As summer comes to a close, reality sets in as students and parents realize it's time to return to school. For some, this is a joyous occasion, and for others, this is the beginning of a stressful time of year.
At the Mifflin County High School Guidance Office, we receive numerous questions from parents and students concerning preparing for college. We've created a checklist of things college bound students should keep in mind as they continue through their high school career. Students can begin taking steps to prepare for college as early as eighth grade.
Students in eighth grade should work hard to earn good grades. Grades earned in middle school classes help determine placement in ninth grade classes.
Good study habits and a positive work ethic should be established before high school begins.
Getting involved in sports or activities is a good idea. Maintaining continuous involvement in extracurricular activities is impressive on a college application.
If a student is thinking about playing sports at a Division I or Division II college or university, he or she, along with his or her parents, should attend a NCAA Clearinghouse informational meeting. This will give an idea of what students must do academically to be eligible to participate in sports at the next level.
Students in ninth grade should work hard to earn good grades. It's in ninth grade that calculation of one's GPA begins. One low grade can drop a cumulative GPA and make it difficult to bring it up again.
Final grades begin showing up on official transcripts in ninth grade.
Students should begin thinking about which career field they may be interested in pursuing. Knowing the career field one wants to enter may determine the type and level of classes taken in future years.
Students should begin keeping a log of activities in which they participate, leadership positions held and awards won.
Students should continue to strive for high grades during their sophomore year.
Students in honors-level classes or fast-track math classes should consider taking the PSAT. Though they won't be eligible to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, the PSAT is a good indicator of how students would perform on the SAT. The PSAT is normally given in October and sign-ups begin in mid-September.
Students should continue to log all activities in which they participate.
If a student is considering taking an Advanced Placement course, he or she, along with his or her parents, should attend an Advanced Placement course informational meeting. These courses are demanding, and students and parents should be aware of the challenges of Advanced Placement courses.
Students should continue to strive for high grades during their junior year.
All students considering college after high school should consider taking the PSAT. Not only is this good practice for the SAT, but students whose scores are exceptionally high may be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship.
Juniors are encouraged to start meeting with college admissions representatives as they visit MCHS. This is a good opportunity for students to find out if a school has the characteristics they are looking for in a college or university.
Counselors encourage students to wait until the end of their junior year to take the SAT. Because the SAT math section contains algebra I, algebra II, geometry and probability and statistics concepts, students are generally more confident when they take the SAT after they've completed most of these math courses. The SAT verbal also includes vocabulary that is normally not introduced until junior year.
Juniors are also encouraged to start planning college visits. Taking tours of college campuses, meeting with admissions counselors and meeting with financial aid officers are good ways to determine if a school is right.
Continue to log involvement in activities both in and out of school.
Begin searching for scholarships.
Attend a financial aid informational meeting to get an idea of the financial aid process. The MCHS financial aid night informational meeting is held in late October.
Establish a permanent email address to use to communicate with colleges and universities. Be sure this email address is professional.
Set up college visits for the summer to help narrow the choice if necessary.
Student athletes who are planning on playing sports at a Division I or Division II college or university need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse (www.eligibilitycenter.org) at the end of their junior year of high school.
Seniors should continue to do their best to earn good grades in all classes and not just the ones needed for graduation.
If they wish to do so, seniors can register to take the SAT again during their senior year. In some instances, colleges may even encourage this.
Students should begin completing college applications early in their senior year. Pay attention to due dates. Be sure to understand the differences between early action, early decision and regular decision. Early action is not a binding decision to attend a specific school. Early decision will give a student an acceptance decision sooner, but the student is bound to attend that school if he or she is accepted. Regular decision is not a binding decision to attend a school. Students who choose regular decision will be considered for admission when other applicants are considered. Thanksgiving Day is a solid deadline to give oneself to have applications completed and sent to the colleges in which they are interested.
Seniors must request that official transcripts be sent to their school of choice. This can be done by filling out the appropriate form in the guidance office.
If they have not done so already, seniors should visit the colleges to which they have applied so that an accurate decision can be made in case there are multiple acceptances.
Attend financial aid nights in the fall and spring. At MCHS, a financial aid night informational meeting is held in October. During this event a general overview of the types of financial aid and the financial aid process is covered. Another financial aid night is scheduled in February; this is a FAFSA Completion Night. On this night, parents and students go to computer labs in MCHS where financial aid officers from local colleges and universities are on hand to help them fill out the FAFSA.
Seniors should begin researching and applying for scholarships. The bulk of the local scholarships are available from February to May in the MCHS Guidance Office.
As always, students are encouraged to meet with their school guidance counselor early in their high school career to begin planning on post high school plans. The MCHS Guidance Department website is regularly updated with valuable information (www.mcsdk12.org/mchs/guidance).
Kim Crone (Last Names A-G)
Val DeVecchis (Last Names P-Z)
Bridget Kennington (Last Names H-O)