Mid Summer Checkup: Are you on Track? (Part 2)

Last week we covered what students starting their high school senior and college freshman years should be doing between now and the end of summer.  If you missed it, don’t worry, you can find it on our blog (just scroll down).  This week our checklists focus on rising high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors.  Just because you don’t have to apply to college this year, doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan and meet certain goals.  Find your year below and be sure to check off each of the items before the end of summer.

High School Junior

Check your schedule to make sure you are on track to earn the credits needed to graduate and meet college entry requirements.  Challenge yourself.  If you can handle it, take an AP course or two.

Sign up to take the PSAT!  Doing well on this test will qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship Competition.

Look into ACT/SAT prep courses.  You should plan to take the SAT and/or ACT at least once this year and should do some prep work first.  Taking the ACT and/or SAT will put your name on mailing lists for colleges and can help you identify colleges  to visit this fall and spring.

Research colleges to apply to next fall.  You may think that you have plenty of time, but your senior year will be here before you know it. Your goal should be to have your college list finalized before you start your senior year.  This means researching, visiting and narrowing your list this year.

Start looking for scholarships.  Check with your high school college center, local organizations and businesses.  A great free online database of scholarship is www.fastweb.com.

Continue your involvement in your school and community. Plan to run for a leadership positions.  Join groups that have to do with your future goals and take solid electives- don’t waste these credits on a class simply because it will be an easy A.

High School Sophomore

Sign up to take the PSAT and PLAN tests.  This will be great practice for when the PSAT counts (next fall).

Explore colleges through the web and schedule a couple campus visits for the fall.  Take advantage of college fairs in your area.

Get a job, even if you don’t need the money. This is a great way to build your resume and shows great responsibility if you can hold down the same job all through high school.

Stay involved.  Run for office in the clubs you joined last year.  Volunteer every week.  It is important to show that you have been involved all through high school and not just your senior year when you realize you have nothing to put on your college applications!

Continue talking to friends about their plans after college.  Talk to adults you know about what they do and how they got there… where did they go to college, what was their major, what jobs did they have before their current position?

High School Freshman

Ensure your schedule is set up to meet college requirements.  Remember that requirements will differ from one college to the next so make sure you know what is necessary for the colleges you might want to apply to and your intended major.

Explore your interest through your classes and extracurricular activities.  No one expects you to know exactly what you want to do at this point, but if you think you want to be a chemist, take a chemistry class; if you want to be a veterinarian, volunteer at an animal shelter. You may find that you really like it and confirm your interest or you may decide the profession is not for you.  Better to find out before spending tens of thousands of dollars on colleges.

Get involved.  Look at what clubs are available at your high school and plan to sign up for at least 2 this year… and really go to the meetings.

Talk with friends and family about career paths and colleges.  There are a lot of options out there, some you may never know about unless someone tells you about it.  Ask questions.  Learn as much as you can now; you’ll thank yourself later.

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Image courtesy of: www.eastern.usu.edu

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Mid Summer Checkup: Are you on Track? (Part 1)

Recently we’ve talked about volunteering, sports recruitment and staying active in the summer, but as summer starts winding down it is time to get back into college prep mode. Below are a few things you should be doing RIGHT NOW if you are heading to or applying to college this fall … just find your year and check off each item as you complete it over the next month.  By the time school starts back up this fall you will be glad you did!


College Freshman

  • Sign on to your account on your college’s webpage and make sure you’ve completed all necessary steps to be able to attend this fall: accepted financial aid awarded, completed loan entrance counseling, signed the Master Promissory Note, arranged tuition payments and have your class schedule finalized.  Sit down or have a phone call with your academic advisor if you have questions about your schedule and apply for private loans now if you will need them- they take time to process.
  • If you plan to live in the dorms, contact your roommate.  Find out what is acceptable to bring with you to college and decide who will bring what so your room is not overfilled with unnecessary doubles.
  • Shop early! If you wait until the last minute, you might not get everything you need or want.  If you live a distance from the campus where you will attend, find out if you can ship to a store closer to campus.  This way you can order online and then pick up your purchase when you get into town.  This is especially useful if you plan to travel by air to your campus.
  • Buy your books.  Again, don’t wait until the last minute; you will likely pay more if you do.  If you plan ahead you can find the ISBN for each book you will need and can shop around online.  Many college and online bookstores now offer textbook rentals and electronic copies of text as well.  These options can be a huge money saver!

High School Senior:

  • Stay (or Get) Focused!  The more you prepare now, the easier your fall will be, this is especially important if you are an athlete and plan to play a fall sport.  Right now your focus should be on narrowing your list of colleges to those where you will apply this fall.  While visiting colleges is best in the spring or fall, you have time now to make some of the far reaching college visits that you may not be able to fit into your schedule once school resumes.
  • Decide where you will apply.  You should have a list of 6-10 colleges where you plan to apply before school starts this fall; you can always made adjustments to this list, but you should be finalizing your list now, not just starting your search!
  • Start gathering and completing college applications.  Some colleges have released their applications, most, including the Common Application, will be released August 1st.  You can print a draft now and fill it in by hand so you know exactly what you will list when the actual application is released.
  • Prep your essay(s).  The essay is usually the most time consuming and intimidating part of the entire application.  Try to have your essay in its final draft before school starts.   All you’ll need to do is have a couple teachers proof the essay, make some small adjustments and submit! Having this out of the way will allow you time to focus on school work and scholarship applications.
  • Pay attention to deadlines; make a spreadsheet or calendar to keep track of all deadlines.  Most seniors will take the SAT or ACT in the fall; you will need to take the September or October test to meet some college deadlines.  You may need to submit your application early, not Early Decision, but early to qualify for honors or certain scholarship programs.  Remember- you might have the best application out there, but if you miss a deadline, you will not be considered at that college.
  • Apply for Scholarships. While your first focus should be the college admissions applications, don’t forget about scholarships.  You don’t want to spend all your time looking and applying for them, but dedicate an hour or two a week to searching online and within your community for scholarship money.  A great free website for scholarships is www.fastweb.com.  Also be sure to check with your school’s office, local organizations and businesses.

Will you be a High School Junior, Sophomore or Freshman this fall?  Check back next week for our checklists for you!

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For-Profit Colleges… Are They All That Bad?

For-profit colleges have recently made the news as predators against military personnel, their spouses and low income students.  I went into writing this week’s blog with the intention of warning students against for-profit colleges, but the more I learned, the less convinced I became that for-profit colleges are bad for the American higher education system.

The major difference between for-profit and not-for-profit schools is in their mission. For-profit schools are backed by investors and operate like any other business in our capitalist society in that once expenses are paid, profits are disbursed to investors.  At not-for-profit schools, profits are put back into the school to pay for things such as athletic facilities, faculty research, scholarships and campus development.  Both for-profit and not-for-profit colleges offer a variety of programs and degrees, are able to apply for accreditation from the U.S. Department of Education and, if accredited, can award federal financial aid to their students.  Regardless of how profits are spent, both depend on a minimum number of students to attend, paying tuition, in order to stay in operation. All of this is reasonable, so why do for-profit colleges have such a bad rap?

The main critics of for-profit colleges look at them as preying on low income students- burying them in debt that they cannot possibly pay back. According to a Campus Progress report “For-profit schools currently serve 10 percent of U.S. students but account for 25 percent of federal student aid- and nearly half of student loan defaults”. This statement certainly raised concern for me at first, but if you look into the structure of many for-profit colleges, you will not find many liberal arts degrees that teach students to think, but instead career-focused programs designed to help students gain real-world skills and training.  Their programs are more flexible than those offered at traditional universities with many evening and weekend courses that allow students to work full-time as they earn their degree.

With this in mind, it is not hard to see why this type of school would appeal to person of lower income who does not have the luxury to take 4 years off work to attend a traditional university.  It may be that a for-profit college program is the only option for non-traditional students to receive the training or degree needed to advance their career.

Is it a risk to admit these students? Yes.  Working full time and going to school will be too much for some and they will drop out.  Without earning the degree they set out to earn, their income will not increase and they will likely default on their loan.

Should these students not be given the chance to earn their degree in the first place?  I don’t think so.  A student’s ability to pay, or risk of them defaulting on a loan in the future, should not lock them out of the chance to earn a degree.

I will admit that the concept of for-profit colleges is still relatively new and has grown significantly over the past decade with little oversight.  And as in any business there has been corruption in the race to share in profits, but in time these bad seeds will be weeded out.  But responsibility needs to also be put on the student to research the college they plan to attend (for-profit or not-for-profit) to ensure that it is the best fit for them before applying.

Image courtesy of: http://www.crooksandliars.com


Attending Your Summer Orientation

Going to college is an entirely new experience. While you may have toured the campus several times when deciding on the right college for you, touring after accepting admission presents a whole new purpose.  Most colleges offer a summer orientation program that shows new incoming freshman around the campus and provides valuable information on how college works. Some things you’ll learn at such an orientation include:

The location of important buildings and offices

  • The college’s academic requirements
  • How to register for classes
  • Assistance in registering for classes
  • Tips on getting to know instructors
  • How to make the most of your college experience
  • Where to go to join clubs and become involved, etc.

One of the most important factors of this orientation is the campus tour. Trying to find your classes without having been shown around campus first can be next to impossible.  If you’ve already scheduled your classes, take your schedule with you on the tour and be sure to note the locations of buildings where you will have class.

Other important buildings to locate include:

  • Dining Hall(s)
  • Health Services
  • Student Union
  • Bookstore
  • Recreational buildings (fitness center, theater, stadium(s), etc.)
  • Library

Most importantly, have fun! This is the campus where you will spend the next 4 years.  Enjoy yourself as you take it all in!

Photo courtesyof: http://www.faithoncampus.com

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