The four-year pep talk

By Grace Stewart

It is the end of March and with the latest wave of college admissions’ notifications, most of the senior class at Beaufort Academy knows where they will be attending college this coming fall. However, the class of 2014, 2015, and 2016 probably do not. I have been through (almost) all four years of high school and I would like to share a little of what I have learned about the whole process so that your child, grandchild, sister, brother, or even yourself, can successfully make it into the college of your choice.

LESSON NUMBER ONE: Start prepping for the SAT early, and by that I mean the end of freshman year. As my mom has told me and my younger sister, it is never too early to get your hands on one of those practice tests and get your head in the game. Many schools these days do not have a class designated for SAT prep, and instead, students have to go out of their way to pay for and attend a class that is outside of his or her curriculum. It is suggested that a high school student take the SAT (or the ACT) four times, after magic number 4, it is highly unlikely that the score will improve and may even decline. As someone who took it four times, listen to that suggestion, scores can improve! Secondly, many competitive colleges look at your SAT or ACT score and GPA initially and then your application specifics. If those two numbers do not lie within their bounds, you may get the boot early. Please listen to this first lesson, because it has proven to be beneficial to myself and many of my friends who started facing the dreaded SAT early in our high school experience.

LESSON NUMBER TWO: When applying to a college, look specifically at what branch of that school you are interested in because that may  impact your chances of being accepted. Some “sub” schools may be more competitive than others within a college. So, if you’re undecided as to what you’re interested in, you may not want to apply to the most competitive program within that school.

LESSON NUMBER THREE: Take every year of high school seriously. Every single day from the first day of high school until the last day of senior year counts; every test, quiz, homework, project, and pretty much everything that you do in class that is graded will then be packaged up in a nice little box called your GPA (grade point average). When I was in 8th grade, I had a history teacher who would make us write what college we saw ourselves going to in the future. At that time, I thought, how am I supposed to know? I still have four more years of school to go? After 8th grade I wasn’t asked to write (then) “NYU” in that little available box labeled “college” at the top of my paper, but that little box could’ve been a daily reminder of my future aspirations, my own brass ring. So my advice is, keep focused, imagine the college that you want to reach for sitting up there in that box on every paper.

A FEW MORE POINTERS: Instead of going through each college website, use www.collegeboard.org  to get the facts on each school you might be interested in — things like SAT ranges, GPA, tuition, etc.  Next, become involved in your community, from the Water Festival to your church’s yard sale, because not only does it look good on a college resume, but it feels good too. Try to volunteer in areas of your interest such as in the hospital or daycare. Lastly, check into each school’s application process and apply early, ask others to critique your essays (and you’ll need to do many) and start visiting the schools whenever you can during your high school career, following  up the visit with a note of thanks to your tour guide. Throughout the whole process your guidance counselor can be of great help but only you can make it happen.

So as I finish up this week’s article, I hope that some of the lessons I have learned have been able to give some food for thought for future seniors. With the help of my guidance counselor, parents and teachers I can look back at my college preparatory experience with no regrets.  As this class of 2013 reaches the finish line, I hope that the class of 2017 will hit the ground running.

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