I love being able to provide advice about all things senior related, not just when it comes to senior photos. Thinking about college and getting all of your ducks in a row can be super stressful, I actually just went through it myself. You want to make sure you go about everything correctly, so I invited Allison Grandits of Grand Fit Educational Consulting to share the top 4 mistakes she see parents making in the college admission process.
After working with hundreds of students as a high school counselor and now as an Independent Educational Consultant, I’ve witnessed many mistakes families make when approaching the college admissions process. Below are some of the most common, and what you can do to avoid them.
#1: Waiting until Junior year to begin the process
Junior year is arguably one of the busiest years of high school. Your student most likely is taking more challenging courses than ever before, preparing for and taking the SAT/ACT, holding a leadership position and/or a job, among other things. I have seen many students who academically overload themselves to the point of exhaustion, which ultimately helps no one. Because two of the most critical factors in college admissions are grades in academic courses and course rigor, being proactive in planning out classes, as early as ninth grade, can help with these factors tremendously. Prior planning also helps students obtain the mindset that every grade and course matters, which in turn removes some of the pressure from Junior year. It is also helpful to take an exploratory college visit or go to a local college fair during Sophomore year, so your student can begin thinking of the most important factors to them in a college.
#2: Assuming that your student will be eligible for the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship
I have had many difficult conversations with families who discover during Senior year that their student with the 90 numeric average won’t be eligible for the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship. I partly blame the school districts who add weight to the actual grade instead of the converted GPA, which is why it is vital to instill in your student that every grade matters. I also try to educate my students that while there is not a big difference between a 79 and an 80 numerically, there is a huge difference between a 2.0 and a 3.0, which is how colleges and the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) calculate GPA. Also, a numeric average typically is cumulative and includes all of the courses on your transcript, like electives and middle school courses awarded high school credit. In contrast, the Georgia Student Finance Commission only considers academic courses (English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and World Language) taken while in high school. Have your student regularly check their GAFutures account to monitor their progress towards the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship.
#3: Only considering public schools in Georgia
If your student is eligible for the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship, it’s easy to justify your reason for considering in-state public schools. While HOPE covers about 80-85% of tuition and ZELL 100% of tuition, families are still responsible for fees, books, room/board, and personal expenses, making 1-year at a public school still $13-21k/year, for students who don’t live at home. There are many out-of-state public schools, as well as private colleges, who offer incredibly generous merit-based scholarships for students who would be eligible for HOPE/Zell Miller- it just takes a little digging.
#4: Only visiting colleges after your student has been accepted
College is one of the most substantial investments your family will make, and it is often the first significant decision your high school student makes in their life. The college they choose will ideally be their home for four (or more) years. More than likely, you visited your house more than once, while shopping for a new place to live. In addition to the tour, you most likely looked at the neighborhood, the town, the amenities, the schools, etc. Shopping for a college should be a similar process. Plan to spend at least half a day (ideally a full day) on campus, so your student can go beyond the information session and the tour. Ideally, your student will visit when school is in session, meet with a professor from their intended program, check out the residence and dining halls, and talk to students (not just the tour guide). Check out the town the night before, go to a sporting event or play, and allow your student to immerse him/herself in the campus life. While admitted student days are often an excellent way to learn about programs, they may not provide the most accurate portrayal of the institution, since they are trying to “woo” your student into enrolling. Also, many schools consider demonstrated interest in decision making, and campus visits are one of the best ways to show interest in the school.
Allison Grandits is an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC). She is a member of HECA (Higher Educational Consulting Association) and SACAC (Southern Association of College Admissions Counselors).
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