T.J. asks from Kingshill, VI on March 26, 2009
College and College Applications
hello everyone, my daughter is in 11th grade. getting lots and lots of brochures from colleges. need some advice on how to weed through all the literature. choosing a college is quite a hurculean task. any tips on how to get started?
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So What Happened?™
i truly appreciate all the responses to my question about college and college applications. i am more in contact with the guidance counselor at the school, and i speak regularly to my daughter about her interests. i also look on line.
R.L. answers from Los Angeles on March 27, 2009
I skimmed the other responses and noticed that no one suggested that you go to the college board site for the SATs (collegeboard.com). They have a college matchmaker feature on their site that is very useful. It will help you and your daughter narrow down her interests, geographical preferences, educational preferences, etc. and return a list of schools that she can further explore. My son found this very helpful.
Your daughter should consider whether she wants to go to a big university or a smaller college, and which will best serve her learning style. At a large university, especially a big name one, she can expect large (sometimes huge) classes in the beginning (some survey classes will seat 200 or more students) and, typically, little professorial personal interaction for the first 2 - 3 years. Classes will be taught by professors whose primary function, in many disciplines, is to do research, not teach. Labs and study sessions are typically run by graduate students, often in their 1st or 2nd years of study (by their 3rd and 4th years, they are also very involved in their doctoral research, although I taught advanced labs in my 3rd and 4th years of grad school -- I needed the money!). At smaller colleges and community colleges, more emphasis is actually paid on teaching and there is often more opportunity for direct interaction with the professors. Also, your daughter should consider how competitive the other students are likely to be - will she thrive in a super-competitive environment?- and things like if the school offers co-op or internship programs that will give her real world experience. For example, my daughter is setting her sites on the University of Alberta. She talked to an admissions director at the Pierce College college fair this past fall and found that they have one of the top undergraduate programs in international business that includes study at their sister school in Cremona, Italy, and that incorporates a co-op program for every year of study. Students finish in 5 years, during which time they will have co-oped with several major international companies and ofter receive their first jobs as a result of a co-op position. Another school she was interested in (Mason college, I think, on the East Coast) has a 5-yr program that grants both a BA and an MBA upon completion, and where the 5th year is essentially free (a HUGE bonus, especially if you consider that graduate programs are very expensive and can take another 3 - 7 years, depending on the field of study).
Your daughter should also seek out college fairs. Most of these happen during the fall and early winter. If your guidance counselor is doing his/her job, the school should also be bringing in admissions representatives on a regular basis to talk about their schools. Students should absolutely attend these sessions. Many colleges and universities ask the students to sign in and use this as a method of marking interest in their school. This, attending school recruitment events (your counselor should have this information), making site visits to the school, and calling to speak to admissions officers all indicate to a school that your daughter has real interest in being there. It DOES get considered when applications are reviewed. Some schools actually have a kind of point system that they use to assess whether a student is really interested or just using a shotgun approach to application (not a good idea!).
Site visits are helpful, but they should be limited to the schools that your daughter has already decided that she has real interest in. Taking a tour can be expensive and is best done during the school year, when classes at the college are in session and you can meet with admissions and recruiting officers. Unfortunately, this conflicts with high school attendance, so it needs to be handled judiciously (like not right before the AP exams in the middle of May!)
Other things to consider: What is the social life like? Is she interested in joining a sorority, and does the school have them? What is the cost? This is a biggie! If there's no way that you can afford the cost of tuition, books, housing (often off campus by or before junior year), and additional living expenses without substantial aid or scholarships it is important to take this into consideration before deciding to apply to a school. This doesn't mean not to reach for the stars, just to make sure that your daughter knows that, unless aid and scholarships are forthcoming, she may not be able to matriculate everywhere she wants to.
When it comes to application time, make sure your daughter spends a LOT of time writing and rewriting her personal essay(s). These are crucial in the admissions process as they will give the admissions board the clearest picture of each applicant. She should do this over the summer while she doesn't have as much on her plate as during the school year. It is a very good idea to have multiple people read and critique the essays. They must be PERFECT. No spelling or grammatical errors, and they should show good writing and expository skills. If you don't feel up to the editorial task, find someone who is. There are professionals who actually work with kids on their college apps and essays, but they are very expensive. Instead, ask a colleague, a friend, relative, etc. for help, preferably one who has had a good college education and is successful in their field.
Personal interviews can help sometimes -- if your daughter has a good list of achievements to her credit, is articulate, and is comfortable with her interviewing skills. The personal interview can actually hurt the student more than it can help though, and is usually not required. On the flip side of this, the personal interview can also chalk up another "point" indicating the student's interest in the school, and gives the student the opportunity to learn more about the school from another person's perspective, too. Many schools rely on local alumni to do the interviewing (I interview prospective candidates for Northwestern on occasion), so the process will also depend on the skill of the volunteer, too.
Last few things: 1. register on fastweb.com to start hunting for scholarship opportunities. My daughter's been hunting these down since 8th grade.
2. Go to the bookstore or look on line and buy a few books on writing the college essay, filling out college apps, and applying for scholarships. I spent about $100 on such books for my son's college search and it was well worth the money. I've got a good list at home -- email me through mamasource if you want my list.
3. If you're a CA resident, the UC system MUST give your daughter a space on one of their campuses (but not necessarily the campus of her choice) if she has maintained a minimum of a 3.0 GPA
4. Getting a good score on the SATs or ACT is very important. She should buy a couple of books, learn the test taking strategy and practice taking a lot of pretests. If she does not increase her score after reading the books, an SAT or ACT prep course might be a good idea. Your daughter should research what the average SAT and ACT scores were of the previous year's entering class at the schools she's interested in. She will get that information from the college matchmaker on the college board site. By the way, the ACT and SAT's test different skills. The ACT is a cumulative knowledge test (like the SAT II's), while the SAT is a reasoning test. Different tests play to different students' strengths. Some schools also have a preference for one or the other.
5. Rule of thumb: Apply to at least two safety schools. Apply to at least two mid-range schools. Apply to at least two stretch schools.
6. Consider that community college is a good place to start off for a number of reasons. The teaching staff is pretty dedicated to teaching. The cost is *substantially* less. The education is virtually as good as at many big name universities. Also, most schools have up to a 25% dropout rate in the freshman and sophomore classes. Colleges still need to fill those junior and senior (and super senior!) seats though, so it is often actually easier to transfer into a top university in the junior year than to gain admission in the freshman year. Be aware, though, that it can actually take 3 years of community college before earning enough credits to meet the transfer requirements.
Best of success to your daughter! Getting into college is much more competitive and a much more daunting task than it was 20 - 30 years ago.
2 moms found this helpful
J.S. answers from Los Angeles on March 26, 2009
Hello! I actually do this professionally. I have been a teacher, a college student (currently working on my Master's) and a college admissions representative. Please check out my website and let me know.
I haven't had a second to update my website since beginning the moving process, but I am willing to negotiate on fees. :)
1 mom found this helpful
D.M. answers from Los Angeles on March 26, 2009
It really depends on what you daughter wants to study...because I was unsure of my career path, I chose a community college and then, from there chose the college to transfer to. This saved on money and helped me choose the right path for my education.
1 mom found this helpful
C.T. answers from Los Angeles on March 27, 2009
Congratulations on having a wonderful daughter! My older son is a freshman at a good university, so I went through it already, but get to repeat the process when my younger son goes through it in 2 years. This year was the toughest year for applications, so next year is a big question mark. You might wish to consider obtaining the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Also, does your daughter's school have a good college counselor? It should give you a more realistic understanding of the schools in which to apply to. Make an appointment now. Have you had time to tour the local colleges and universities? It's a good bonding experience. Does your daughter have a particular interest or activity? Find schools which have programs that nurture that interest. For example, my younger son is a musician, we have a list of conservatories and universities with excellent music programs. Best of luck!
C.A. answers from Los Angeles on March 27, 2009
You have some excellent suggestions. I have a couple things to consider-I went to UCLA (seems like 100 years ago) and even though it was my dream, I hated it. i hated being a number, I hated the 300 student lecture halls, i hated living off campus and not having many friends. I had gone to a small High school where everyone knew everything about everyone-and I thought I wanted drastically different (because when you are in high school you know everything).
I think now, a jr college would have been smart. i could take a couple yrs to figure what in the world I wanted to major in-save some money-and then move away for the last 2 yrs. oh well...
J.D. answers from Los Angeles on March 27, 2009
Have you checked with her school? My daughter's high school has a college counselor. If you need an outside counselor, there is an excellent woman named Teri Solochek located in Woodland Hills. You can google her for the phone number. Good luck.
L.P. answers from Honolulu on March 27, 2009
I so understand this. My husband is set on our 16 year old junior attending the local university after graduation. I have consistently told her that she can go where God is leading her to go. He has provided for her financial needs in the past (through gifts, work, scholarships, etc.) so there is no reason to limit herself when He has proven Himself over and over. We pray for God's wisdom and discernment. She has something in the mail almost every day and looks at each one. I'm sure she looks at where the school is located first and then at some of the other programs. What is your daughter interested in? Does she play sports? Is she involved in civic organizations? Do you attend church? What careers interest her? Start with these questions. As those pieces of mail come, check out the school's website and see how the school fits with her answers.
If she is interested in sports there are several websites that for free will allow her to post her information and school athletic departments will contact her. We have had emails and calls from two different schools, both in the region she is interested in attending.
Use her school resources. Many colleges schedule visits to high school campuses. Encourage her to attend these visits to see if any of these schools interest her.
It is a long and difficult task, but have fun together looking at the brochures and the school websites. Do virtual tours and visit a few campuses (even if she isn't interested in the campus she will be able to see what they look like). We took our daughter to three different sized campuses so she could decide what she wanted in a school size.
Hope this helps.
L.H. answers from Los Angeles on March 27, 2009
Hi - You may want to speak with the high school guidance counselor, maybe they have some insight. And then visit some schools with your daughter.