College Information Guide
How to score on a freshman college application
Monica Betson-Montgomery has read and scored thousands of freshman applications for the University of California at Berkeley. Betson-Montgomery, a Cal graduate who received her MBA at Saint Mary's College of California, has written "Keys to College: A Road Map for Parents to Guide Their Children," to help parents navigate the maze of college applications. The book is also available in Spanish. For more information, visit www.universitykeys.com. Betson-Montgomery answered questions sent to her by Michele Jurich of The Catholic Voice.
You've read and scored more than 20,000 freshman applications at the University of California. What catches your attention in an application?
Too often the essays are a missed opportunity as students merely repeat facts that are documented in other areas of the application, such as participation in sports and club teams or volunteer activities, etc. Students provide more insight by discussing what factors impede their commitment to education and how the student overcomes the impediment(s). Most impressive are essays that shed a bright light on how a student is committed to an area of study or a cause despite various distractors and yet they maintain excellence in their academics. This student provides awareness of their unwillingness to allow life's adversities to keep them back from succeeding. This level of resilience speaks to the character of the applicant and it is a priceless skill (resilience) that will be needed to complete college.
What can a young person who is applying for college this year do to maximize his or her chances of being admitted?
Research information about the schools you'd like to attend. Be sure that you meet the requirements in order to be considered for admissions. List all deadlines for the application process on a single calendar and be certain to stay ahead of them; a missed deadline could take you out of the admissions process causing you to have to apply the following year! Calendared items should include but is not limited to: 1) Application deadlines; 2) Register for and complete standard exams (SAT I, SAT II, ACT); 3) Financial aid deadline for schools and the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). These deadlines often differ but both are important. Finally, be sure that you maximize your options (apply to multiple schools) and don't forget that our community colleges are hidden gems and certainly the road to four-year college programs after high school.
The college application preparation begins well before high school. How can families raise college-ready children?
Parenting is an ongoing learning process all by itself. Incorporating college readiness is but another layer in this process. As such, it is important that parents maintain a constant balance between learning and love. Our children need to know our love for them is not predicated on their successes or failures; we love them unconditionally. It is also important early on that our children know that we believe in them and that they can and will accomplish great things. As parents, we can create opportunities for our children to experience and enjoy colleges early. Visit each of your local colleges as a family and incorporate college visits into family vacations. These visits can start as early as your child can walk. Be sure to include a trip to the student bookstore and buy a school memento such as a pencil, a T-shirt or a sweatshirt, whatever you can afford. Once your children are old enough to complete a campus tour (usually about 30-45 minutes), schedule formal tours of the campuses where historical information is typically disclosed. Most campuses also allow high school students to sit in on a class or two. Somehow children are good at maintaining certain facts. They will soon begin to use these recorded facts to compare and contrast the schools on their own. Soon they will let you know which school(s) they prefer and which one(s) they would like to attend.
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