Fall in Love with College Prep
It’s the season of love! February is a time for eating delicious chocolates, receiving fluffy teddy bears, and recognizing the sacrifices and successes of African Americans during Black History Month.
But, during moments filled with red, white, and pink hues, the spirit of the month of February can also be channeled into a love of college preparation among high school juniors and seniors. For students with aspirations to pursue post-secondary education, whether a community college, technical school, or university, I've outlined below a few steps to take during the month of love.
Parents of Juniors
I. ACT/SAT Prep
February is a good month to prepare to take the ACT or SAT, the top two college entrance exams. These tests provide colleges an overview of students' academic strengths and weaknesses. Taking the ACT or SAT during one’s junior year can give the student an idea of the areas in which they may need to improve. If your child’s school district offers the ACT or SAT on-site during the school year, I advise that they also register for an additional test during their junior year, so they can gauge their progress from the previous test or need for improvements. Students can check with their high school counselors for available testing fee waivers.
The ACT and SAT offers tests several times during the year. Specifically for the ACT, if you were notable to meet the testing deadline for the February ACT, the next ACT offered during the 2018-2019 school year is Saturday, April 13, 2019, with a registration deadline of March 8, 2019. (If possible, take the writing section of the ACT at least once because some schools require this section for admissions.)
More information about the ACT concerning costs, additional test dates, and more can be found at actstudent.org. Information about the SAT can be found on College Board. Check within your community for ACT and SAT workshops which are often hosted at churches or tutoring centers.
Also, during the month of February of a student’s junior year, it is good to obtain a current Grade Point Average (GPA) from the high school counselor. Students or parents should be able to request an official transcript to reflect grades from freshman and sophomore years as well as the first semester of their junior year.
Knowing your GPA gives an idea of the gap (if any) between current performance and college entrance or scholarship goals. Working to obtain a high GPA results in more options for college admissions, scholarships, and grants when students begin to apply for college during their senior year.
College admission officers often value students’ participation in extra-curricular activities. Encourage juniors to get involved in clubs and organizations at the high school and in the community. Their involvement can provide opportunities for leadership and ways for them to showcase their talents. They may also become more eligible for scholarships in areas like leadership, sports, or music.
Parents of Seniors
I. The List
For seniors, February is a time to take the ACT or SAT, obtain a current transcript, and participate in extra-curricular activities. This is also a time to narrow a list of colleges for admissions and scholarships. Parents can work with students to create a list of about 6 colleges which includes schools that are in-state, out-of-state... a student’s dream school or the most economical schools for your budget. Always search for cheaper alternatives in case your student does not receive the amount of financial aid expected and to avoid taking out thousands of dollars in loans. Be determined to send your child to a school that is accredited and is the best option financially!
After creating the list, place schools in a chart that includes the following categories: Admissions Requirements, Scholarships, and Tours. Check off each category upon completion. For example, under the category of Admissions Requirements, ensure that all items are submitted as stated by the college or university. Some items may include an official copy of the ACT scores, an official transcript, and immunization forms.
For the category of Scholarships, be sure that the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is completed for the upcoming school year, and that scholarship applications are complete. Some schools only require one application to be eligible for all scholarships, and other schools may award scholarships from admissions items. Common scholarship requirements include a letter of recommendation, a transcript, and an essay, which your student can learn how to write here.
It is best to begin searching at the schools of interest before searching for external scholarships. Institutional scholarships include academic, leadership, sports, music, art, foundation, and alumni. These scholarships have a smaller competition pool than state or national scholarships. Often, institutional scholarships are valid for the duration of a students' college tenure. In other words, if a student is awarded this kind of scholarship, tuition, fees, room and board may be covered for up to 4 years. I give more information about the types of scholarships in my book.
After applying for all eligible institutional scholarships, search for local, state, and national scholarships. These scholarships can be offered through banks and credit unions, sororities and fraternities, rotary clubs, and places of employment such as Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo. Also, organizations such as Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Ron Brown Scholars Program, and United Negro College Fund offer national scholarships. Many of these also require an essay.
Lastly, arrange college tours for high school seniors. Visiting the campus provides a different perspective as students walk the grounds, meet students, and engage with professors. Most schools provide guides for campus tours or have "high school student days" for prospective students.
A very special thanks to guest blogger,
Candace Chambers, CEO of Educational Writing Services LLC.
Candace is an academic coach, educator, and writer
who's snagged over $100,000 in assistantships, grants,
and scholarships by writing essays.