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April 6, 2007

Planning Your College Route

   Since the focus of Teen Ink's April issue is college, we think it's a great time to listen to what Stephanie Demalon, Senior Admissions Counselor at Carlow University, has to say. Here's her expert advice:

  Have you ever noticed how long people take to decide what vehicle to purchase? How many hours are spent logged on the Internet searching for the irighti make, model, color and accessories? As a society, we take our time and investigate larger, tangible purchases; however, when we have to purchase an intangible product, the time spent searching for the right ivehiclei is often greatly diminished.

   One of the largest purchases students and parents make is a college education. Selecting the right educational environment is what idrivesi an individualis future success. The earlier you begin your college search, the better. Investigating your options during the college search process will help you make a solid decision when the final selection needs to be made. Choosing the right college will help you idown the roadi when choosing a major and, ultimately, a career.

  As a Senior Admissions Counselor for 14 years, I am often asked, iWhat should I be doing, when?i There are many variables that students and parents can control during and throughout the studentis high school career. Believe it or not, the college admissions process starts well before the beginning of senior year of high school; it commences in the freshman year.

  When I conduct presentations for parents and students who are freshmen, I highly recommend a strategic plan for the college search. First, arrange a meeting with your guidance counselor to discuss options for the academic coursework at the high school level. Always take the academic course scheduling seriously. If there are any doubts about what route to take, always choose the college preparatory route. Admissions officers are impressed when reviewing applicant files to see that a student has challenged herself/himself by choosing to take honors, advanced placement or college credit coursework while still in high school. Students need to continually stay focused on their academics and maintain a strong attendance record. Doing so indicates a motivation to succeed and a strong commitment to education.

  Second, register early for standardized tests, (PSAT, SAT, ACT). If you know that you struggle when taking tests, take advantage of preparatory workshops to ease your anxiety. It is critical to take your SAT/ACT tests more than once to better position yourself for admission and for scholarships. Schedule these tests at the end of your junior year, during the summer between your junior and senior years as well as the first time they are offered in your senior year. While these tests are not the only indicators of who gets admitted, they are part of the equation and need to be factored in.

   Third, students and parents need to assess where the strength of their students lies. If mathematics or the sciences are not your forte, for example, do not plan to major in nursing or pre-med! Be realistic when planning your goals. If you are unsure of the career you want to pursue, it is okay to enter college as an undeclared major. Choosing what you will do for the rest of your life is a daunting decision. However, if you are thinking about a specific career, I recommend job shadowing to gain insight into the specific responsibilities of different positions. Utilize occupational handbooks from your guidance office, local library, or the internet to garner information about careers that interest you.

   As your college search becomes a reality, there are key elements that need to be considered for each college of interest. Distance, size, location, major, housing and campus life are the six factors that will impact the overall collegiate experience. Finding the right ifiti for the student is critical for his/her overall success. Closely examining these six factors will establish a comfort level for all concerned.

  The most proactive approach to conducting a successful college search is visiting. Most schools will accommodate individual visits for students and parents and, of course, there are always open house events to attend. I highly recommend that students and parents attend both as each visit to a school provides greater insight. During your visit, ask numerous questions about admissions requirements, financial aid options (including scholarship deadlines), campus activities, and general academic issues, such as advising, retention, and internship opportunities. The more informed and prepared students and parents are to go through this process, the smoother the transition will be. As you think of relevant questions, write them down in a iCollege Searchi journal. It is a convenient way to keep all of your thoughts, ideas and questions in one place. As a veteran admissions professional, I applaud my students and parents who come to the visits well-prepared. It shows initiative, commitment and dedication to the entire process. Remember that this process is all about you… what you want your educational experience to be and how you want to experience it.

   Put the ibrakesi on your fear of the college search process. Instead, irev upi and iignitei your passion for your future collegiate success.

Stephanie Demalon has been a positive contributor to the field of college admissions for fourteen years. In that time, she has honed her skills at three diverse academic institutions, recruited over 4,000 students and won several national awards including the prestigious Art Institutes International Presidents Club, six Outstanding Admission Achievement Awards, two Outstanding Admissions Service Awards, and the Crystal Award for outstanding corporate admissions achievement. Stephanie is passionate about the field of higher education and assisting students and parents in achieving their educational goals.

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