A will and a way

Time, preparation keys to success in college, scholarship applications

Posted: Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Applying for college and the money to pay for it can be an arduous process.

With the holiday break approaching, high school students are offered a perfect opportunity to take a break from the day-to-day grind and set aside some time to tackle the many aspects of college preparation, from taking admissions tests to selecting college choices to applying for scholarship money.

Area high school counselors offered a number of suggestions to help students figure out where they should be in the process and where to go from here.

Starting out

It's never too early for sophomores and juniors to start exploring their options for the future. There are a number of Web sites designed to help students investigate the plethora of colleges in the country, based on all sorts of criteria.

Greta Cox, a counselor at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, recommends that students check out www.collegeboard.com, which provides a mechanism to search colleges by any criteria. Students can choose colleges based on location, size, degree offerings and price or can learn more about a specific college of interest.

Vicki Madden, the registrar at Skyview High School, also suggests that students visit www.fastweb.com, which offers a college search similar to that on the College Board site, as well as a scholarship search.

Finding colleges of interest early on not only can help students plan for the future, but also set goals. Students can learn in the early years of high school what they will need to accomplish to gain admission to their dream college, from the classes they need to take to the grade point average they need to maintain to the admission test scores they need to achieve.

Madden also said now would be a good time for juniors to start thinking about scheduling visits to a handful of colleges they might be interested in.

The sophomore and junior years also are a good time to start taking admissions tests. Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT as part of the application process. Students can take either test as early as their sophomore year, and though the tests cost money, students can take them as many times as necessary to improve their scores.

Madden said this holiday season is a good time for students to start studying up for the tests. Cox recommended that juniors wait until the end of the year to take the tests, but are free to register at any time.

The SAT will next be administered Jan. 24, with a Dec. 22 registration deadline, and the ACT will be offered Feb. 7, with a Jan. 2 registration deadline. Registrations can be sent in by mail or made online. The Web also offers a host of preparation materials for the tests. For more information on the SAT, visit www.college board.com. For more on the ACT, visit www.act.org.

Applying for college

Most college applications are due in the fall and winter of a student's senior year of high school.

Madden said most students already should have applied to their top schools, but it's not too late to do so. The holiday break is a perfect time to finish up those applications and get them in the mail.

It's a little early for younger students to start applying for schools, but it's not too early to start thinking about the application process.

Most schools require not only a formal application, but also letters of recommendation and an essay. Juniors can start looking at applications to their schools of choice and be thinking about the kinds of questions they will have to answer. This also is a good time to start compiling lists of activities and interests and developing the basis for an admission essay, which should include personal background and goals.

Paying for college

Often the hardest part of preparing for college is finding the money to pay for tuition, housing and books.

One of the most important pieces for most students is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The application uses a family's income and tax information to determine eligibility for a wide range of financial assistance. Applications must be submitted in January, but forms are available now for students to start preparing.

"Seniors should be trying to prepare their parents to get their taxes done early this year, so they can fill out the FAFSA," Cox said. Though families can guess at the information, they would have to revise the application with accurate information later, she said.

There also are thousands of scholarships available for students. Cox said seniors should start by contacting the financial aid offices at the schools to which they are applying for a list of in-house scholarships.

"Usually, they have scholarships they offer only through the school," she said.

In addition, there are thousands of scholarships available to students across the nation. Web sites such as www.collegeboard.com, www.act.org and www.fastweb.com have search functions to help students identify scholarships for which they might be eligible.

Area high schools also have comprehensive lists of scholarships, ranging from national to local and generic to highly specific. For example, scholarships may be available to any student with a certain GPA range, or they may be available based on intended major or parents' occupation.

Some are available for all students in the country, while local organizations like the Elks and Lions clubs offer scholarships for students in their areas only.

All these scholarships usually require an essay of some sort, and area counselors recommend that students prepare a generic essay during the Christmas break.

The essays should include personal information, goals and future plans, as well as skills and talents.

"If they do it over Christmas, they'll have it done," Cox said. "When the local (scholarships) start coming in, they can just tweak it a little."

By JENNI DILLON

Peninsula Clarion

Applying for college and the money to pay for it can be an arduous process.

With the holiday break approaching, high school students are offered a perfect opportunity to take a break from the day-to-day grind and set aside some time to tackle the many aspects of college preparation, from taking admissions tests to selecting college choices to applying for scholarship money.

Area high school counselors offered a number of suggestions to help students figure out where they should be in the process and where to go from here.

Starting out

It's never too early for sophomores and juniors to start exploring their options for the future. There are a number of Web sites designed to help students investigate the plethora of colleges in the country, based on all sorts of criteria.

Greta Cox, a counselor at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, recommends that students check out www.collegeboard.com, which provides a mechanism to search colleges by any criteria. Students can choose colleges based on location, size, degree offerings and price or can learn more about a specific college of interest.

Vicki Madden, the registrar at Skyview High School, also suggests that students visit www.fastweb.com, which offers a college search similar to that on the College Board site, as well as a scholarship search.

Finding colleges of interest early on not only can help students plan for the future, but also set goals. Students can learn in the early years of high school what they will need to accomplish to gain admission to their dream college, from the classes they need to take to the grade point average they need to maintain to the admission test scores they need to achieve.

Madden also said now would be a good time for juniors to start thinking about scheduling visits to a handful of colleges they might be interested in.

The sophomore and junior years also are a good time to start taking admissions tests. Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT as part of the application process. Students can take either test as early as their sophomore year, and though the tests cost money, students can take them as many times as necessary to improve their scores.

Madden said this holiday season is a good time for students to start studying up for the tests. Cox recommended that juniors wait until the end of the year to take the tests, but are free to register at any time.

The SAT will next be administered Jan. 24, with a Dec. 22 registration deadline, and the ACT will be offered Feb. 7, with a Jan. 2 registration deadline. Registrations can be sent in by mail or made online. The Web also offers a host of preparation materials for the tests. For more information on the SAT, visit www.college board.com. For more on the ACT, visit www.act.org.

Applying for college

Most college applications are due in the fall and winter of a student's senior year of high school.

Madden said most students already should have applied to their top schools, but it's not too late to do so. The holiday break is a perfect time to finish up those applications and get them in the mail.

It's a little early for younger students to start applying for schools, but it's not too early to start thinking about the application process.

Most schools require not only a formal application, but also letters of recommendation and an essay. Juniors can start looking at applications to their schools of choice and be thinking about the kinds of questions they will have to answer. This also is a good time to start compiling lists of activities and interests and developing the basis for an admission essay, which should include personal background and goals.

Paying for college

Often the hardest part of preparing for college is finding the money to pay for tuition, housing and books.

One of the most important pieces for most students is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The application uses a family's income and tax information to determine eligibility for a wide range of financial assistance. Applications must be submitted in January, but forms are available now for students to start preparing.

"Seniors should be trying to prepare their parents to get their taxes done early this year, so they can fill out the FAFSA," Cox said. Though families can guess at the information, they would have to revise the application with accurate information later, she said.

There also are thousands of scholarships available for students. Cox said seniors should start by contacting the financial aid offices at the schools to which they are applying for a list of in-house scholarships.

"Usually, they have scholarships they offer only through the school," she said.

In addition, there are thousands of scholarships available to students across the nation. Web sites such as www.collegeboard.com, www.act.org and www.fastweb.com have search functions to help students identify scholarships for which they might be eligible.

Area high schools also have comprehensive lists of scholarships, ranging from national to local and generic to highly specific. For example, scholarships may be available to any student with a certain GPA range, or they may be available based on intended major or parents' occupation.

Some are available for all students in the country, while local organizations like the Elks and Lions clubs offer scholarships for students in their areas only.

All these scholarships usually require an essay of some sort, and area counselors recommend that students prepare a generic essay during the Christmas break.

The essays should include personal information, goals and future plans, as well as skills and talents.

"If they do it over Christmas, they'll have it done," Cox said. "When the local (scholarships) start coming in, they can just tweak it a little."



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