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September 26, 2013

The College Application Process Made Easier

by Jordin Hopkins

At this time of year, seniors and juniors go through the stress of continuing the next step in their lives: looking for a college. There are so many points to consider that we often don’t know where to start. This process comes down to four main components: location, tuition, major, and grades.

First of all, make a list of colleges that interest you. When doing this, you have to consider location. How far do you want to live from home? What type of town do you want to live in? How large do you want the school to be? The location of your college is really important. This is where you will be living for the next few years! You have to make sure it fits your needs whether it be 10 minutes away or 10 hours.

Second, when you bring up the topic of college, your parents’ wallets starts to ache. Money is a huge issue when it comes to college decisions. You need to talk with your parent or guardian about this because what they earn a year can help determine the type of financial aid you will receive form the state. If you go to a college’s website, you should be able to look for the “Net Calculator.” This is a calculator that figures out what your approximate cost per year would be if you were to attend there; however, you would need to fill out a series of personal questions in order for that to appear accurate. Also, this is when scholarships become your best friend. You can visit your school counselor and see what scholarships are available for application. You could also go online and look up specific scholarship websites. Here, you can create a profile, and it will automatically match you to scholarships that apply specifically to you!

Third, what do you want to major in? This is the core subject you will be learning about in college and then turning it into a career. It will be what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. This is important because some schools offer it and others don’t. Some people know exactly what they want to do, but others have no idea. To help figure it out, you need to ask yourself a few questions: What do I enjoy doing? What do I see myself doing in the next few years? In your list of schools, try to see if you can apply as “undecided.” Most students do this, and it gives them an extra two years to make their decision. You could also job shadow a few times and see in action what a career would be like. There are so many opportunities to learn your perfect fit.

Finally, your work in school is the most crucial part of the whole process. Colleges ask for your high school transcript, which is a record of your grades all the way back to freshman year. Your best bet is to take as many accelerated and AP classes that you can handle. Try and maintain a 3.5 GPA and higher as well as a 23 and up ACT score. You can get ACT help from your teachers, as well as take specific class and online help. All of these qualities are for your college to see that you will fit well in their programs.

Colleges love to see that you are well-rounded. Grades are not the only important piece of getting accepted into a college. You should definitely be a part of a sport or two and join a few clubs that are involved with the community. Showing your leadership skills to your school is one of the most impressive qualities to share.

The Centinal interviewed Laura Beata, Centennial’s College & Career Counselor. She gave helpful answers to questions from actual students!

What does the College & Career Center supply students?
“The College & Career Center offers one-on-one assistance with post-secondary planning, such as college/career exploration, applications, scholarships/financial aid, ACT/SAT registration, etc. I also provide a variety of evening programs for parents and students, including Senior Night, Planning Your Future, Financial Aid Night, and FAFSA Completion Nights. Over 50 colleges, universities, and military branches visit Centennial each year. Students can attend these presentations through the College & Career Center. I also take students on field trips to learn more about their college and career options. Students will also receive information in large group settings. For example, reviewing college application procedures with all senior English classes and meeting with junior classes regarding post-secondary planning. Lastly, I oversee the Dual Credit Program and Advanced Placement Exams, so many students meet with me about those opportunities as well.”

Can you apply more than once to the same school in the same year if you don’t get accepted the first time?
“No. However, depending on the type of admissions the school uses, it is possible that you could be deferred during an early application round to the regular decision group. For example, if you apply to  the University of Illinois by the Priority Deadline of November 1 and are deferred, you would then be considered again with the applicants who applied by the final application deadline in January.”

When would be a good time to start the application process?
“Students should start the application as soon as possible senior year. This is typically in September and October. There are a number of priority deadlines in November that you don’t want to miss. There are also many colleges that practice “Rolling Admissions” (basically means the sooner you apply, the sooner you will find out). While their deadlines are often later, you need to apply early to have the best opportunity to get into competitive programs and for scholarship purposes. Be sure to check with your school to make sure that you are meeting all deadlines.”

How much time should you spend on one application?
“It depends a lot on the application. If it is a basic application with no essay, you may be able to finish it in 20 minutes. If it’s the Common Application or other more holistic applications, you will probably spend a couple of hours total between the essays, supplements and entering in your extracurricular activities.”

How do I get the opportunity to job shadow? How does that start?
“The best way to get an internship/job shadowing experience is through the ECP (Education to Careers and Professions) program. The ECP class is available to seniors and allows them to work with a Career Mentor and to complete an internship. Students interested in taking the ECP course should sign up with their counselor their junior year during course registration second semester. Students with additional job shadowing questions should see Ms. Beata, Mr. Changnon, or Mrs. Simpson to get started.”

What is Career Cruising?
“Career Cruising is a web-based program that allows students to identify and explore their college/career interests. It has a number of assessments and an extensive career and college database. It also has other useful features such as a resume builder. Each student has a personal portfolio in which they can save information. Keeping your portfolio up to date is essential so you don’t miss out on opportunities. It is also where we list all our local scholarship opportunities (on the financial aid tab). We also piloted the new Course Planner feature, which allows students to actually register for courses through Career Cruising. Current freshmen used this as 8th graders to pick their classes for this year. We hope to expand this feature out to more grade levels in the future. Career Cruising is an extremely useful program that I encourage students of all grade levels to utilize.”

Here are some more helpful tips to help make sure you are on the right track:

Most Appreciated clubs/extracurricular activities to join: National Honor Society, Interact Club, Key Club, Diversity Clubs (GSA, African-American Culture Club, etc.), Art clubs, Debate Teams, Decathlon, and Student Government.

Links to scholarships websites:

Links to help you find your major:

And finally, a link to explain exactly what the net calculator is and get started to see what your yearly cost will be at your college! –> www.collegecost.ed.gov

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