What I wish I had known about getting into college

Now that Christian’s going off to college, there are so many things I wish we would have known long ago. Thankfully, Christian got accepted to the private university of his choice, and even got a partial scholarship. But during this process there were things I wish we had known to do before he started his freshman year in HS.

#1 Spend some time going through college applications on college websites with your child. – Once you start to see the fields information that must be filled in on the applications, you and your student will have a better idea of what he or she needs to be doing now, in order to give great answers to those questions in the future.

#2 – Start taking SATs as early as possible. You can take them again and again, and the higher score prevails. This is VERY important. While a high GPA is ideal, a good SAT can counteract less than perfect grades. Also, some scholarship grants are based on either a high GPA and/or a high SAT.

#3 Take advantage of all the support materials and programs at www.CollegeBoard.com. This is the site where you sign up for your SAT. All you have to do is opt to participate in the many support programs available. Sign up for the free Collegeboard SAT “Question of the day”, which gives you a daily dose of how the questions work, and is very helpful. If Christian had been doing this every day for just a few minutes for a couple of years, I think it would have helped him immensely with his score. There are also lots of other great tools on the website. There are also SAT study DVDs, CDs, etc for purchase.

#4 Become active in an extracurricular – Nearly every college application asks about extracurriculars. If your child excels in academics, she should join a chess team, a debate team, spelling bee, or any other academic activity for which you can attain accolades and awards. It needs to be an official extracurricular through the school or other reputable organization. Your student should strive to win awards, which he can cite on the college application.

#5 Another extracurricular can be a sport. Scholarships abound for athletes. If your son or daughter shows outstanding athletic ability, it can pay off big to augment their natural ability with ongoing private lessons in the sport. $6,000 invested over the course of 4 years in high school for our first son Joe resulted in a six figure scholarship. A great investment! To reach for an athletic scholarship, your child will also need to excel in club and tournament teams during the off season, which means all summers and all vacations will be booked! If they don’t “make” a good tournament or club team, chances are they will not be competitive when it comes to winning an athletic scholarship for that sport. Be realistic, and try to look at your child objectively. Basically, if your child tries out for several good tournament teams or club teams, and doesn’t make the teams, chances are those coaches are going to be seeing what college coaches see as well. Maybe they’re not as athletically competitive as you may think. So be careful about putting your eggs in the wrong basket!

#5 Make the extracurricular a “job” – Our boys knew they were not going to get into college on the merit of their academics alone. So we made rules about their sports, baseball for Joe, and football for Christian. They knew that this is what they do, not just for fun, but primarily to get into college, and hopefully win scholarships! In addition to keeping their grades up, their “job” was to go to the gym, get proper rest, and practice their sport on a regimented schedule. Their commitment, along with our financial support paid off for both of my boys.

#7 Be active in a charity or community service organization – College applications will want to know that there was a consistent commitment to some sort of organization. The longer you’re involved the better. The frosting on the cake is that it builds character. Note: Christian helped an Eagle scout friend with a number of his projects. He got some very nice thank you letters on Boy Scout letterhead. But it wasn’t his own project and wasn’t something he could mention on the college application or in the admissions interview. Christian had participated in several “IServe” projects through his school, spent weekends landscaping at youth camps, construction work at Salvation Army camps, etc. He did talk about that on his college admissions interview, which he felt was helpful in getting accepted.

I hope this helps you to realize that getting into college, and especially getting a scholarship is something that requires alot of work and commitment throughout the high school years. It’s more than just good grades. Talk about college often. And make college a goal. It’s worth it!

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