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Did you know . . .
That college graduates earn substantially more money than high school graduates? Here is a breakdown of the average 2008 earnings by college degree:
The courses you take in high school are important.
Whether you plan to attend a 4-year college, 2-year community college, or technical school, take at least five academic classes every semester in high school to develop skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and reasoning. Colleges are looking for a solid foundation of learning that you can build upon. Keep in mind that even though they may not be required for high school graduation, most colleges prefer the following:
- 4 years of English
- 3 years of math (including Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II)
- 3 years of laboratory science
- 3 years of social studies
- 2-3 years of the same foreign language
- Courses in fine arts and computer science are strongly recommended
Take academics seriously and keep your grades up.
Your high school grades are important and the difficulty of your courses may be a factor in a college’s decision to offer you admission. College admission officers will pay close attention to your grade point average (GPA), class rank, Advanced Placement (AP), and other honors-level courses, as well as your scores on standardized tests and state exams such as the Regents in New York State. Regents’ scores are reflected on your transcript and will be viewed by colleges. So, challenge yourself by taking tougher courses AND maintaining good grades. Not only will this help prepare you for standardized tests (such as the PSAT, SAT and ACT) but it will also determine your eligibility for some colleges. Many high school seniors realize their grade point average is too low for the colleges they wish to attend simply because of the grades they earned in the 9th and 10th grades. Don’t let this happen to you! All grades count from 9th to 12th.
Get to know your teachers, counselor and principal.
Show them that you are both serious about learning and are a hard worker. When you begin applying to college in a couple of years, you will have people who know you well. Those who know you well will write the strongest recommendation letters.
Review your transcript yearly, especially if a grade has been changed on your report card by a teacher or a transcript update has been submitted by your counselor. Be sure to have these changes verified by your parent/guardian. This is crucial as teachers and counselors retire and without written proof, your transcript and GPA may be negatively affected.
Be sure to check out the College Board's 20 Questions to Ask Your School Counselor.
In school activities . . . community service . . . part-time work Find something you like and stick to it! Colleges pay attention to your life outside of the classroom and value these types of experiences. Begin getting involved now. Be sure to keep (and update regularly) a list of your activities, awards, honors, jobs, and offices you have held in organizations. Colleges want to see passion and commitment, and the key is not to be involved in every club but to select a few that really appeal to you.
It is not the quantity but the quality and longevity of involvement in activities or organizations that matters. For example, if, as a 9th grader, you join the school newspaper and are a club reporter and then in 10th grade become a sports' reporter, in 11th, a sports' editor and in 12th, the editor-in-chief, it demonstrates growth in leadership. In community service, the same applies. It is not a sign of commitment if you simply do a March of Dimes Walk once a year for four years. Rather, you should find something in which you have an avid interest. Whether it is an animal shelter, a nursing home, or a soup kitchen, the idea is that you stay and put in significant time. As your commitment becomes obvious to the program coordinator, you should be given more responsibility and by your fourth year, a special project which you lead. For example, if you were to work in a nursing home and gained the respect and trust of those in charge, by the fourth year, they might acknowledge your sense of responsibility and leadership skills allowing you to plan, implement, and supervise a special program like a "Seniors Prom."
Make the most of your summer.
Keep busy by doing something meaningful such as finding a summer job, identifying a volunteer experience in a career field that interests you, learning or perfecting a skill or hobby, going to summer school to get ahead or catch up, attending a summer program or camp, and catching up on your reading. Additional ideas include the following:
- Find a community service project and commit significant hours
- Attend a summer camp and hone your testing skills, athletic skills, or a hobby such as music
- Find a summer college program where you can attend to master subject areas of interest or leadership training
- Go to summer school to advance or to repeat a subject that was failed
- Utilize the 10th grade reading lists for English, social studies, etc. to complete assignments and free up time during the beginning of the school year
What does it all mean?
ACT – A college entrance examination generally taken during the junior and/or senior year that assesses a student’s general educational development and his/her ability to complete college-level work. The ACT is comprised of four subject tests — English, mathematics, reading, and science and an optional writing test (essay).
AP (Advanced Placement) – Courses and exams that enable high school students to earn college credit or advanced standing at most American colleges and universities. Currently, there are 37 courses and exams in 22 subject areas available through the College Board.
Associate Degree – The associate degree is awarded to students who complete a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.0 GPA and are offered at two-year community colleges.
Athletics – Colleges and universities belong to leagues that have their own rules, regulations, and eligibility requirements.
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) – Division I and II schools offer athletic scholarships and students are required to meet NCAA’s academic requirements. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships and students are not required to meet NCAA academic requirements.
A future student athlete should meet with his/her counselor as early as possible to review the NCAA requirements to ensure he/she is taking the right high school courses.
NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) – NAIA schools have an option of awarding full or partial scholarships. In order to play a sport or receive an athletic scholarship, a student must meet eligibility requirements.
NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) – NJCAA Division I and II schools offer scholarships, while Division III schools do not. There are no academic eligibility requirements for student athletes entering junior or community colleges.
Bachelor’s Degree (also called Baccalaureate Degree) – The bachelor’s degree is awarded to students who complete a minimum of 120 college credits and are found at four-year colleges and universities.
Certificate Programs – Certificate programs provide specific job skills, require a minimum of 30 college credits and are generally offered at community colleges.
Citizenship Status – Students with U.S. citizenship or legal residency, who qualify for financial assistance, will be able to receive federal financial aid. Students who do not currently possess U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status are advised to consult their families now to begin the citizenship application process. Pending applications for citizenship do not count.
Class Rank – Many high schools use class rank to show where a student stands academically in relation to other members in his/her graduating class. The student who has the highest GPA is number one in the class. The student with the second highest GPA is number two, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to have a high GPA in order to have an impressive class rank.
Community/Junior College – A community/junior college is also known as a two-year school. Courses offered include a transfer curriculum with credits transferable toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college and an occupational or technical curriculum with courses of study designed to prepare students for employment in two years.
Credit – College courses are measured in credit hours and typical college classes are 3 credit hours. A full-time student will generally take 15 college credits, or 4 to 5 classes, per semester or quarter.
Early Action – Early admissions programs which do not ask applicants to commit to attending if they are accepted are known as Early Action (EA) programs. These programs give students the benefits of early notification without the obligations of Early Decision (ED – see below). Even if admitted, students are permitted to apply to other colleges and to compare financial aid offers. Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) programs specifically require students not to make EA applications to other colleges, although they are free to apply elsewhere under the regular admissions requirements.
Early Decision – Early Decision (ED) programs permit students to apply to college early (usually in November of the senior year in high school) and receive an admission decision earlier than the usual notification. ED commitments are usually binding – meaning that the applicant promises from the start to attend the first choice college if his/her application is accepted. Since colleges honor one another's binding decisions, it is unlikely that another competitive college will accept the applicant. Students can seek release from an early decision obligation based on financial hardship, if the financial aid package they are offered is genuinely inadequate. However, proving a financial hardship is the responsibility of the student.
FAFSA – The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for students wishing to apply for financial aid - including federal, state, and campus-based aid - and is available online. The FAFSA should be completed as soon after January 1 of the senior year in high school, even if the family taxes have not been filed.
GPA (Grade Point Average) – The average of a student's semester (or end of term) grades, starting with the freshman year. Although there are variations, most schools use the 4.0 scale in which an A=4; B=3; C=2; D=1. If a student has all A's he/she has a 4.0 GPA. If a student has A's in half of his/her courses and B's in the other half, he/she has a 3.5 GPA.
Some schools have “weighted grades” for honors and/or AP courses. If a high school has weighted grades, then a grade in a weighted course is worth more than it is in a non-weighted course. For example, an A in an honors course might be worth 5 points instead of the usual 4, a B worth 4 points instead of 3, etc.
A variety of methods are used to determine GPA. Regardless of the method used, the higher the grades, the higher the GPA, and the higher the GPA, the greater the college and scholarship opportunities.
IB (International Baccalaureate) – IB programs promote the education of the whole person, emphasizing intellectual, personal, emotional, and social growth. Diploma students take six subjects, write a 4,000 word extended essay, complete a course in theory of knowledge, as well as complete a number of creativity, action, and service projects. IB diplomas are recognized by the world’s leading universities and may result in awarding of college credit and/or scholarships.
Major – The primary field of study in which an individual wishes to receive a degree.
Minor – A second field of study requiring fewer credit hours than a major.
PLAN – A "pre ACT" test that also assists students with their career and college planning. Typically PLAN is administered in the fall of the sophomore year.
PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) – A practice test for the SAT that is also used to determine National Merit finalists. The PSAT/NMSQT is given in October, primarily to juniors, and measures critical reading, math problem-solving and writing skills.
Recommendation - Most colleges request two or three letters of recommendation when submitting an application for admission. These are generally written by people who know you inside and outside of the classroom (usually an academic teacher and a college advisor/school counselor). So, be sure to begin establishing relationships with teachers and counselors now! SAT Reasoning Test – A college entrance examination generally taken during the junior and/or senior year that measures the critical thinking skills needed for academic success in college. The SAT includes critical reading, mathematics and writing sections.
SAT II: Subject Tests – One-hour tests that measure a student’s knowledge in specific subject areas that should be taken as the high school subjects are completed. These tests are required by some of the more competitive colleges.
Transcript – A document that details a student’s academic achievement in high school. Although the appearance of the transcript varies from school to school, all high school transcripts generally contain the following information: Courses, grades, and credits for each grade completed, beginning with grade nine; current cumulative GPA and class rank; anticipated graduation date; PLAN, PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT scores. An unofficial transcript is exactly the same as an official transcript except that there is no signature, stamp, or seal.