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The Road to College

JANUARY COLLEGE SEARCH GUIDE

by May S. Ruiz

It’s a rite of passage for every high school senior in this country. It’s called, “Filling out college applications.” That phrase alone inspires fear and trepidation in students and their parents. To assist other parents and teenagers with their college application process in advance, I have created a monthly college search guide which will track a student’s journey from freshman year of high school all the way through move-in day at a college in September.

FRESHMAN: Typically, the beginning of the year marks the halfway point in the school year. First semester grades will soon be released, if they have not been already. If a 9th grader’s marks are not great, he or she will need to use the second semester to better them, as it’s the end-of-year grades that show on transcripts. A student’s grades are a very important, if not the single most important, component of college applications.
Have the 9th-grader continue extra-curricular activities in arts or sports, with concentration on one or two where he or she excels. Do not attempt to dazzle college admission directors with range of interest, unless the student is a budding Leonardo da Vinci and has mastered every single craft. Rather, find something he or she is truly passionate about and encourage them to do it throughout the four years of high school years to show commitment.

SOPHOMORE: This is the student’s second year and by this time he or she should have fully transitioned into high school. He or she needs to put extra effort into weak subjects and solidify grades for the second semester. He or she should also start studying for the PSAT (www.collegeboard.com). Taking a practice PSAT in 10th grade gives the student a chance to identify weaknesses then work on them before taking the NMSQT (www.nationalmerit.org) in 11th grade. At REPS, students meet with their grade level dean in the winter of 10th grade to discuss year-end testing options and junior-year course options. Sophomores enrolled in Advanced Algebra and Pre-Calculus register to take the SAT II Math Level 2 exam in June of their sophomore year. Sophomores enrolled in Functions, Trigonometry and Advanced Algebra (FTAA) take this same exam in June of their junior year, after completing the Advanced Topics and An Introduction to Calculus-Honors (ATIC-Honors) course. Sophomores who are thinking of going into science, medicine, architecture, and engineering are encouraged to take the SAT II exam in Chemistry in May or June of their sophomore year. The sophomore student should also start lining up summer activities and ready them for implementation.

JUNIOR: The second semester for juniors is significant as it is the beginning of the college application process. From their college research, students are now ready to start planning a visit to colleges. Initial campus virtual tours are available online www.campustours.com, www.CollegeProwler.com, www.SmartCollegeVisit.com, www.YOUniversity.com. College
counselors recommend that students use their spring break to go to several different types of schools. A good list should include a small liberal arts college, a medium-sized research university and a large state university to let them have a feel for what “small” or “large” school means. They should be able to experience firsthand if a large city like New York makes them feel alive and vibrant or if it totally overwhelms and scares them. They need to experience if a school with 20,000 students is the right setting for them. Once they’ve established the elements they are looking for, 11th-grade students can start making a list of schools they would put on their list of schools to apply to.

SENIOR: All college applications should have already been sent out for the Jan. 1st regular decision/admission deadline. Some universities, like Georgetown, have a later deadline.
Parents should already have filed their income tax returns, and need to get ready to submit FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Apply for scholarships. There are several websites to help with the search like www.scholarships.com , www.collegexpress.com, or www.scholarships360.org.

Parents and students need to make sure to ask their school to send mid-year grades to colleges and verify that all application materials have been sent.

(Ms. Ruiz is NOT a licensed counselor nor does she dispense professional advice for college applicants. Her knowledge on the subject is limited to her personal involvement in her daughter’s college search. She had been actively involved in her daughter’s elementary and middle school years as a parent volunteer in several school activities.)

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