What to do before your Senior Year
Yes thinking about colleges and universities in the 8th grade is a very good idea. Try some of these suggestions
- Tell your parents and counselor that you plan to attend a selective four-year college or university
- If you are not taking algebra, be sure your ninth grade schedule includes this subject
- If you are attending a year-round school in the ninth grade, make sure that you are assigned a track that offers college prep classes
- Strive to make A's and B's in all of your subjects
- Ask your counselor about academic enrichment programs in your school or local colleges (i.e., MESA,Upward Bound, AVD, Cal Soap)
Myth #1 - "You have to be rich to attend a private college/university"
Not True! 60% of the students attending private colleges/universities in California receive need-based financial aid. The average family income of students attending high cost private colleges in California is actually below the average family income of students attending low-cost University of California campuses.
It's good time to start thinking about college. Your student record for college entrance begins here:
- Remind your counselor that you want to attend a selective four-year college or university and that you need to schedule college prep courses. Take algebra or geometry and a foreign language in both semesters
- If you attend a year-round school, make sure you are in a track that offers college prep subjects
- Maintain A's and B's in all of your subjects
- Form a study group with friends who plan to go to college
- Create a personal resume file. Save items such as:
- copies of report card
- diplomas and certificates presented to you
- a list of honors you receive
- a list of school and community activities you join
- a list of offices you hold in these organizations, and
- a list of jobs you hold (volunteer or paid)
- Update your file each semester
- Begin visiting local community colleges, state universities and private colleges with your family and friends. Prior to your visit, view the college's website and call for printed materials
- Participate in academic enrichment programs
Keep it going...
- Review your 9th and 10th grade schedules with your counselors to make sure you are taking all the college prep classes needed for a selective four-year college or university
- Maintain A's and B's.
- Continue to form study groups
- Update your personal resume file at the end of each semester
- Continue to visit local colleges and universities with family and friends
- Participate in enrichment programs and special summer workshops and camps for music, science,writing, film-making, language and others
Myth #2 - "Students should know exactly what they want to study before they apply to college."
Not always true! You may have to make a career decision earlier if you plan to attend a specialized college of music, engineering, etc. But most colleges and universities encourage you to take a broad range of subjects to help you decide on a field of study. So it's okay to go the college "undecided."
You're getting close
- Check with your counselor to be sure you are on track to take the college prep subjects needed for selective four-year college or universities
- Maintaining A's and B's is especially important during this year and you should be spending a minimum of 2 hours of homework each night
- Register for the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test) in October. The PSAT is a practice exam for the SAT I and is required for several national scholarship programs
- Take the PSAT. The results will give you and your counselor an idea of your strengths and the areas you need to improve upon as you prepare for college admission
- If you are taking Advance Placement subjects register for the AP exams in spring. Scoring well on these exams will enable you to earn credit for college-level courses
- Attend college fairs and presentations by colleges who visit your school
- Most schools and libraries have computers to help you search for college and university information. All college counseling offices have college catalogs, guidebooks and directories for researching your college options.
- Create a file on your favorite colleges. Ask for literature about admission, financial aid and your proposed major. Your counselor can provide contact information about admission offices
- Visit colleges and universities that interest you. Call ahead to book a campus tour and a presentation about academic programs, admission and financial aid
- Think about when and how often to take the SAT or ACT. Your school counselor can help you with this decision. Taking the SAT or ACT in the spring or summer lets you get your results and meet with a counselor to see if you should re-test in the fall. Register for these exams a month in advance of the test date.
- Update your resume file. Investigate summer programs, workshops and camps in your community or college. Some programs offer scholarships.
- See a counselor about taking the SAT Subject Tests (if needed) in completed junior year subjects.
- From May to July be prepared to receive mail from many colleges. Read the college mail you receive. Return reply cards to schools that interest you. They will send you viewbooks, catalogs, CDs/DVDs and applications.
- Visit your "short list" colleges. Prepare for the SAT or the ACT by reading books and manuals with testing tips and sample questions
Myth #3 - "You must find the 'perfect' college"
The perfect college probably does not exist. The best way to determine which is the right school for you is to research three or four college and that meet your criteria and then visit each one
Myth #4 - "Telling a university that you are applying for financial aid may hurt your chances for admission.
Not true! Selective colleges do not let a family's financial ability enter into the admission decision.
Myth #5 - "Admission staff consider only grades and test scores when considering an applicant"
Also not true! Selective colleges are also interested in the rigor of of the subjects taken, the competitiveness of the school, and upward or downward trends in grades. The essay, as well as extracurricular and leadership activities, talent and personal character are also very important. A word of caution! Accomplishments in extracurricular activities and leadership activities cannot make up for a poor academic record.