As applications to colleges are soaring through the roof, high school students need to learn to be more proactive and even more competitive in an economy where college admittance is the only ticket to a decent paying job.
According to RAND California, a think tank organization, in 2008, there was a massive increase in college enrollment in the United States. In California, there were 3,000 more students enrolled in the California State University (CSU) system than in 2007. In the University of California (UC) system, there was 6,000 more students enrolled in 2008 than in 2007 and an exaggerating 38,000 first time freshmen were admitted to community colleges in 2008 compared to 2007.
However, in the midst of summer fun and spending an excessive amount of time on Facebook and Myspace than in the real world, many teenagers tend to forget the importance of getting an early start on college applications, deadlines and requirements.
The first thing a student should think about when applying to college is what kind of college they want to attend, and whether their GPA will allow them to enter that school. There are four different kinds of colleges a student can pick from including community colleges, University of California (UC), California State Universities (CSU) and private institutions, with community colleges being the least expensive and having less rigorous requirements to be accepted; and the latter the most expensive and most competitive.
Students can apply to community colleges through cccapply.org for free. Most community colleges accept admission applications through the first few weeks of the term. Students can apply to a UC through universityofcalifornia.edu from November 1st through the 30th during their senior year of high school. Students trying to apply to a CSU can apply via csumentor.edu from October 1st through November 30th during their senior year of high school. In addition, most private institutions deadline is January 1st. Students can apply for a specific university via the university website. For the UC’s, CSU’s and private universities application fees can be waived.
“The application process is now due online,” said Jef Anderson, College Head Counselor at Lancaster High School.
However, college counselors at Lancaster High School meet with every single senior individually and in groups to talk about different colleges, deadlines and how to apply.
“We also have AVID, [an elective course] that prepares them for college.”
The second concern a student should have is the dreadful but very much needed SAT or ACT test.
“I would advice [students] to start taking the SAT or ACT in their junior year (of high school) so they can see what the test is about and see their weaknesses,” said Calvert Wright, College Counselor Coordinator at Compton High School. “The second year (senior year) they know what to study and it relieves the pressure.”
Students are allowed to take the SAT and the ACT up to two times a year. The SAT costs $45 and $21 per subject test. The ACT costs $33, and if the student needs or wants to take the ACT with the writing test it costs $48. However, students who receive reduced lunch meals or lunch tickets are eligible to receive a fee waiver that covers the cost of the test. In order to receive a fee waiver, students need to see their academic counselor. Colleges stop accepting SAT and ACT test scores after December.
Students, however, must note that CSU’s require ACT or SAT. UC’s demand ACT’s or SAT’s, but if the student decides to take the ACT, UC’s require the optional writing portion and two SAT subject tests in the following subjects English, history and social studies, mathematics (Level 2 only), science or language other than English. Students can access SAT information via collegeboard.com and actstudent.com for ACT information.
One of the other important factors for college admissions is meeting the A-G requirements. These are requirements that all high school students must meet during their four years of high school level.
Students must take four years of English, three years of math or four years is recommended, two years of history/social science, two years of laboratory science or three years recommended, two years of a foreign language or three recommended, one year of visual and performing arts and one year of college-preparatory electives.
“With the way the economy is going and the competition, it’s difficult to not follow the A-G requirements and get into a four-year institution,” Wright said. “You need to do more than what’s required and do what’s recommended.”
The second to last thing a student should do after deciding what college to attend and taking the proper tests, is financial aid. Financial aid is federal money given to students who need the monetary assistance. Financial aid comes in three forms, via grants, which is free money that does not need to be paid back; scholarships, which are awards won by the student, and loans, which like the name says it, is borrowed money which needs to be paid back. To fill out a financial aid application a student and their parents must have a social security number and have filed or plan to file theirs and/or their parent’s federal income taxes. Students can apply via fafsa.ed.gov anytime between January 1st and March 2nd for priority deadline. Students who apply after this deadline are not guaranteed certain federal grants and may receive less money than desired because funds eventually run out.
Lastly, a student should think about all the outside activities they have been involved in during their four years in high school. Students who are really interested in advancing must have either had an internship or have had some community involvement to show commitment, responsibility and interest in achieving for more than what’s expected.
“We advice (the students) to get early internships at companies of interest, it always look good,” said Wright.
Both Compton High School and Lancaster High School know the importance of higher education and both schools host college fairs, where different universities inform students about the different programs they offer and how to get their foot in the door.
“We offer them resources,” says Anderson. “It all comes down to (the student’s) GPA and SAT scores.”