Local Resources to Help College Bound Families

It’s never too early to start talking about college. If you’d like your child to go to college, start talking about it early! Talk to your school-aged children about your own experiences in college and with your career. Visit colleges as a family. Make a college-financing plan for your toddler. Or just involve yourself in your child’s application process as it gets closer.

As your child gets closer to the actual college application process, it can be hard to keep track of all you have to do. We’ve included a checklist of steps to get you and your family on track for college.

Speak with your counselor

Junior should speak with his or her school counselor in order to understand the specifics of how his or her high school will handle college applications. College counselors handle most of the applications your child sends out to colleges to some degree. They must send out transcripts, recommendations, and school reports to each school. Some college counselors are working with so many students that they set their own deadlines for college applications and limit the number of applications they will process. Some schools also have processes for requesting teacher recommendations. Have your son or daughter set a meeting with his or her college counselor soon so he or she can get the rules straight.

Find a college access program

In today’s budget cut economy, many school counselors are not able to give every student the attention they might need. If this is the case at your child’s school, you may want to get some additional help. NYC is ripe with programs that want to help your teen apply to college. Most colleges have programming for students. Check out LaGuardia Community College’s College Prep Program. Many community organizations offer college counseling as part of their teen program or as a stand-alone service. See Queens Community House’s OPTIONS Program and Sunnyside Community Services.

Take a challenging program

There are several options when it comes to graduating from a New York City school. It is important that you understand the graduation requirements at your child’s school. While graduating is an important step on the way to college, it’s not always enough. Many colleges are looking for students that have gone above and beyond. This means that it is beneficial for your child to continue taking courses in the five major subjects even if they’ve met the minimum graduation requirements. If there are advanced and honors courses available and your child has an interest and special ability in a specific subject, her or she should try it. If the school does not offer these types of courses, they can take advantage of the City University of New York’s College Now Program.

Build your resume

It’s important for your teen to be involved throughout high school. It exposes him or her to different careers and social situations. This can lead to growth and ideas about his or her future. The resume is also an important part of the college application. It shows colleges traits that grades and SAT scores can’t like leadership. Most schools offer a number of activities students can participate in. See the Public Schools Athletic League for the sports available at your child’s school. There are also many out –of-school activities he or she can get involved in. Check this site out for opportunities at the Queens Library.

Take the PSAT

This exam is available to sophomores and juniors in the fall. It gives students a taste of what the SAT (see below) will be like and it also gives them access to some scholarship opportunities. Since 2007 NYC has subsidized the exam for city students, so your child should have the opportunity to take this exam for free.

Take the SAT

Most four-year colleges require the SAT test. It is offered several times a year. The test is one part of the college application package used by colleges to predict college success. It’s recommended that students take the SAT at least twice, preferably once in their junior year and once in their senior year.

While it is not the only part of the application, it is worth it to prepare for it in order to score as high as possible. Your teen can study on his own using a number of web sites (see number2.com) or with a study guide. There are also many paid preparation courses and a number of free courses. Most organizations that offer college access counseling also offer SAT courses. Check out South Asian Youth Action’s SAT prep course here. The Department of Education also offers SAT prep at some high schools through a partnership with the College Board.

Request recommendations

The recommendation is an important part of the college application package. It gives colleges additional insight about your teen. Students should pick two teachers from two different academic subjects. They should ask them at the end of their junior year or, at the latest, at the beginning of their senior year. In order to ensure that recommendations are accurate and detailed, students should provide each teacher with a resume and a list of accomplishments from the teacher’s specific class.

Research colleges

There are many ways to research colleges. You can get information by word of mouth. Ask your friends where they and their kids went to college and how it was. Take any information you get with a grain of salt! One person’s experience may be very different form another’s. There are many reference books at the library that speak to colleges, as well as web sites. Check out the College Board’s web site as a resource. Attend college fairs to ask questions directly of college representatives. Check the Higher Education Services Corporation for college fairs in New York. Of course, visiting colleges can help you get a first hand impression of what a college is really like. To visit a State University of New York College, contact the SUNY Information Center in NYC and they’ll help you connect with a college in order to arrange a visit.

Apply to college

Once you’ve researched colleges, you should come up with a final list of colleges. Your final list should include some City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) colleges, as well as private colleges.  This will give you a good mix of options. If you do this, the main applications you will need to complete are the CUNY application, the SUNY application, and the common application. The Common Application is an application, which is accepted by many private colleges. If the private college your child is interested in doesn’t accept the common app, he or sh should check the school’s web site for application options.

Colleges have different deadlines. Some colleges have rolling admissions which means they accept applications until all spots are filled. Other schools’ deadlines range from November to February and even March. This means that the applications itself and all supporting materials such as test scores, grades, the fee, and the essay must be turned in by the deadline.

Apply for scholarships

Scholarship deadlines range widely. Some scholarships require applications before senior year, while others require applications while the student is already in college. It is important to be creative as you research scholarships. Does your job or union offer scholarships? How about your church? What groups has your child been involved in that may offer scholarships? There are many books and web sites that offer scholarship information. One good web site is fastweb.com.

Apply for financial aid

Whether you think you can pay for college or not, you should apply for financial aid. Financial aid includes scholarships and grants (free money), loans (money that must be paid back), and work study money (money that must be earned through employment). In order to access these funds, families must complete several applications. The main application is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This application helps families apply for aid from the government of the United States. New York residents, who are applying to colleges in New York, should also complete the application for the Tuition Assistance Program or TAP. This application helps families apply for aid from the government of New York. Most colleges accept the FAFSA as the application for institutional aid or aid from the college itself. Some colleges, though, require families to complete the Profile application.

Decide what college to attend

Once you’ve completed your applications for admission and financial aid, you’re mostly playing a waiting game. Be on the lookout for mail from colleges. Colleges may request additional documents. After colleges have received all of the documentation they need, they will respond to your child with an admission decision. If your teen is accepted to a school, that school will send them a financial aid package detailing the resources your child will receive in order to pay for college. Once you’ve heard from all colleges, your family must research the colleges thoroughly and compare the financial aid offers from all of the schools. Generally, you must choose a college by May 1st. Once you’ve chosen a school, make sure you complete all of the necessary paperwork.

Now, onto another adventure!

 

Sandy Jimenez