding teacher recommendation letters for application to colleges? When are these letters written?

Juniors: In the spring of Junior year, students are advised to speak with two teachers about writing college recommendations for them. These letters are primarily academic recommendations and students are encouraged to ask teachers whom they have had for year-long courses, preferably during Junior year.

Seniors: In September, students should confirm their recommendation requests with the teachers. Students then enter the teachers’ names into Naviance. Teachers can then access the relevant forms and deadlines in Naviance. 

Please Note: Some colleges require only one teacher recommendation and may only read the first recommendation received. Students are encouraged to consult each college’s policy and to speak with their school counselors about developing a plan for selecting teacher recommendations.

Please Note: Teachers are not required to share their letters with the students.

When do School Counselors write Descriptive Letters for each student? If each Guidance Counselor helps manage over 200 students, how can they possibly know each student well enough to write a recommendation?

Each student’s college application is supplemented by the Dover-Sherborn Secondary School Report (completed in lieu of any other Secondary School Report forms) and a personal letter written by the student’s school counselor. This descriptive letter is a comprehensive report that includes teacher feedback, input from the student, information from student records and reports, plus the counselor’s personal knowledge of the student. Counselors take great efforts to present the fullest portrait possible for each student. Parents/guardians are welcome to provide their insights in writing via the Parent Guardian College Input Form”. 

How do a student’s transcripts get forwarded to a college of choice? Can a student review his/her transcripts before they are sent?

An official DSHS transcript includes a student’s final marks from Grades 9, 10 and 11, as well as a weighted cumulative GPA for the first six semesters of high school. The Guidance Office is responsible for forwarding this transcript to each college of choice. As soon as first quarter grades from senior year are available, each college on record with the Guidance Office will receive an updated copy of a student’s transcript. In February, another updated copy of the transcript, with first semester senior year grades and the seventh semester GPA, will be submitted to all colleges of choice. Finally, a copy of the student’s graduation transcript will be submitted to the college that the student will attend after graduation.

Please Note:  DSHS does not document a student’s high school activities on the high school transcript. All academic awards, activities, sports, volunteer work and part-time jobs as well as leadership positions should be listed on the student’s application. Many colleges will review a student’s Activities Resume if included as a supplement to the application.

During the spring of Junior year, students receive a “Guidance Information Release Form” that needs to be signed by the student, giving permission to release the transcripts. The form is due to the guidance department in early fall. During the summer following Junior year, students also receive a copy of their official transcript via Aspen. Students are encouraged to review their transcript for demographic and academic accuracy. If changes are required, the student is advised to make the changes in colored pen on the document and return the corrected copy to his/her school counselor in September to allow sufficient time for changes to be made.

Do teachers or school counselors review college essays with students…before submission?

Reviewing college essays are not a standard part of the DSHS curriculum. However, students are welcome to ask an English teacher to review their work. Students may also ask their school counselor for assistance with the essay.

Do school counselors conduct “mock” interviews? If so, how does this work? When should a student do the mock interviews? Do most colleges/universities require an interview as part of the application process?

Yes, school counselors conduct mock interviews for Junior and Senior students. Students are encouraged to schedule a mock interview appointment with a school counselor (other than their own) through the guidance secretaries. The Q&A session will include questions that a student may get during an interview with a college admissions officer or an interviewer-alumnus. At the end of the mock interview, the school counselor will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s interviewing style.

Can parents meet with school counselors about the post-secondary planning and the college process?

Absolutely! School counselors are available to meet with students and/or parents/guardians throughout the academic year. Counselors are best prepared to discuss post-secondary planning beginning in the spring of Junior year and recommend that parents schedule these appointments during April, May and June.  Feel free to schedule a session with your child’s school counselor that best meets the needs of all attending the meeting.

Do college representatives visit DSHS and, if so, how do students access these sessions?

Yes, a wide range of colleges visit DSHS every year. The colleges tend to provide an overview of their institution and answer questions from students. Because these sessions are very well-attended, only Seniors are admitted to the meetings. Seniors must RSVP at least a day in advance of the meeting on Naviance in order to attend a college’s meeting. It is the student’s responsibility to also obtain advance permission from a teacher, if he/she will miss a class. 

Important dates in the planning process:

What if a student wants to apply Early Decision or Early Action? Is there a different process?


The policies for applying Early Decision and/or Early Action vary by college and it is recommended that interested students review each college’s policy regarding Early Decision and Early Action. Before applying to a college, it is important to understand the differences between Early Decision and Early Action.


  • Early Decision plans are binding. Early Decision students are contractually obligated to attend the college that accepts them. The only exception to this is if the college does not provide a sufficient financial aid package. Students are only allowed to apply to one college for Early Decision, but they may apply to other colleges using the regular admission deadline. If a college accepts a student through the early decision option, the student must withdraw all other applications.


  • Early Action plans are not binding. Students are allowed to apply to more than one college with Early Action. And, students may choose to accept an Early Action offer when it is given or wait until later in the spring to notify the college of their decision.


  • Single-Choice Early Action is a relatively new option offered by some colleges. Students are limited to apply Early Action to one college when choosing this option. Students apply to one college Early Action and may also apply to other colleges under regular decision plans. Students do not have to decide whether to attend the single-choice Early Action college until the regular decision deadline.


Dover-Sherborn students who wish to submit an Early option application must notify their counselors of their intentions to apply Early, complete the information as requested in Naviance, and submit a processing fee by the end of September of Senior year in order to meet all college deadlines.

Where can students and parents find a timeline and checklist for the college planning process?

Students and parents can find a timeline and checklist under their respective year of graduation side tab of the Guidance webpage or by clicking the links below. There is important information regarding the college planning process including timelines and checklists for Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years. 

Freshmen Year College Planning Timeline

Sophomore Year College Planning Timeline

Junior Year College Planning Timeline

Senior Year College Planning Timeline


Is the planning process for a foreign college/university different than for a US college/university?

Application requirements vary for each college/university and application deadlines may vary from the deadlines of US colleges. It is possible that students could be required to submit additional application materials, including proof of language proficiency or results of additional qualifying testing (the SAT’s are only applicable when applying to US colleges).   Most, if not all, foreign universities have a website with a student application section. Students can also email/write to the university for an Application Packet.

Applying to a foreign college/university has other differences, such as, requiring a passport and possibly a travel visa, potential need for inoculations, cultural considerations, verification of accreditations, etc. For more information, contact your child’s school counselor. 

Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing

Testing Information

Are standardized tests required for college admissions?

Hundreds of post-secondary colleges and universities have no standardized testing requirements; many others use standardized testing results for placement purposes or special programs within the university. However, many selective colleges and universities require a college entrance exam - usually the ACT Test or the SAT Reasoning Test. Information on current testing requirements at colleges and universities can be obtained directly from the Admissions Office or Admissions website of each college/university. In addition, information on "testing-optional" colleges and universities is available on many websites, including, a for-profit clearinghouse of testing information. 

What is the ACT Test?

The ACT Test is a college entrance exam administered six times per year (usually on Saturday mornings) at area high schools. It is a 3 hr. and 25 minute test with four sections - English, Math, Reading and Science Reasoning. Each section is graded separately, and a composite score (1 - 36) is reported. There is also an optional 30-minute writing/essay exam, which is required by many colleges and universities.  Dover-Sherborn school counselors recommend that students take the ACT Test with writing. General information about the test, scheduled test dates, registration, testing locations, practice tests and college planning tools are available at the website

What is the SAT Reasoning Test?

The SAT Reasoning Test (formerly known as SAT I) is a college entrance exam administered seven times per year (usually on Saturday mornings) at area high schools. It is a 3 hr. and 45 minute test with three sections - Writing, Critical Reading, and Math. Scores for each section (200 - 800) are reported. One portion of the writing exam is a required 30-minute essay. General information about the test, scheduled test dates, registration, testing locations, practice tests and college planning tools are available at the website

What is the PSAT Test?

The PSAT Test is a "practice" SAT test offered to Sophomores and Juniors at DSHS. This test is administered by the CollegeBoard. If students are interested in being considered for the National Merit Scholarship competition, they must take the PSAT Test as a Junior, even though they may have taken it as a Sophomore.

Should students take both the SAT and ACT tests?

Colleges and Universities that require college entrance exams will accept either the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Test. The tests have several differences in format, scoring and subject material. For many students, score correlation between the tests is high; however, some students score better on one or the other. The DSHS Program of Studies provides a detailed overview of each test. In addition, a practice test, sample questions, and study guides are available on the ACT and CollegeBoard websites. Many colleges and universities with additional testing requirements, like a writing exam, will accept the ACT with optional Writing. Check current testing requirements at the Admissions website for each college/university. Dover-Sherborn school counselors recommend that students take both the SAT and the ACT tests.

When should DSHS students register for and take college entrance exams?

Sophomores and Juniors have the option of taking the PSAT in the fall of each year. Registration for the PSAT is through the Guidance Office.

College-bound students should consider taking the SAT Reasoning Test and/or ACT Test in the winter or spring of their junior year. Registration for the ACT and SAT tests is completed online by students and their parents on the website for each testing agency. The SAT Reasoning Test is administered at DSHS once a year, usually in March. Other testing dates for the SAT and ACT are available at area high schools. Some testing sites fill quickly (especially at DSHS), so early registration is recommended! 

Registration for all testing dates in an academic year begins in the summer. DSHS does not register students for the SAT or the ACT exams, nor does the school send exam scores to any college. Test scores must be sent directly from the testing agency to the colleges.

ACT and SAT exams are not administered during the summer months, so students planning to retake an exam may need to schedule these exams in the fall. Students need to plan ahead to ensure that their testing will be complete to meet college admissions deadlines.

CollegeBoard and ACT will require photo identification for all test takers. Please refer to the test registration websites for information on this new requirement.

How do students receive their test scores for the ACT and SAT tests?

Students create a unique login as part of the test registration process, and they will use this login to access results, as well as to order score reports. Students receive results for ACT and SAT tests online as well as in the mail.  

Are PSAT results handled in the same way?

Students and parents can access PSAT scores online. The College Board no longer mails home the paper report, students can access it through their College Board account in the student portal.

The CollegeBoard provides all students who take the PSAT with free practice through Khan Academy; be sure to utilize this free resource as you prepare for future PSAT and SAT testing.

See your counselor with any questions about your score report or standardized testing in general.

How are test scores reported to college and universities? Does DSHS send the scores for the student?

Score reports must be ordered by students and parents and sent directly from CollegeBoard or ACT to colleges and universities as part of the Admissions process. Self-reported results, or photocopies of exam results, are not accepted by most Admissions offices. The Guidance Office is not authorized to share a student's test results and does not post standardized testing scores to student transcripts. Dover-Sherborn school counselors recommend that students review test scores, before sending to any college.

For the SAT Reasoning Test, the CollegeBoard reports a score from 200 - 800 for each section, as well as a "sub-score" of 2-12 for the 30-minute essay portion of the Writing exam. At the time of registration a student can designate up to four recipients to receive free score reports. In addition, a student can order (for a fee) score reports, covering a range of testing dates, to be sent to colleges and universities. Some colleges will create a "super score" by taking the top score for each section from multiple test administrations. For this reason, many students forego the free score report option and wait to see the results of an exam before deciding how and when to send these results to a college or university.

The ACT reports a composite score of 1 - 36 for the ACT test, and reports section scores of 1 - 36 for each of the four testing sections. In addition, a "sub-score" of 2-12 is reported if the student completes the optional 30-minute writing exam. A student can designate four recipients to receive free score reports up to the date of the test; additional score reports can be ordered for a fee. The ACT score report covers only one testing date.

What testing accommodations are offered by ACT and CollegeBoard?

Students with disabilities are advised to discuss possible testing accommodations with their school counselors. Students can request Sunday testing through the CollegeBoard or ACT if religious observances conflict with Saturday testing. For additional information on testing accommodations, please visit the ACT and CollegeBoard websites.

Does DSHS provide SAT or ACT prep courses?

Dover-Sherborn Community Education provides, for a nominal fee, an SAT preparatory course, taught by high school teachers, in the late winter/early spring in preparation for the March SAT Reasoning Test.

There are many other local options for SAT and ACT prep courses. For more information and resources on testing, please refer to the Resources folder in the Document Library on the Naviance/Family Connection home page.

Standardized tests are only ONE of many factors which colleges use in making admission decisions. Since grading systems and course content often vary from high school to high school, standardized testing provides a reasonably accurate comparison of student performance on a nationwide basis. Since students in Maine and Texas take the same standardized tests, these scores provide a somewhat comparable measure of achievement and/or ability between students across the nation.


SAT Score-Reporting Policy:  This policy gives students the ability to send the SAT scores that they feel best represent their abilities to colleges and universities, at no additional cost. A student can send one, multiple, or all test scores to a college on a single score report. They will be able to send SAT scores by sitting (the test date). Colleges continue to set their own policies regarding which scores they want students to send and which scores they will review. Source: College Board 

It is critical that you obtain accurate and up-to-date information about the standardized test requirements from the institutions that interest you.   Most colleges/universities require the SAT or the ACT.

It is our recommendation that each student register to take an SAT and an ACT test administration in the  winter or spring of junior year. Please speak with your counselor about creating an individualized standardized testing portfolio.  It is also recommended that students consider repeating these tests once during the autumn of their senior year if appropriate. Please speak with your counselor to develop an appropriate testing strategy for you.


Students with Special Needs - PLEASE NOTE: It is the student’s responsibility to request special needs accommodations for any standardized testing administration. The student must submit current documentation to the testing agency (CollegeBoard or ACT) for approval at least eight weeks in advance of the desired testing date.   Speak with your counselor and your special education liaison for details or consult the College Board’s website at:

AP SAT ACT Test Dates

To View ACT Test Dates & Fees, click the link below:

2022-2023 ACT Tests:


To View SAT Test Dates, click the link below:

2022-2023 SAT Tests


To View AP Test Dates, click the link below:

AP Testing Dates, May 2023

Financial Assistance

Financial Assistance Information



Many families are becoming increasingly concerned about meeting the rising cost of a college education. If there is any question about the ability to pay for the entire year’s educational costs, then it is advisable to apply for financial aid or look for scholarship opportunities. Those families interested in applying for financial aid (money offered for demonstrated financial need) must complete the appropriate forms and submit these forms according to the directions. Both the financial aid process and the forms for applying for aid frequently change and are updated annually in the autumn of each year. 

It is always a prudent measure to include at least one of your HOME state colleges/universities in the list of schools to which you plan to apply just in case finances at other colleges to which you are accepted do not work out. Additionally, students who score above a designated level on their Grade 10 MCAS Graduation Exams qualify for tuition grants at Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities. 

Most colleges and universities award financial aid as a “package” which means that students receive a combination of scholarship or grant money (money you do not have to give back), loans (money you must pay back when you leave college) and campus jobs (work-study which is sometimes related to your field of study). Generally, institutions are able to help more students by using the package method. See the section below on Federal Financial Aid for additional information. 

Financial aid is derived primarily from four sources: institutional money, private funding, state money and federal dollars. Institutional sources of aid are provided and controlled by the institution, while private sources of aid are derived from community organizations, foundations, professional associations, corporations and commercial lending institutions. State sources of aid are usually administered through a state agency and include grants/scholarships, loans and state funded work-study. The federal government is the largest single source of student financial aid funds and are appropriated annually by Congress. 


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is sponsored by the United States government. ALL students wishing to be considered for financial aid that include federal funds must complete this form.  The FAFSA form can be submitted as early as Oct. 1st. Families should apply as early as possible because financial aid IS distributed on a “first come, first served” basis. 

Prior to submitting your FAFSA, you'll need to create an FSA ID which is made up of a username and password and can be used to log into the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. More information relating to the federal financial aid form is available online at

The CSS Financial Aid PROFILE, otherwise known as the 'Profile', is an online program of the College Scholarship Service (CSS), which is the financial aid division of the College Board. Many private colleges/universities subscribe to this program and require applicants wishing to be considered for financial aid to register with CSS and complete an electronic questionnaire called the “Profile.” Generally speaking, the CollegeBoard begins accepting this electronic registration in October. The Profile’s online registration process can be found at The fee for the initial application and reporting to one college is $25.00.  Subsequent reports sent to additional colleges are $16.00 each. The Profile form is only available online at the College Board website.

If you have any questions regarding the financial aid process, please know you are welcome to contact any counselor in the guidance office. 

An interesting side note is that sometimes a student cannot be eligible for certain institutional funds until they have been rejected for federal sources. In addition, all students, regardless of income level, are eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, but they must complete the FAFSA. These are two reasons why all students should consider completing the FAFSA - regardless of family income. 



Any student wishing to be considered for any of the federal student assistance programs must complete a FAFSA and eligibility must be determined. Aid is available for qualifying students through the following programs:

Pell Grants: The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. Financial need is the determining factor in the amount of the grant. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,495 for the 2021–22 award year. The grant amount can change each award year and depends on program funding. For more information, go to

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants: The FSEOG is for students with exceptional financial need. Students may receive a maximum of $4,000 per year depending on need and availability. Eligibility for this grant as well as the amount of the grant is determined by the college’s financial aid office. For more information, go to

College Work Study: Work-study programs are administered by schools participating in the Federal Work-Study Program. Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs on campus or off campus for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. For more information, go to

Direct Loans: The U.S. Department of Education offers eligible students at participating schools Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. (Some people refer to these loans as Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans.)This loan allows any student to borrow directly from lenders at a low interest rate in order to help finance educational expenses. The maximum a freshman student may borrow is $5500.00. A sophomore student may borrow up to $6500.00 and a junior or a senior may borrow a maximum of $7500.00 per year. The U.S. Department of Education will pay the interest for students who qualify for a Direct Subsidized loan program while they are in school and for six months after students leave school. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students; there is no requirement to demonstrate financial need. Students are responsible for paying the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan during all periods. For more information, go to

Direct Plus Loans: The U.S. Department of Education makes Direct PLUS Loans to eligible parents of undergraduate students through schools participating in the Direct Loan Program. The maximum PLUS loan amount you can receive is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received. A parent does not have to demonstrate need to be eligible. Fees and plans vary. If you do not request a deferment, you will be expected to begin making payments after the loan is fully disbursed (paid out). For more information, go to



These programs are available to state residents. The student must file the FAFSA and follow the guidelines of the Commonwealth for disclosure of family financial information to the state. 

MASSGrant: Grants are awarded to permanent residents attending full-time undergraduate study at a state approved college in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont or the District of Columbia. Awards are granted to those with a family contribution of zero and $5486.00.  MASSGrant awards vary each academic year and cannot exceed a student’s calculated financial need, when combined with all other financial assistance received at the institution. For more information, go to

Massachusetts State No Interest Loan Program: Loans are available to financially needy permanent residents. For more information, go to 

The MEFA Undergraduate Loan: This program provides loans up to one hundred percent of the cost of attendance, less any financial aid received. For more information, go to


(Several suggested resources are listed for your convenience. The Dover-Sherborn Guidance Office does not endorse any of these agencies.)

College & Merit Aid Awards


Scholarship Information

Scholarship Information


Local scholarships from sources within Dover and Sherborn are awarded prior to graduation at the Senior Awards Evening. Some of these scholarships are awarded based on information submitted by students in the form of an application, while others are awarded through a selection process undertaken by members of the high school’s Scholarship Committee. These scholarships are granted through the generosity of local individuals and organizations and the availability, criteria and dollar amounts are subject to change from year to year. An up-to-date listing is sent to seniors each spring. 

There are a number of scholarship opportunities for Dover-Sherborn seniors. Please connect with Carol Spezzano in the Guidance Office if you wish additional information or have any questions regarding the Dover-Sherborn Scholarships.


The Dover-Sherborn High School maintains a listing of a variety of generic scholarships that exist. This listing is housed in Naviance which students access through their individual student accounts. The listing is updated periodically throughout the academic year. Click here to Login to Naviance.  If you have any questions regarding generic scholarship information, please contact Ms. Beth Hecker in the School Counseling Office.  


The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship provides a tuition waiver for eight semesters of undergraduate education at a Massachusetts state college or university. The scholarship covers tuition only; fees and room and board are not included.

Click here for John & Abigail Adams Scholarship guidelines.


The Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery with Distinction waives tuition at Massachusetts public colleges and universities.

Click here for Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery Awards guidelines.


Each year students and their families are the targets of scholarship scam artists. Protect yourself from scholarship scams by becoming an educated consumer. Often scams using official sounding titles like “national,” “federal,” or “foundation” as part of their name and promise to find you scholarships or grants. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you watch for these signs of a possible scam:

• The Scholarship is guaranteed or your money will be refunded.  
• You cannot get this information anywhere else.  
• We will do all the work for you.  
• We just need your credit card, bank account number or social security number to secure the scholarship.  

No one can guarantee you a scholarship. Students must apply for financial aid and scholarships themselves. For more information or to report a scam, please contact the FTC by calling 877-FTC-HELP.


The Dover Sherborn Public Schools do not discriminate in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its services, programs, activities, on the basis of race, color, or origin, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI); on the basis of sex, in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: on the basis of disability, in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Titles I and II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA); or on the basis of age, in accordance with the Age Discrimination Act of 1974 (Age Discrimination Act). Furthermore, in accordance with M.G.L. c.76 s.5 Dover, Sherborn, and Dover Sherborn Schools do not exclude or discriminate against students in admission or in obtaining its advantages, privileges, or courses of study on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or homelessness

NCAA College Student Athlete Publications

Below are the links to NCAA College Student-Athlete Publications:


NCAA Eligibility Center COVID-19 Response

NCAA Guide for the College-bound Student-Athlete

Comparison of the three NCAA Divisions


To View the list of NCAA Approved Courses, select the link below.  For Dover-Sherborn High School code enter 220695


NCAA List of Approved Courses

College Matriculation List

The Dover Sherborn Public Schools do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex/gender, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or homelessness.

  • Dover-Sherborn High School
  • 9 Junction Street, Dover, MA 02030
  • Phone (508) 785-1730
  • Fax (508) 785-8141
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