Expert offers five tips for getting started early in the college planning process
Ann Arbor, Mich. — July 22, 2014 – While the jokes about getting children into the right pre-school to maximize Ivy League school admissions may be far-fetched, middle school through freshman year of high school is not too early to do some preliminary college planning, according to Tim Parros, a certified college planning specialist and founder of Ann Arbor-based Parros College Planning.
“Students should be well on the way to knowing the school of their choice, scholarship options and appropriate academic matches by their sophomore year of high school,” Parros said. “That knowledge comes from laying the groundwork in middle school and early high school.”
Parros offers five tips on how students in sixth to ninth grade can gain an edge in the competitive college admissions game:
- Get into scholarship mode by researching essay and speech contests geared to middle school and early high school students. For example, Optimist International offers an annual oratorical contest with financial awards and many affinity groups such as veterans’ organizations, religious organizations, local banks, credit unions and community foundations offer essay-based scholarship opportunities.
- Participate in a full or half day job shadow to gain insights into the positives and negatives of a career field that initially sparks a student’s interest
- Learn to type! The ability to type quickly and accurately keeps students up to speed with their peers and better prepares them for college. Plus, college essays are harder to write when using the hunt and peck approach!
- Engage in a volunteer or service project. Volunteerism continues to be a critical differentiator in the college admission process. Students who adopt volunteer service as a way of life before high school are more likely to take on leadership roles in a volunteer organization or charitable event throughout one’s high school years.
- Practice, practice, practice! It’s not unusual for high achieving students to first take the ACT or the SAT in seventh or eighth grade. Additionally, students should routinely take online practice exams to improve their test-taking strategies and skills. Statistics show the more a student takes practice exams, especially the practice-SAT (PSAT), the more likely his or her score will increase; and the higher the score, the greater the chances of gaining acceptance to one’s school of choice and receiving financial aid.
“Many students and families don’t start the college conversation until sophomore or junior year of high school,” Parros said. “Unfortunately, that delayed approach can greatly hinder students’ chances of getting into their top choice school. Parents and students should take every step possible, as early as possible, to set the stage for college admissions success.”