The Road to College
By May S. Ruiz
I hope your children used their spring break actually getting some rest. As parents it’s our responsibility to look after our kids’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I know that today’s high schoolers have so much going on that I’m really surprised they can think straight. As important as it is for them to do well in school and be prepared for college application, it is as equally crucial that they are well-adjusted and happy individuals.
The school year is winding down. Your 9th graders should be on track on all their academic grades and extra-curricular activities. They need to put extra effort into getting the best grades they could muster. They also should have already lined up summer activities – enrichment programs, summer camps, volunteer work or part-time jobs.
All these – grades, arts, athletics, community work, employment – from 9th through 12th grade, will be recorded on the transcript that your children’s high schools will send to the colleges to which they apply.
Make sure your children have registered for all the standardized tests they need to take in May or June (Possible SAT II tests for 10th graders are Math, Chemistry, History and Foreign Language. These are the subject tests that selective universities require.) Deadlines are April and May for tests in May and June. Students are responsible for registering through the College Board website: www.collegeboard.com.
They need to plan their summer activities. If they are taking an Art elective, or are interested in a particular art field, they should consider a summer program in that course to put on their resume.
This is the last complete academic year admissions officers will see when your children apply to colleges. They want to see grades that are improving from year to year, so the 11th grade final marks should be the highest on the report cards. If your children had gone on college campus tours during spring break, they should also know the academic requirements of the colleges to which they are thinking of applying. They need to look at where they are grades-wise to figure out if the school on their list is a realistic goal.
Make sure your children have registered for the SAT, ACT (www.act.org), SAT II, AP especially if they are thinking of applying through early action or early decision.
They should have all their summer activities lined up – enrichment programs, summer camps, volunteer work or part-time jobs. Remind your children to continue the pursuits they started in freshman year as admissions officers look for sustained interest, which is a reflection of what they are truly passionate about.
If your children aren’t getting enough time with their school counselor, there are several outside resources available for them. One of these is CollegeVine (www.collegevine.com) which offers near-peer mentoring for high schoolers. What separates them from all the other college counseling companies is their consultants – they are current or recent graduates of the schools your children may be applying to. They know the lingo, can relate to what your children are experiencing, and have access to the most current methods to guide students through this complicated process.
Greg Kaplan, a college application strategist from Southern California, wrote a very informative book called “Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges”, a step-by-step guide for parents and students. Among other things, Kaplan discusses how your child can select and take classes in high school to stand out from other straight ‘A’ students and how your child can secure hundreds of thousands of dollars of merit scholarships or need-based grants even if your family earns over $100,000 per year.
Some California universities sent out their decision letters mid-March, while for some students this is the month they’ve been waiting for. If your children are lucky enough to be accepted to all the schools to which they applied, they deserve a big congratulations! You can all exhale now!
Now comes the part where your children get to choose the school they really want to attend. During the application process, your children were hoping the colleges to which they applied accept them. Now the colleges that accepted your children would like your kids to choose them! In this rank-obsessed world of American universities, the schools encourage all students to apply to them (they actively recruit students they would never even admit because the more applications they receive and the more rejections they send out, the higher they’re ranked.) Now the tables are turned because once your children get the schools’ acceptance letter, these schools would want to ensure your kids actually attend their college. This is the yield: the higher their yield, the higher their ranking.
If your children are applying for financial aid or scholarships, now is the time to compare schools’ financial aid or scholarship offers. If a particular school really wants your children, you might have the opportunity to ask for a better package than what it originally extended.
If your children have been waitlisted to a school they are determined to get into, they need to respond quickly to let the admissions officers know that they are very interested. Your children should send a follow-up letter to express that the school is their top choice and that they will definitely enroll if accepted.
Demonstrated interest is all the more critical at this juncture as your children want to ascertain the admissions officers keep them in mind. Encourage your children to work with their high school’s counselor to make sure they send the transcript for the first semester, and any updates on awards and honors received after they sent their application. Your children need to keep in constant touch with the admissions officers.
The admissions office requires a decision from accepted students on May 1st. Make sure your children accept the offer of their second choice school where they have been admitted, and pay the required deposit. If your children are later accepted to the school to which they were waitlisted and accept that offer, they will lose the deposit on the other school. But it’s their guarantee that they will be attending a college in the fall.