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Front Page » March 23, 2006 » Carbon County Youth Focus » The question of College
Published 3,049 days ago

The question of College


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By LES BOWEN
Sun Advocate reporter

Many consider secondary education after graduating from high school. Others enter the work force directly or attend a trade school for specialized training. Studies show that those with a high school diploma earn $1.2 million over the course of their lives. Those with an associate's degree earn $1.6 million. Individuals with a bachelor's degree earn $2.1 million. Figures continue to climb for those with master's and doctorate degrees.

Graduation dates for high school and college students are fast approaching. As many seniors work to keeps grades up and avoid the dreaded "senioritis," many more are considering college admission.

Within Utah, the deadline for freshman application is quickly approaching. University of Utah boasts the earliest deadline in the state's higher education system on April 1. Many other schools have open admission, where admission applications can be received any time prior to enrolling. Deadlines for Westminster will not arrive until June. However, those looking to attend BYU should have already met the February 15 deadline for applications.

Most applications are simple and straightforward. Along with personal information, colleges have various requirements that must be met before an application is considered. Those can include transcripts, test scores and an occasional essay.

High school seniors and college transfer students are encouraged to keep a calendar of upcoming deadlines, including application deadlines, financial aid application deadlines and scholarship deadlines. In addition, applicants should make a list of items that must be submitted with each application.

For instance, some colleges require letters of recommendation. Applicants should make an effort to contact potential references weeks in advance to request a letter of recommendation and then follow up before the deadline to make sure the reference has written the letter. If the letter must be mailed directly from the reference, the applicant should follow up a few days before the deadline. If letters can be mailed with the application, applicants should pick them up at least a few days prior to the deadline.

Often, schools require essays for either admission or scholarships. Most private scholarships require an essay and many of the more prestigious awards use written essays as a method of determining award winners.

Essays are an opportunity for applicants to highlight their most notable accomplishments. Essays should not be simply a list of achievements. Often, space is provided on application forms for lists of that sort. These forms can chronicle family background, school history, employment experiences, activities and other unique information about the applicant.

Essay reviewers are more interested in a specific project that was most important. One college notes that community service, leadership on a school sports team, club or other organization and participation in unique learning opportunities are often the best subjects.

When writing an essay, applicants should focus on how the activity influenced their life and why they considered it important. Those who review personal essays are looking to discover something about the applicant. As a result, the essay should explain what the student has learned, and not simply tell what was done.

Much of the academic information about an applicant can be discovered from test scores and grades. Essays should reflect information that cannot be found in transcripts. Colleges and scholarship foundations want to know what inspires applicants and what has meaning for them.

College and university applicants should make sure that applications are filled out completely and that all information required by the institution is submitted prior to the deadline.

In addition to the content of the essay, colleges also look at the quality of writing. Many tips on how to begin can be found either on the Internet or in writing guides available at many libraries or in English textbooks. Applicants should also find an individual to review the essay and give both critical and technical feedback. This person is much more than a proofreader. Grammar and spelling are only part of what makes the essay. In fact, many resources site grammatical and spelling accuracy as a bare minimum for an essay. The proofreader should also be looking for ways to improve wording or add depth to the subject discussed.

In the cases of talent scholarships, portfolios are often either required or suggested. Slides and prints of artwork, tapes and DVD recordings of dance or musical performances, photography, writing samples, internship reports and independent research often illustrate talents effectively. If the college or scholarship foundation accepts those types of submissions, applicants should make an effort to submit examples of their work.

Some applicants allow or require a personal interview. In some circumstances, this must be performed in person. In other cases, a telephone interview is acceptable. While telephone interviews are often more convenient, a personal interview often shows more interest on the part of the application. Where possible, applicants should make an effort to interview in person.

Just like a job interview, applicants should prepare for the interview, dressing appropriately, and preparing for the types of questions they anticipate. If excessive costs or time constraints dictate that the interview take place by telephone, applicants should schedule a time that they will not be interrupted by family or other interferences.

A final requirement by many colleges before applications can be considered is test scores. In the western U.S., most colleges accept the ACT. This standardized test is offered multiple times every year. Locations are established in many communities, so most test takers don't have to travel far to take the test. First-time test takers must fill out the complete application packet. Many students choose to retake the test in an effort to improve their scores. Those who are retaking the test can register online at http://www.actstudent.org/. Tests are generally administered on Saturdays. Those who need special arrangements due to travel distance, disability or religious belief can request an arranged testing that meets their individual circumstances.

ACT scores are ranked on a scale of 1 to 36. The average for high school seniors is generally considered to be 21. A a result, many competitive schools require a score of 21 or above. Fewer than five percent of test takers score above 30 and fewer than 20 percent score above 25.

A second test, less commonly taken by college applicants is the SAT. While many schools require either the SAT or ACT, a handful of schools still require the SAT. The SAT is a two-part test scored on a scale of 200 to 800, with 500 being the median for high school seniors. Any score above 700 is usually considered to be exceptional.

The SAT is offered at fewer locations and is taken by fewer college applicants than the ACT. Like the ACT, the SAT can be retaken multiple times. in both cases, students can request that their best test score be used.

In addition to applications for admission and scholarships, many state schools also require that those seeking scholarships also apply for financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is provided by the U.S. Department of Education for the collection of financial aid information. Applications are often available from high school guidance counselors. A quicker application process has become available in the past couple of years. The entire application process is now online, much like online tax filing services, at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. All FAFSA applicants are required to provide personal information and information regarding earnings, investments and financial assets. Unmarried students under the age of 24 are also required to submit information regarding their parents' financial status.

Even those who likely will not qualify for federal aid are often required to submit a FAFSA before they can be eligible for scholarships. Many colleges look at scholarships as a way to augment the unmet needs of deserving students. After students have exhausted their own financial resources and applied for whatever federal grant and loans are available, colleges then add a scholarship package that is reflective of the student's needs.


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