Applying to college can be daunting. According to U.S. News & World Report, hundreds of colleges exist nationwide.
In California alone, 191 colleges offer four-year undergraduate degrees.
The most popular public college campuses belong to the California State University (CSU) system and the University of California (UC) system. These institutions offer lower tuition rates and provide financial aid for most in-state applicants.
In addition, California is home to many popular private colleges that have higher tuition costs, such as the University of Southern California (USC) and Stanford University. Financial aid and scholarships for these institutions are often rewarded to students with a history of academic excellence.
Out-of-state and international colleges often cost more to attend and offer less financial aid.
With all these options, how does your child decide on which college to attend?
Depending on her future career goals, she must consider a number of factors.
Each college has its own strengths. Some offer courses and majors that are unavailable at other institutions and some can help students more easily obtain certain jobs compared to others.
Colleges such as Stanford University in California, Princeton University in New Jersey, and Yale University in Connecticut are consistently ranked among the Top 10 Colleges in America by sources such as Forbes and U.S. News and World Report. These schools gain their prestige for a wide range of reasons, from helping graduates obtain high-paying jobs to making world-changing scientific discoveries.
Your child must do research on which colleges offer her the programs she needs to help her reach her career goals. When I began the college-application process in high school, my school provided students with a career center that helped them determine what career would be best suited for them. It also employed counselors trained in helping students learn about different colleges.
At Dojo Academy, we also have a counseling program to help students complete their applications in order to become competitive college candidates. The sooner you set up an appointment with us, the sooner we’ll be able to help your child write her profile.
To help your child gain admission into her dream college, make a checklist of things that she needs to do and keep her on track. Here is a general timeline of what she should be doing, and what you can do to support her during the application process:
Throughout high school, encourage her to keep her grades up, participate in extracurricular activities, and do volunteer work. Colleges look for well-rounded applicants who are committed leaders and excel in their work. I kept my GPA above a 4.0, played tennis, and joined a science program that required volunteer hours.
Beginning summer after her freshman year of high school:
- Ask her about her ideal career and encourage her to volunteer/intern/work in that field.
Exposing her to the work will help her decide if she really likes it or not. Once she has decided on a possible career choice, choosing her major will be easier once she applies for college.
Beginning the summer after her sophomore year of high school:
- Remind her to look into colleges. Look at location, tuition, and programs offered by the colleges.
- She should take tours of the colleges if possible.
- Ask her to tell you about her top five college choices.
- Tell her to look into and apply for financial aid and scholarships.
- She should ask her teachers for letters of recommendation by the end of her junior year.
- Remind her to study for and take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) during the spring of her junior year.
Beginning the summer after her junior year of high school:
- She should be writing her personal statements and short essays.
- She should still be applying for financial aid and scholarships.
- She should check and write down the application deadlines for the colleges to which she plans to apply.
- She may have to consider taking the SAT again if her first score was unsatisfactory.
- Prepare the necessary information she’ll need for the various college applications (such as Common App, UC App, or CSU App).
If you follow this timeline, once your child starts her senior year of high school, she’ll have the majority of her application ready. Having her application prepared will give her time to have others look over it and help her fix it to perfection.
The application deadlines for the various CSUs and UCs are usually at the end of November. Most other schools also have their deadline around this time of year. However, your child must check as different colleges will have different deadlines.
Colleges usually send out their acceptance or rejection letters by February or March.
As a parent, you will probably need to pay for their applications. The application is not cheap. Applications usually cost about $55 for each CSU and $70 per UC. If your family income is low, your child will be able to apply for application fee waivers, federal grants, and loans. If your child excels academically, she may be eligible for grants. Nonetheless, you should set some money aside for this process.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be filled out by everyone to see if they’re eligible for any type of financial assistance. Be sure to have your tax records available to your child so she can input the file into the application. The deadline for the FAFSA is on March 2nd for California students.
Some students will be accepted into a college of their choice. After I graduated from high school, I spent the next four years studying at the University of California, Riverside where I received my bachelor’s degree.
Many students who do not get into the college they wanted often opt to go to a community college for their first two years of college instead. During those years, students take all of their lower-division courses. They must do exceptionally well in their classes and stay on track. Once they’ve completed these courses, they are required to transfer to a four-year college. The better their grades, the more likely they’ll be to get into their desired college.
Once they transfer to a four-year school, they are expected to complete their upper-division courses in two years. Upon completion of these classes, the student will be able to graduate with a degree from the four- year college.
Two of my friends took the route described above. They had GPAs above 4.0 and above average SAT scores, participated in clubs, played team sports, and did volunteer work. They were both accepted to a UC, but not into the one they wanted. After getting As in all of their lower-division classes at community college, they were able to transfer to the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and received their bachelor’s degrees.
If you are ever confused or lost about the college application process, Dojo Academy is here to help. Feel free to contact us.
Author: Catherine Nguyen, B.A. English
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The Common Application