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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back To School: College Preparation Advice

We have a great Guest Blogger today! Amanda from wrote up an article about getting ready to go to a university! Enjoy!

Preparing for College: The Admissions Process

For students becoming seniors in high school, it can be very exciting and very stressful. Applying to college is no easy feat. There are many things to take into consideration. The first thing to consider is your major.

When I was a senior, I didn’t know what I wanted to do (and still don’t!). I had a knack for math, science, and art so I figured going into the sciences would work out for me even though I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do with it. Many people are in this situation as a senior. For this exact reason, many colleges allow students to choose “undecided” or “exploratory” majors where you can experience college and get your basic requirements fulfilled without having to commit to a major. It also helps to talk to teachers about their fields. For example, I was interested in chemistry but I didn’t know what chemical engineering was. I set up a meeting with my chemistry teacher and he went over the differences between the two. It helped me figure out what I should do.

Many colleges also offer college exploration programs to juniors and seniors in high school. I participated in an overnight event, which included a full taste of college life. I was able to sleep in a dorm room, eat the food on campus, and take several “classes” where professors explained what their major is like. Even if your school of choice is far away, a local community college may offer the same type of program.

It also helps to figure out what you don’t like and work backwards. I knew I didn’t like English studies or history, so that automatically knocked out schools that had more of a liberal arts focus and narrowed my search to technical schools.

Another component that contributes to college jitters are the aptitude exams. I’m talking about the SAT and the ACT. The SAT quantifies your abilities in verbal, math, and writing skills. The ACT has more sections and evaluates your abilities in English, math, reading, science, and has an optional writing section. As everyone says, practice is the best way to prepare. I have never taken test preparation classes, but if you are nervous about the exams, a test prep class could be beneficial. Also, you are allowed to take the exams as many times as you like with the highest scores being reported to your college. You can also opt to take the PSAT, or preliminary SAT, which is an unofficial practice SAT that is no different than what the actual SAT would be like.

The next barricade is the application. The items that a college admissions office considers includes a transcript, college level courses (AP), extracurricular activities, work experience, essay(s), aptitude test scores, and a portfolio depending on your major. Many things go into the decision of a college, so don’t worry if you feel like you are lacking in one or several of these areas. I will never be an award winning author, so of course I felt like my essay and English test scores weren’t where I wanted them, but I had many other parts of my application that were strong. Work on writing your essay with an English teacher if you are struggling. Many schools now offer college essay writing as part of senior English classes to help students prepare.

I tend to procrastinate, but putting off filing your application is not the best idea. If you want to do early decision, do it NOW! You’ll have peace of mind knowing everything is squared away so that you can focus on finishing your last year of high school strongly. If you decide to submit at the regular deadline, it may help to make a calendar of due dates for yourself to make sure no important deadlines are missed.

It probably wasn’t the best idea on my part, but I only applied to 2 colleges when I was a senior. You may want to apply to about 4 with 1-2 being safety schools, one being your school of choice, and one that you may not feel confident about getting into. When you do actually apply, many schools now offer online applications, which are much easier. Some states even have a generic application that allows you to apply to multiple schools at once (I know New York does). Be aware that some schools will charge an application fee.

Once you’ve been accepted, you’ll want to look into getting scholarships. There are many websites that offer links to organizations that will offer scholarships. While they may seem like a great idea, my experience has been less than superb. They tend to have scholarships that are available nationwide, which makes your chances of winning one much smaller. It is best to focus on merit based, alumni, and honors scholarships from your college, scholarships being offered by your high school, and scholarships funded by local organizations. Apply to scholarships that are applicable to your studies and are not out of reach. Otherwise, you’ll be spending days writing essays with only a slim chance at the money.

Coming Next: Packing for College and What to Expect Once You Arrive

~ Amanda

Don't forget to check out our Back to School Sale going on now until September 7th!

1 comment:

sassypackrat said...

My daughter is a Senior this year so this post is so timely and welcome. Thanks so much and I look forward to future posts about this.

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