College admissions continues to be a competitive and confusing process. Many parents realize for the first time that planning for college is very different from when they went to school. They often have questions and do not know where to turn for answers answers. Sometimes they are frustrated because they are not sure how to help their college-bound student.
In order for students to find the best college fit, it is important to consider many different factors: size, location, academics, social aspects, and special interests. Most importantly, families should look at schools that encourage students to grow academically and personally. This process takes time and research, but finding the right schools is well worth the effort. Schools should not be eliminated because of price because many colleges are generous with financial aid and scholarships.
After an initial list of schools is compiled, families can access information on specific college websites. It is always a good idea to sign up online as a prospective student at a college website so that a student will receive newsletters and mailings. Students should narrow their list down to about six or seven schools and make sure they have at least two or three colleges they feel admission is almost certain. Too often students do not consider their “safety schools” as carefully as they should.
Students should sign up to take the SAT and ACT sometime their junior year. Some good test preparation is important so that students do their best on these tests. Often times test scores are used not only for college admissions, but for scholarships as well. Students should consider taking the tests two or three times to get the best results.
Many colleges encourage students to apply using the common application which is available online. This is one application that is submitted to any number of schools using the same information and essays. Other schools have their own online application which can be used. Students may also need to provide supplemental information or essays. Students should be aware of all deadlines for college admissions, including those for applications and scholarships.
Many schools require two teacher recommendations. Students should request a recommendation no later than the beginning of their senior year, preferably sooner. They should make sure they have been in the teacher’s class at least one semester and that the teacher knows them well enough to write some insightful comments.
Most colleges require at least one essay or personal statement. This is an opportunity for students to show a college what interests them, what they are passionate about, or what makes them unique from other college applicants. Students should write a number of drafts and make sure they have proofread their final essay and that it contains no grammatical or spelling errors.
Applications are almost always submitted online, but students need to find out how their schools handle the recommendations and high school transcript. Most colleges also want to receive the SAT and ACT scores directly from the testing agency. You can contact both the College Board and ACT online to have your scores sent to each college.
Helping students through the college admissions process can be a stressful experience for many families. Parents sometimes feel that their students do not get enough college counseling from the their high school counselor. If they want to work with a college consultant, they can go to the Higher Educational Consulting Association (HECA) website to find a list of qualified consultants. These individuals have the expertise and time to assist students with the college search and application process. The services are affordable and worth the investment. The internet and library are also good sources for college information and a place to begin your college planning.