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7 Surefire Strategies to Get your Child into College



1. Create a 4-year High School Plan

The college admission process is not a one-size-fits-all mentality. Your child is different and your family situation is unique.

A 4-year high school plan sets academic goals based on your teen’s grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, family’s finances, your child’s career choice, and the colleges they want to attend.

Many folks believe that middle school grades don't count for college admissions, but there is one huge exception. If your child takes Algebra, Geometry, or a foreign language for “high school” credit, colleges will calculate that course into your weighted GPA. Low grades, even a “B” or “C” in the 8th grade, can seriously jeopardize your chances of getting into a highly selective university.

Remember that this is a marathon kicking off in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade, not a sprint starting in the 12th College-planning expert, Lisa Mader recommends that students think hard about their long-term goals, “Whether you’re one, two, or three years from graduation, it’s a good idea to sketch out what your remaining high school course schedule will look like. Start by making certain you are meeting all graduation requirements.” 

  1. Start early researching financial aid:

Financial planning for college should be a two-year process. Your college planning will involve acquiring and submitting financial aid forms, scholarship applications, and grant applications.

 Carl Richards in his blog, 3 Basics of a College Plan, recommend you ask yourself 3 questions: Where are you today financially? Where do you want to go? Where do I save the money?  Prepaid tuition and college savings plans are two options, and can offer tax benefits.

Now you need to figure out what college your child wants to go to and how much it will cost. In Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s blog, she shares an invaluable free tool from The Chronicle of Higher Education that allows you to easily sort private and public universities by sticker price in just seconds. You can access the tool by checking out her blog post: Searching for Colleges by Price Tags.


 3. Apply for financial aid in your senior year: 

First of all, file the FAFSA which stands for (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and must be completed annually to receive federal aid. Go to FAFSA.ed.gov after October 1st of your senior year to apply.

For assistance with the FAFSA, visit their website at www.FAFSA.gov or call 1-800-4-FED-Aid. There is never a cost for filling out the FAFSA. If someone is trying to charge a fee, you dialed the wrong number or have the wrong website.

There is money available for grants, and scholarships, but you have to apply. Talk to your HS counselor about federal, state, and local scholarships

Jaime Anderson from RealityChangers.org says that “billions of dollars for college grants goes unused every year. There are plenty of reasons why, but here’s one that’s candid enough: laziness. It’s the cold, hard truth. Many high school students simply refuse to pursue grant and scholarship money, and that’s simply unacceptable.”

4. Make sure your child’s taking the right classes to get into college:

Meet with your HS counselor and be certain your child is taking the “right classes” to graduate high school. And, in the fall of senior year, ask for a transcript to double-check your district’s graduation requirements so there will be “no surprises” come graduation time.

Now let’s talk about classes needed to get into a university. Remember, the # 1 criteria that universities use to accept a student is the rigor of their schedule. A study from the National Schools Boards Association shows that a tougher high school curriculum could reduce the percentage of four-year college students who fail to graduate in six years. And save you tens of thousands of dollars in college costs.

Colleges could care less about your un-weighted GPA. They want to know if you took advanced classes. How do they do that? They do it by calculating your "weighted" GPA.

A weighted GPA takes into account the difficulty of the course. For example, if your child takes English 4, they will receive a 4.0 weighted GPA for the A. However, it they take English 4 Honors, they will receive a 4.5 weighted GPA, and a 5.0 for an A in AP English. Examples included honors classes, dual enrollment, and AP, IB, and AICE courses.

An un-weighted GPA includes all courses taken in HS including electives and gives no weight to the rigor of a class. If a student receives an A in English 4, or English 4 Honors, or AP English, the student earns the same 4.0. The bigger the difference between the un-weighted and weighted GPA, the more rigorous the curriculum 

  1. Focus on the best college for your child; not the one with the highest ranking: 

Your child needs to find a school that fits. It should offer a program that matches your child’s major and interests and your budget. It should offer an environment that feels like home, matches your values, and provides a level of academic rigor compatible with your child

In a CBS college blog, the author states, “US. News doesn't try to measure the type of learning taking place at schools across the country. Instead the magazine is simply conducting a high-stakes beauty contest. Twenty five percent of each school's score is based solely on its reputation -- deserved or not. Since the reputation of Harvard, Princeton is excellent no matter what they do, they begin each rankings cycle with a huge head start.”

6. Tips on writing an effective essay:

Many students find the task of writing an essay overwhelming, Even though it is a big task, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

  • Pick a topic.
  • Prepare an outline.
  • Write your thesis statement.
  • Write the body,
  • Write the introduction.
  • Write the conclusion.
  • Add the finishing touches.

7. Don’t be a helicopter parent:

Sarah Engel, a staff editor for CollegeView.com writes, “Would you edit your teen’s admission essay? Require them to text or call daily? Schedule their classes? Call their professor to negotiate a better grade on the last midterm? If these sound like reasonable activities to you, then you may be a helicopter parent—the kind that hovers over every aspect of their child’s life.”

If you have a helicopter parenting style, it may be time to change. After all, you’re not going to college with them and share a dorm room? Right?

If you want your teen to be able to handle life’s challenges, teach them to be responsible to get up in the morning, pick-out their clothes, and find their lost books/homework. Give them chores. Let them pick out their classes with “guidance” from you. If there is a problem at school, let them handle it. 

Life is tough. Don’t try to protect your child from every negative experience. You learn from your mistakes. And a parent has to ease up on the helicopter tendencies so your child can grow into a productive member of society.

Michael Mastroianni is a bestselling author, education consultant and founder of GetKnowledgeForCollege.com.

Get Knowledge for College will provide your teenager with all the tools and training they need to get accepted at their first-choice college or university. You can sign up for his 'College Admission Boot Camp' for FREE for a limited time. 

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