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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Planning for College in High School
My son will be a junior at BHS in the Fall. His grades are OK, about a 3.3, and he is in the Intl. Baccalaureate program. His PSATs were awful and we will hire a tutor to prepare for hte SATs. HEre's my question: he has talked about taking a gap year which we completely support since it makes more sense to go to university with a little more maturity under his belt. He feels a lot of pressure and anxiety about college from BHS already and tends not to want to talk about it. Does it make sense for him to meet w/ a college counselor not to push him to apply but just to get a sense of things? Can someone recommend a college counselor who will respect his desire to wait an extra year for college (which of course may change) and not add to his anxiety but instead just help him understand the choices he may have (or not have)? I am a helicopter mama in general but am trying to give him space on this one because i know that added anxiety is not what he needs. Would appreciate advice
Taking a one-year break in between high school and college is quite common these days. Such a break can contribute to a student's maturity and sense of purpose, making it much more likely that he or she will succeed in college. It's essential, though, that the gap year be used well. It's of course not advisable for a student to quit school and then flounder for a year. So your son should develop a clear plan for what he is going to do during that year.
As an SAT and ACT tutor myself, I'm very familiar with students' anxieties about taking college entrance tests and about the whole college application process. That process can be very challenging, for students at any achievement level. One remedy is effective test preparation. I can assure you that if your son was unprepared when he took the PSAT, and if he diligently prepares to take the SAT or ACT, his score will improve considerably. Most important, he'll gain confidence that he is indeed well prepared to begin his college years. Raymond
My son is heading into the 11th grade at Oakland Tech. I was
wondering if anyone had any suggestions as he and the family prepare
for the college application craziness in the following year. He is
smart and athletic (varsity), but does not have a straight 4.0 and did
not break 65 on the PSAT's last year in 10th grade.
* Does it make sense to take the SAT's in the fall of Junior Year.
* When is the best time to take and what are the best methods of
prepping for the SAT's?
* How important are the SAT's these days?
* How do you get on the radar of a smaller school's athletic
department? And does this help getting in?
* What are the tricks for getting into the more selective colleges?
* What are the best books on the whole process?
* What are the best ways to get Financial Aid?
* And last but not least, how do you stay sane?
Concerned (but not a helicopter) parent
Does it make sense to take the SATs in the fall of junior year? I would suggest that your son prepare for the test during the fall and winter of 2010/11 in anticipation of taking the SAT in the spring of 2011. He could take the test in March, and if he wishes, retake it in June. It is also offered in May, but taking it again in June would give him a chance to concentrate his preparation on areas where he might need improvement.
What are the best methods of prepping for the SATs? I would recommend intense SAT tutoring with emphasis on both content and strategy. Your son could take a class, such as those offered by the big tutoring companies, or sign up for a program of personal tutoring, where the sessions can be tailored to fit his needs and learning style.
How important are the SATs these days? While the Princeton Review notes that the ACT is being recognized as an alternative, the SAT is still the test most widely accepted for admission to U.S. colleges. The admissions board considers a number of factors in their selection process: overall GPA, SAT/ACT scores, participation in sports and extra-curricular activities, and leadership skills. However, the admissions process is becoming more competitive every year, and adequate preparation for the SAT/ACT may give your son the edge he needs to secure a place in the college of his choice.
I would seek advice from a college counselor on the next few questions. Your son's school should have a counselor who is designated to guide students through the admissions process. If you would like to retain the services of a private counselor, I can recommend several who operate in the East Bay.
How do you stay sane? This is a trying time for both you and your student, but staying calm (outwardly at least) is the best way to help your son. You can also help him by:
1. Making sure that he is fully prepared for important tests. 2. Paying attention to deadlines. 3. Recognizing where he needs help.If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. James
I take it that you and your son have already decided to take the SAT rather than the ACT. Just about every college will accept either test as qualification for admission. These two tests are quite different from one another, however. Some students, given their abilities and skills, can expect to do better on the SAT, others on the ACT. If you are uncertain about which test your son should take, he or you might contact me and we can discuss that matter.
Most colleges will give about as much weight to a student's SAT or ACT test score as to his or her GPA, so it is important to do well on the test. An organization out of UC Berkeley, People's Test Preparation Service, has offered a free SAT prep class at Oakland Tech in past years. I assume they will repeat the class this fall.
Another preparation method is self-study. The ''Official SAT Study Guide'' has good practice tests. This book, however, does not provide effective review for the reading, writing, and math sections of the test. For that purpose, you're better off with the McGraw-Hill or Barron's SAT prep guides.
I recommend against Kaplan, Princeton Review, and the other preparation agencies. The classes they offer are expensive, but typically do not provide students with the individual attention and guidance they need to prepare effectively. The problem, in a nutshell, is this: each student has an individual profile of knowledge and test- taking skills that he or she brings into a preparation class. An SAT preparation instructor, no matter how skilled, cannot effectively address the diversity of needs that is typical in a class of 10-20 students.
Tutoring is a better alternative. You can find a tutor who specializes in the test, SAT or ACT, that your son is going to take. There are specific reading, writing, and math skills that are tested by the SAT and ACT, and there are specific strategies for achieving a high score on these tests. You'll want a tutor who knows how to teach those specific skills and strategies. Good luck! Raymond
Hi - I'd really love some advice from the veterans in this group about the college preparation/selection/application process. Our daughter is completing her sophomore year at BHS, and we know it will soon be time to ramp up. I could really use a timeline. When are the SATs? When do kids start to work with tutors to prepare for the SAT? How do we begin to narrow down her choices of colleges? When to visit? Which to visit? I am completely in the dark here. I think my daughter would benefit from some discussion about what to even look for in a college and which colleges might be a good fit for her. Are those counselors out there? Berkeley High is too vast to rely on for these types of questions. My daughter is introverted and bookish and Berkeley High has been a bad fit for her and her confidence has suffered as a result. So I want to make sure she has all the resources necessary to make good, informed, timely decisions about college. Really could use some help learning how to jump start this whole daunting process. Thanks!!
My daughter took charge of her college selection and application process and that was highly encouraged by the college counselors at Berkeley High but that's not to say she didn't have their help along the way. The College Center at Berkeley High was very responsive to her needs, had plenty of good advice, were very supportive, and among many other services had practical ways of helping her figure out what schools might be a good fit for her.
The College Center at Berkeley High has a website that links to handbooks they've compiled that lists and explains all of the steps you and your daughter will need to take, from things like information about SATs, when to visit colleges, when to apply for financial aid, to the final step when you need to notify the college of your choice that you will be attending.
I know it may not seem like it right now but Berkeley High can be a wonderful resource for your daughter and for you, and of all the administrative departments at Berkeley High I found the College Center to be one of the most accessible when my daughter needed help. Here's a link to their website:
The school will notify you when there are college presentations, SAT prep classes, financial aid workshops, etc., that are available. These were tremendously helpful to us.
Besides this great resource the internet is a treasure trove of information about colleges. I found sites like UNIGO, College Confidential, College Prowler which provide reviews written by current and former students to be very helpful. Since many of the reviews are anonymous students are free to express exactly what they think about everything from their professors, to the the dorms, the surrounding town or city, etc, etc. Although these reviews are very subjective after reading a few you begin to get a consensus pretty quickly about a variety of topics. And of course there are a lot of books out there that you can buy that do the same but I found everything I needed on the internet for free. Good Luck!!!
It is more difficult to get into ''top'' colleges now than 30 years ago (partly due to inflated numbers of applications). However, there is a place for everyone, so refrain from agonizing and over-emphasizing college trips, essays for private schools, etc! Top educations are widely available at less prestigious schools, and in the long run the prestige of the school doesn't matter to your student's happiness in life.
Many juniors take the SAT or ACT test in fall of their junior year or the following spring; some re-take tests in spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year. AP tests are usually May of junior year. College applications aren't due until November of the senior year for the following fall.
Your student only need apply to one or two ''safety'' schools (ones he/she's overqualified for), a couple of middle-range schools, and one or two ''reach'' schools. Students usually hear about admissions/rejections in March or April, and commit to one college by May 1 of their senior year. Been There, Going Again
Our son is a senior in high school, with college admissions decisions due soon. He has been difficult for a long time, very smart but academics have been up and down. We've recently determined that he has been suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety disorder and is starting treatment for that, including cognitive behavior therapy and medication. The timing is horrible with college decision pressures coming up and uncertainty about his condition (on top of this, his condition caused his performance at school to deteriorate last semester to the point of hurting his college admissions chances). We would like some referrals for the right type of professional to give us some advice based on experience. Concerned parent
There are a lot of pressures on high school students seeking admission to a good 4-year college. You seem to be taking effective measures to help your son deal with his situation. Here are some additional suggestions:
First, you might consider delaying college entrance for a year. Sometimes the extra time can do wonders for a young person's state of mind.
Second, you might consider finding someone to help your son prepare for college. Could be a counselor/advisor at the high school, if you can find someone who will give your son some sustained personal attention. You might take a look at the ''College Admissions Consultants'' page of BPN to get recommendations for specific persons who help students ''get their act together'' to apply to college.
You might consider as well obtaining tutoring for your son to improve his work in school and/or do well on the college admissions exams: SAT, ACT, subject tests and AP tests. Usually tutors offer a free first-time consultation -- your son and you can meet with a tutor and decide whether he/she will provide the help you're looking for.
Finally. you may find interesting an article in the March 1 issue of the New Yorker on the subject of medical approaches to depression: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/03/01/100301crat_atlarge_menand The author, Louis Menand, is a very thoughtful English professor and journalist. Good luck!
My teenage son is a senior in high school who went to the local community college (as part of the early college program in the private school he was enrolled in) for 10 and 11 for all subjects but didn't do very well in all subjects. He has a terrible GPA (3) and we had to switch him to the local public school for his final year. The local public school didn't change the grades to reflect college credits. He has good SAT scores (1800), but the low GPA is causing him lots of problems to apply to colleges he wants to (engineering). We are open for private colleges, but not sure if public colleges will even look at his application and see that all the courses he took were college level - he has A's in math and some other but C's and D's in many other. I am not too sure that he can go back to the community college after graduating to retake the courses and improve his GPA as he has already attended the community college classes and may not be motivated. I think a 4-year college would be better for him to be interested. He is a bright, intelligent kid but gets easily distracted with the typical teen online interests (games, youtube, facebook) and procastrination. He has little extra curricular activities or sports to show. He finds the local public school too easy now that he has learned his lessons that he messed up. Do college admission counsellors look at the credits and see that the teen has attempted challenging courses and take that into account? We did apply to a few CSUs but worried as to what to do. anonymous
First of all, on the online college app for CSU / UC it allows you to put either the private school grades or the community college grades - we found it easier to put the community college down for the grades. Because he's applying as a freshman, those grades are considered ''college level''. On your private school transcript, you should find he received an extra grade point for his ''college level'' classes. That's the payoff for CL, AP and IB courses - they're considered harder for high school students and the GPA is weighted accordingly.
Secondly, a 3.0 is a pretty good GPA - it is not terrible, especially for someone taking college level courses in high school.
Thirdly, UC/CSU and many private college really like people who take community college courses because they have agreements on course content and transfer credit, so a freshman may actually have completed lower-division work - this is especially great for lab courses.
As to retaking courses, talk to the community college guidance councilor. Usually a college course is an independent student record (not a high school record, although they can accept the course/grade from college) if the student took it via the college, and it's his decision as to retake.
The CSU guidance office also can advise you, as they get lots of students with college credit from high school nowadays - make an appointment with them to talk.
Finally, the student's lack of involvement in activities is more worrisome to admissions. If he is seriously interested in engineering, seeking out an internship via community college, involving himself in FIRST robotics competition, volunteering to help people learn computing or taking additional engineering courses would send a strong signal that your son is serious about his field of study. He needs to show dedication to his life goal - and explain it to an admissions officer.
If he needs more time, seriously consider having him complete community college for transfer. Talk to the college councilors. They are his best resource. Good luck. Lynne
Through a series of unfortunate events, our daughter was stuck (trapped) last year as a BHS freshman with a geometry teacher whose first language was/is Mandarin. Math is not my daughter's long suite, and it became obvious at the start that this was not a good fit. Unable to change teachers, kid toughed out the year and ended up with D+ in subject (to her total mortification and despite best efforts), which we attribute largely to the language barrier. Question: since we've learned this will remain on her transcript when she applies to college, how significant is the presence of this grade? Our kid is an honors student and we consider this a total, unfortunate aberration; she's about to retake the class and has every intention of improving her grade. Will colleges care about this? Impact on her GPA? She is stellar in the literary arts and headed to some small East Coast liberal arts college. Trying to put this whole thing in perspective and not wanting one bad grade/one incomprehensible teacher to undermine an otherwise great high school career. Looking at big picture
While you may feel that the teacher is at fault, please realize that this issue is water under the bridge. Focus on the needs of the present. Good luck. Lynne
I'm hoping that I haven't misled my freshman BHS student concerning the importance of her current grades vis a vis college, and would really appreciate some feedback. Can you please tell me how important grades are in the ninth grade year to college admissions? I've long been under the impression that colleges only look at transcripts for sophomore-senior years, and that ninth grade grades, effectively, are not factored in to the overall GPA equation for college admissions. Is this accurate? If ninth grade grades are included, are they weighted any differently? And here's an underlying question and concern: Is a C in Geometry anything to worry about in an otherwise straight A freshman student's record? She's upset about this grade and I told her not to worry as it didn't matter, but then it occured to me, well, maybe it does. It's been such a long time since I've dealt with these issue and I'd like to give my daughter more current and accurate information. Thanks so much
My 17 yo hs senior is bright, talented, social, disorganized and lazy....you know the type....friends more important than school, does ''well enough'' in school but could do better with a little more effort. So, he's taking his time in his college investigation. He'll only accept ''just so much'' of our help (and nagging). He has a list of places he's really interested in. We've visited a few, but can't visit all.
I'd like to know what is the time line for applications. When do they have to be IN THE MAILBOX (or Fax), Can you write one essay and pretty much use them for all apps? Does he REALLY NEED a college consultant? I''m a really organized person and a pretty good writer so I think I can help him...what are they looking for in these essays? Any theatre majors out there? What kind of portfolio is necessary? He wants to study stage management. How competitive is this field? How many colleges are reasonable to apply to (we have 2 safety colleges). Thanks for any info....are we running late already? mom of teens
Here we are 8 years later, and I can still remember that painful Sunday afternoon when I had to insist that my son sit down with me at the dining room table and look at the numbers I had. There was a lot of resistance. I had to make an appointment with him since he was always ''busy''. Raised voices were involved. It was not easy. But, faced with the facts, he finally recognized that in fact he wasn't going to any of the UCs, and if he didn't do something in the next week or two, he wouldn't be going to college at all in the fall. Together we came up with a list of other colleges that interested him, and to his credit, he followed up himself and did the online applications. It all worked out! Whew. That was a hard one though. Good luck - hang in there. Mom of a college grad
Maybe looking at that application would help get your son moving? If you're thinking about some private schools, and not considering ''early decision'' or ''early action'', then most of those deadlines are around the 1st of January. Many of them also take the same application and essays (the ''common application''), though it's NOT the same application/essays that UCs take and each private school usually has its own ''supplement''--additional forms or essays that have to be done.
Like you, I'm a pretty organized person, and though I talked to a couple of college consultants, I really felt (and they agreed) that we could do everything ourselves. There are cases where having a consultant helps, and if your son needs a fire lit under him to get started on the process, that may be one of those cases. If the whole process seems completely overwhelming to both of you, that may also be a reason to hire someone, but you sound like you can handle it! We did hire someone to read through my daughter's essay and make suggestions, and I think that was worthwhile. It can be hard for a parent to judge how their child's writing will be perceived.
My advice to you: buy a few different kinds of college books (if you haven't already). Then, sit down with your son and come up with a calendar to cover deadlines for schools he already thinks he's interested in (by looking at each school's WEB site), including deadlines with his high school, for asking for teacher recommendations and transcripts. My daughter and I did that for a couple of intense weekends in a row. Then she pasted the calendar up on her bedroom wall and it served her very well. Good luck! Freshman Mom
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