As the admission counselor for the Honors College at WKU, I get calls every week from high school students and their parents who have questions about the college application process. What are you looking for in applicants? Do you accept weighted or unweighted GPA’s? What if my child is unsure of their major?
Applying to colleges has become increasingly complicated, both for the student who is balancing classes and extracurricular involvement with the application process, and for the supportive parent whose experience applying to college took place long before online applications and the overabundance of information now available on the internet.
So, to ease the transition to college, here are some tips for you and your young scholars to take advantage of while they are still in high school.
1. Earn college credit in high school.
Take advantage of as many dual credit and Advanced Placement Program classes as you can. Your child can earn up to thirty-three hours of college credit (the equivalent of eleven courses) before he or she even graduates high school. Coming into college with a few credits opens up a lot of great opportunities, such as opting for a double major or studying abroad for a semester.
2. Plan on studying abroad in college.
Twenty-first century employers want employees with international experience; so encourage your scholar to start preparing to study abroad while still in high school. We live in an increasingly globalized society with a competitive international job market. Having a study abroad experience in college will not only enhance your child’s education and cultural awareness but also make them more employable. A recent study for Global HR News stated that nearly 75% of employers prefer applicants with international experience. One way for you child to prepare for studying abroad is by taking additional language courses in high school. Finally, no matter your child’s career objectives, the independence and self-confidence gained from studying or interning abroad will be invaluable.
3. Prep for standardized tests and be familiar with scholarship requirements.
Although only one part of a students’ application, standardized tests play a large role in many scholarship decisions. Advise your child to take advantage of study sessions that help prepare them for these tests. Take advantage of what can be learned from your child’s early practice tests to improve their score. Help your scholar make informed decisions on scholarship opportunities by using available resources on university financial aid web sites.
4. Visit at least five colleges.
Visiting campuses can give you and your child a better feel of the personality of a college, and these experiences may help narrow the list before committing to application fees. College Board and ACT will send standardized test scores to a limited number of schools for free, so it is a great idea to visit universities before students take the tests junior year.
5. Get to know your admissions counselor.
Every university your child is interested in will have admissions counselors to help them navigate the ins and outs of the application process. Make sure your child looks up their contact information online, give them a call or a quick email, and introduces his or herself. Once the admissions counselor knows what your child’s needs are, they can be very helpful. The role of the admissions counselor is even more important when applying to highly selective colleges and universities. Encourage your child to follow the admissions office on Twitter or “like” the counselor’s Facebook page to stay on top of upcoming events and deadlines. Also, remember that the counselor will probably be on the admissions committee, so it is important to build a polite and professional relationship with them.
Eileen Ryan is the admissions counselor for the Honors College at Western Kentucky University. During her time as a student in the Honors College, she studied English and journalism and spent an amazing semester at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England, living in a 19th century manor house and reading British poetry. After graduation in 2010, she taught ESL for a year in Cheonan, Korea with a Fulbright grant. Eileen enjoys yoga, hiking, and spending time with her sweetheart schipperke mix, Reba.