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Lodi and Galt area high school seniors should not fear the college application

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Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 8:18 am

It’s senior year of high school. Time to spend as much time with your BFFs as possible. Time to take the funnest of fun classes. Time to be in as many clubs as possible.

Time to decide how you will spend the next four or five years of your life. Scary, huh?

Though their final year of high school has just begun, Lodi seniors start applying for college in just one week, when state schools — California State Universities and Universities of California — open their admission season on Oct. 1. For most student and their parents, it’s a confusing and stressful time that comes with hours of essay writing and paperwork.

Lodi High college and career counselor Becky Jauregui, University of the Pacific admissions counselor Christina Tharp and Tokay career counselor Melody Knee share their tips to help students and parents stay sane as the application season quickly approaches.

When do I send my application?

Most universities, especially California State Universities and Universities of California start accepting online applications Oct. 1. Most must be filed by Nov. 30. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and private schools have varying dates. Check with each school to make sure you don’t apply too late.

Tharp says the most important thing is to be aware of deadlines. 

Jauregui and Knee also highly recommend students have a seperate calendar used strictly for college deadlines, marking important dates for admissions and financial aid.

Don’t wait until the deadline date to submit an application.

“I never recommend the final date,” Knee said. “There are just too many things that could go wrong.”

How can I prepare in advance?

If you are applying to a CSU, you will only need to fill out the application and have your grades and test scores.

UCs will require the same, but in addition, you’ll have to write a personal statement (usually open-ended or they will give you a prompt) and submit a letter of recommendation. You can get ahead of the game by having these two ready in advance.

It is important that you request to have your transcripts (ask your school registrar) and test scores (ACT and SAT) sent to the schools you are applying to. 

What do schools want to learn about me in my personal statement essay?

“They want to know what they wouldn’t know from your application,” Jauregui said.

Don’t worry about filling your essay with your grades, classes or clubs, if it’s not necessary. They want to know your personality. If you don’t have a ton of club activities, maybe they want to know if you go home and make dinner for your family every night or if you’re working 20 hours a week. 

The most important thing, though, Tharp says, is to state what you learned from a life experience you are describing. Often times, she says they receive applicants’ statements with emotional stories, but they fail to mention what they learned in their struggle.

“They need to put closure and what they’ve learned,” she said.

What if I failed a class? Should I repeat it, even though the F is on my transcript?

“It is always better to repeat a class if possible,” Jauregui said. Most colleges will eventually see the final grades at the end of your high school career. Also, the fact that you are attempting to repeat it shows you are trying.

Jauregui says universities need to know what your struggles are. If you hide, you may regret it later.

How many colleges should I apply to?

This depends on you and how competitive you want to be.  Jauregui recommends students have a plan A, B, C and sometimes even D. Apply to a couple of schools that are a stretch, ones you may not get into. Apply to some you will probably get into, and then some you should most definitely get into. 

I haven’t taken my ACT or SAT yet. Is it too late?

No, scores don’t have to be sent to colleges when they get your applications, Jauregui said. Do keep an eye on when your scores are ready and make sure you send them to your potential colleges through the SAT and ACT websites.

Do I have to pay to apply to college?

Not always. University of the Pacific’s online application is free, as are some other private universities. Some universities will send students invitations to apply. The UC and CSU system charges $60 per application. Though there are CSU and UC fee waivers online, not too many students are eligible to get them because it is determined by parents’ income.

What should I do when I visit a college campus?

One of the most important things you can do to aid you in your college decision is to visit the university you want to apply to. The counselors recommend students use the October break to visit a college class, and talk to professors and students in the dining hall.

Many colleges, such as University of the Pacific, have programs for visiting students to attend a class, meet with a professor and, if they are a senior, stay overnight on campus.

But I don’t want to declare a major ...

You don’t have to — at first. Having some idea of your interests and career goals is a good idea, but you have a little while to make a final decision. Undeclared is the largest major, Jauregui said. 

You may want to try out a few classes to see what you’re really interested in. However, doing that too long can become expensive.

For some students in this position, community college might offer a chance to explore a wide variety of subjects. And just because you’re going to community college doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. Jauregui says many students move away to attend community colleges and live with relatives in Southern California. Other junior colleges share joint housing with universities.

When do I apply for financial aid?

Jan. 1, 2012. You can’t apply until then. It’s important to note, though, that different colleges have different financial aid deadlines, so don’t forget to double check.

Though it’s too early to apply, it’s a good idea for parents to pull out their required tax information.

As a parent, how can I help my graduating senior?

Give gentle reminders. Help students get organized by making a calendar with all deadlines that way you don’t lose control.

Likewise, don’t do the work for them. Jauregui says it’s very important that the application is really the students’ work.

I don’t have much money. Does that mean I can’t go to a private school?

Just because a school is private doesn’t mean you can’t afford it. Privates often offer larger financial aid packages. Every year, Jauregui says students get financial aid offers from private schools they didn’t think they would be able to afford. Many private schools guarantee financial aid for the full four-year term.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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