Our College Admission Process

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Like many mothers, 12 months ago around this time, I was reminding my college-bound son to finalize his list of colleges to apply to.

Even though this was the third time I was sending my child to college, the process was different and nerve wracking.

There were a lot of what if's.

 So in order to narrow down our choices and make the process not as stressful as it could have been, we did:

1) Start Early. Our college selection process started when my son was a freshman in High School. We documented every extra curricular activities and community service. We had a spreadsheet of how many hours he spent on each organization and how many hours he spent giving back to the community. This spreadsheet helped in filling in the college applications.

It was my son's responsibility to spend time going over the colleges' websites, identifying admission requirements, deadlines and academic curriculum.
We visited various universities. Our list consisted of schools I wanted him to visit, schools he really wanted to attend, and schools that might have a potential. We tried to cover the universities that were a train ride away. For the schools that required a weekend trip, we waited until his junior and senior years and focused on schools he was really interested in applying. We attended the information sessions and various campus tours.

2) Support Group.  At the end of my child's junior year in High School, my son's guidance counselor met with us (parents and student) and went over a check list on how to go about the college process. It was a very useful part of the process. The guidance counselor gave us target dates and check list on how to request and submit teachers' letters of recommendations, test scores, transcripts, college applications and essays. My son's guidance counselor emphasized the importance of thoroughly reviewing applications and essays.  

The summer before my son's senior year, he set up an appointment with one of the teachers to go over his resume.  (His teacher was one of the teachers who encouraged him to apply to Columbia University)
3) Know The Environment and Faculty.  My son wanted to have the experience of what it would be like to be in a college setting. He scheduled meetings with admissions officers, financial aid representatives and various faculty members. He sat in a few classes, spoke to students and gathered a lot of information about financial aid.

4) No surprises.  My son's high school uses the Naviance System, a college and career readiness system that helps connect academic achievement to college goals. In this system, students keyed-in the colleges they plan on applying and the system provided statistics based on the admission rate, GPA and SAT scores. Through this program, we had a basic idea what to expect as far as my son's chances of being admitted.

5) Safe School.  Admission process is a process. There's no specific mathematical equation. Decisions whether your child will be accepted or not do not rely on one aspect of his high school life. It's a combination of grades, activities, community service, college interview and test scores. One thing with my son was that he didn't focus on a particular kind of school. The colleges ranged from tough to get in, average and safe. His main goal was to get accepted at any of the colleges he applied to -- where he'd learn not just academically, but musically, intellectually and socially. Our main deciding factor was for the school to be affordable.

6) Financial Aid. In my family, education is important. However, we also emphasized that the cost of college is a 50-50 split financially. We tried to encourage our children to apply to as many scholarships and financial assistance that they're eligible for.

In order to be eligible for any financial aid or university grants, I requested for my son's FAFSA PIN number when he was in 10th grade. The summer before my child's senior year,  I put together a spreadsheet of the colleges my son's interested in applying and the cost of tuition, room and board.

In his senior year in high school, I filled in a FAFSAapplication and filed our income tax returns by March.

Universities like Columbia University give you access to a program called "Net Price Calculator". The calculator gave us an early indication of how much it'll cost us to send our child to such university and what types of financial aid we might qualify.

This process eliminated a lot of the guessing game as far as determining the cost of college.

7) Early  Decision. Early Decision requires that if your child gets admitted, he would attend. It's a binding agreement. Applying Early Decision was a very important and careful choice that we made. It was a big decision which we pondered on for months and months. We were only able to make that decision after identifying the cost of college and after my son's numerous visits and conversations with the students, admissions, financial aid officers and faculty members.

8) Done. Once all the applications were submitted, we marked our calendars. We put the process behind us and prayed.

Applying to college is one of the stressful times in our lives, but we can definitely find ways to tone it down a notch or two. Every child is different. Listen to what your child is saying and try to enjoy the process.

My fourth and youngest, is only in seventh grade. I have a few years to re-organize. I'm sure it'll be a different adventure all over again. 

It's a new phase in our lives. Congratulations!

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  1. What an informative article! You know how there are Wedding Planners or Financial Planners? Well, I think you could definitely sell your expertise as a College Planner. Your results say it all....You are an AHHMAZING mom... <3

  2. I have learned a couple things with my daughter (she is a senior in high school):

    1. If the college has an open house or hosts a fair-GO. We have been to a couple and it has really be good. Plus, if you child attends they will (most times) waive the application fee.

    2. If child wants to play a sport at the Division I or Division II level make sure they have gone through the NCAA Clearinghouse. It is not easy and will cost $70. But it s necessary. www.eligibilitycenter.org.

    3. Ask questions even if you think they are dumb. You will learn something.

    4. Apply for all scholarships. I learned this one. If you are African-American apply for the local Asian-American whatever scholarship and that goes for all ethnic scholarships. They have to give out a certain percentage of their money to non-members in their ethnic group to keep the tax-free funding.

    5. As it is already stated-visit schools. My daughter wanted to go to a big-name school but we are finding out that some smaller schools might fit her better.

    6. I learned this from St.Mary's College- The majority of kids that are accepted are usually take kids in the 3.3.-3.6 range with decent test scores and other stuff (sports, AP, etc., (I sat through an hour of listening to this from the admission director)but they will accept kids with a 2.9 to 3.1 who are on the upswing. If they screwed up their freshman year (mine did) and have kept improving grades. They will look at them and ask for "seventh semster grades (the first quarter of senior year).

    7. Take tests. We all know AP, SAT, ACT but there are others My daughter took an English test. She passed it and it basically said that she does not have to take the English Placement Test for UC (University of California) or CSU (Cal-State) systems. She automatically goes into college level English. This makes her more attractive because she doesn't have to take remedial classes in that area.

    8. Don't rely on the school. My daughter has been in the AVID program all four years and it has been a joke. By doing some research I have learned more than what her AVID counsleor has told her-"What is the NCAA Clearinghouse and why do I have to send transcipts there"-her counselor.

    Sorry for being so long. Just wanted to share some things I learn



    1. Patrick, thank you for sharing such vast information, especially when it comes to students who played sports.

      True, Every student's experience is different. You added a lot of information that is totally worth sharing, and thank you for that.

      It's true with the tests. Ahead of time, it's best to determine what tests are required such as Subject Tests, etc.

      Taking AP classes helps, too. A lot of schools will give you college credits for the AP classes. As true with everything else, review the school guidelines.

      Lastly, you have to be in-charge of the due dates and deadlines - make sure all paperwork from school are submitted online. Follow-up and get confirmation.

      Good-luck with your child and keep us posted!

      Thank you.

    2. My daugher took an AP course, passed it and passed the AP history test. The St.Mary's College admission director straight up said that sometimes taking too many AP classes is not good as they are looking for a well-rounded person. He said that kids are better off volunteering and working then taking six AP classes because as he put it "College is about growing as a person in a social sense, not just the books."

    3. True. Education is not about the books. Just an FYI, Columbia University only allows you a total of 15 AP credits. And not every AP classes = AP credit. It all depends on the school.


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