Finding your fit for college
August 8, 2006
Attention all incoming high school seniors, their parents/guardians, and even soon-to-be high school juniors! Do you have a plan for your life after high school? Well, if you plan to attend college, it is time to put the wheels of the application process in motion. “But, it’s only August!” young women and men exclaim, still deciding what the immediate future might hold. Yes, it is only August, but September and the start of school are just around the corner.
My intent is not to depress or upset students with the upcoming termination of summer vacation. Let us get organized so that feelings of being overwhelmed are potentially eliminated during the months of October and November.
First, make a list of potential colleges and universities. Be realistic. Select schools where you have a chance of being accepted. Shoot for the stars and have a “reach” school. Simultaneously, ensure your safety by applying to a school that is a sure thing. Then, create a situation where you have a good chance of acceptance by applying to schools asking for requirements you meet.
The next order of action is signing up for tests and exams required for admission. Retaking the SAT and ACT is common. If prospective schools ask for a certain number of SAT II subject tests, make sure you sign up or retake those, if need be, too. There is no need to take a particular test if the schools you apply to do not request them.
If you know a desired course of study, find schools with strong programs in the subject. It is OK to have no idea of what to study. In this case, pick schools with lots of interesting offerings so you can get your feet wet and see what feels right.
Figure out where you want to be. Is it in a city, the beach, mountains, rural area, “college town,” or a site specific to an industry? For example, if film study is a desired major, look into New York or Los Angeles. Once a setting is determined, find schools that meet the other criteria that will help determine your college experience.
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Once the list solidifies, and it may change, contact your schools for application materials. Set up a site visit with a campus tour when school is in session to get a taste of the environment and student body. You might think a certain school is “the one” because others say it is, but once you visit, this might not be the case. It is better to check it out for yourself when possible.
Doing the legwork now makes dealing with filling out applications, writing essays, and studying for exams much easier. Keep in mind high school coursework still needs attention and effort once school begins. This process is time-consuming and difficult. Ask for help, nobody expects you to accomplish this on your own. Seek assistance from parents, older siblings, guidance counselors, and outside education resources.
Vicki Isacowitz is a secondary English teacher who has been educating students since 1996. She is co-founder of Clever Minds Educational Services, providing tutoring for students in grades kindergarten-12. For information call 582-1707 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.