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The 15 Minute Launching Pad for College

The choice of where, how, when, and what to study can be quite an ordeal for many students planning for college. For many students, even after going through a progressive process over a two year period, the college decision may become even muddier. Proper focus on your aptitude and ability, and what makes for a sensible college and ultimate career choice is vitally important, saves time, and may avoid poorly considered and irrecoverable career decisions.

Only you can make that important decision regarding where to attend college and what to study that can lead to a viable career. One may encounter well meaning but misguided advice from friends, family, counselors, reading sources and even the Internet. Sportademics.com has summarized a multitude of resources to produce an efficient, realistic plan that can be digested in 15 minutes to launch your college decision making. Please follow the launching pad outline and hopefully in a busy world this will assist decisively at a crucial time in your life cycle – the College Decision.

1. Assuming the department of your projected major is reputable, seek to attend the best school where you are accepted that you can afford (or otherwise attend with financial assistance). The national average this year for college graduates with bachelor’s degrees obtaining a job after graduation in their field was 63%. Georgetown’s rate was 96% by comparison.

2. Take courses and preparatory tests for the ACT and SAT college admission tests. Studies reveal statistically higher scores with preparation. These tests may also get you over the hump for scholarship and admission.

3. Don’t get hung up on dorms and living arrangements, senior classes, abroad study, church, sports, or extracurricular activities. All these matters have been worked out far in advance of your entrance. Many fellow students will have the same religion, desire for sports, and study abroad, etc. It is school and your college education that counts. All colleges have multiple options, but many require your living in a dorm for at least the first year. Choose a roommate you don’t know. Studies support a better college experience with an unknown roommate. Use the roommate match process if provided. You’ve been with your hometown buddies for years. They will still be your friends without necessarily being your roommate.

4. Pursue Advanced Placement (AP) transfer credits by taking tough classes in high school and preparing for the AP tests. Get the very best grades in high school you can taking the highest tier college requirements with your schedule containing English, Math, World Language, Science, Social Science, and Arts. As a senior you may spurt, develop confidence, and reach much higher than you previously envisioned.

5. Initially during the college decision process much will be thrown at you such as career and job placements post college, graduate school admission placements, food plans, computers, off campus housing, student unions, libraries, male to female ratios, sports and Intramurals, fraternities, sororities, bikes/scooters/transportation/parking/cars, etc. Bottom line is that much of this is for orientation week–right now get into the best affordable school you can that has a superb department in your chosen field of study. There is no legitimate college that has not figured out all these ancillary student needs and services. All colleges have libraries with quiet areas, varying cafeteria plans, and hang out areas.

6. Finances: apply for scholarships repeatedly, make phone calls (If I was on the bubble with another student, a phone call may get you in and even get you scholarship funding. Borrow as little money as needed. You will be responsible for the loan and the government will find and fine you for nonpayment. It is good to work part time depending on your schedule.

7. Community colleges are fine choices as well, as some of the very best students come from community colleges, saves tons of money, and may have easier access to part time work. Transferring to a four year college after the community college experience is highly legitimate.

8. Essay – this is a biggie:

- Be personal and creative with depth; and write about something you know with a purpose - I wrote about gunnel jumping a canoe and it worked.

- Express your attitudes, beliefs, feelings, personal qualities and imagination. Engage the reader.

- Answer the essay inquiry – specifically the college may give you a topic, or they may allow you to write your own.

- Preparation of the writing is vital – have a specific purpose, tone, and goal in mind. Little facts are im portant and make a difference.

- Organization is key. Tell a story and read it to family, teachers, and friends.

- Write a draft; let it sit for a couple days and then come back and see how it sounds. Don’t be too rigid and make the minor changes that need to be made.

- Do not confuse the reader–and that is why others need to read the essay.

- Don’t speculate about matters you think the admissions and scholarship committees might want to read ( i.e., environment ); be specific, get to the point and no more without exaggeration; be grammatically correct; write with insight and in short, concise paragraphs.

9. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting into the highest tier school you can that is affordable. Our tips for financial aid include websites such as fastweb.com, and the matched college itself. There are many college websites and one can easily get lost and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to obtain scholarship cash. Pick a simple plan for financial aid and stick to it.

10. Scholarships require grammatically correct completed applications; otherwise they end up in the waste basket. Tips include:

11. Eligibility – if you are not eligible, don’t bother,

12. Copies, deadlines, and a secondary review are a must.

13. Call if you need help or want to inform the decision makers that you are truly interested.

14. College social life is important; however, there are so many unpredictable variables that you will find your way, peers, clique, and niche of friends in time. Even the geeky roommate may be the very best thing for you while obtaining entrance into the most popular fraternity may be your college demise.

15. If you don’t have a major or are undecided, don’t sweat it – still go to the very best college you can with broad depth and varied areas of study.

16. College is about seeking a match, not a prize to be won. If you cannot live without big time sports then don’t visit small colleges that don’t offer that scene.

17. Letters of Recommendation: Go to an instructor that knows you and has a reputation for writing good recommendations for students. These letters may tip you over the hump for acceptance or a scholarship.

18. Selected students may wish to explore ROTC and the national service academies for lifestyle, maturity, financial aid, and career possibilities. These all come with both a guaranteed job upon graduation but graduates also incur a multi-year military service obligation.

19. Get street smart regarding colleges – study the college rankings from the Princeton Review, US News and World Report, Barron’s, Rugg’s Recommendatons, Fiske Guide,and the College Board. Review the websites of the schools that interest you. Go to college fairs and visit selected schools. Talk to the professors and students: getting first hand knowledge regarding their experiences. Trust me – students will spill the beans both ways. One can usually discern happiness from facial expressions (with the exception of finals week). Is this an enjoyable place to be for four years? Go on the tour as well as roam the college. Go into classes of your projected major. Appreciate in advance that a college tour will rarely say anything negative and is hyped to a degree.

20. Applications with letters of reference, transcripts, and completeness must be double checked.

21. If you are applying to high tiered schools, you may need to submit more applications – however you need only one acceptance if that is your goal. Your C plus average will not get you into Stanford – don’t waste your time. However, with motivation, a good essay, and references you may get into another very good private or public school. Six is plenty of applications.

22. Don’t forget to log your community service, extracurricular activities, hours, and specific leadership qualities (president of forensic club, etc.) starting in high school as a freshman.

23. Interviews: prepare with mock interviews and answer with smiles and clear answers that communicate who you are. Remember to maintain good eye contact, speak with clarity and feeling.

24. If the college campus is well maintained and groomed, you can reasonably assume its financial health is good.

25. Be honest, open minded, and don’t under estimate yourself in making the ultimate college decision. Go for it.

26. Sports – all types including NCAA, Club, Intramural, dorm, Greek, and personal gym are all there on virtually every campus. Staying fit and being on a team correlates highly with better grades, interpersonal relationships, and the ability to overcome obstacles with self confidence.

27. Parents cannot relive their lives through their children. Sorry, but the DNA and times are different – so the motivations, desires, interests, and expectations of the child will be different from those of the parent. Parents need to provide advice when needed and allow the student’s maturity and leadership to develop as he or she works through the college decision. It’s OK to go to Iowa. Go to parents' weekend and get a good appreciation for your child’s college choice.