Preparations for College Beginning the Freshman Year of HS

YPNG College Admissions Preparation Program For Freshman and Sophomores 

 Preparation + Intelligent Effort + Persistance = Success

Index

I. Deciding on a Career that is Right for You  

II. Your College Application

    1. Essay

    2. High School Resume and College Interviews

    3. Letters of Recommendation

III.  ACT and SAT Test Scores

1. ACT/SAT prep resources that are completely "free".

IV. Other Things to Know

1. Student Services

2. Map Out Your Classes for Each Year

V.  Know the Requirements for an Entry Level Job 

1.  Develop Leadership Skill in High School 

2. Strong Communication Skills

3. Demonstrate Teamwork

 

I. Deciding on a Career that is Right for You 

Before you take any general career tests, do a thorough self- evaluation of your personal strengths and weaknesses. You intuitively know the subjects in school that you like and where you excel. But also look at your other abilities. For example, the YPNG Blog page has an article on a book titled Mechanical Aptitude and Spatial Relationship Test. This is a common test given to people in a variety of professions including some engineers and many skilled trades. As another example, you need good hand and eye coordination to be a surgeon or dentist or work in many other medical professions.  Here is a link to a webpage where you can take a Free Mechanical and Spacial Aptitude Test  if you are considering careers that require mechanical aptitude. Getting yourself familiar with these kinds of tests is important in your self-evaluation process as you determine your personal strengths and weaknesses before you research a particular career .

Once you have done a self evaluation, take the FREE MAPP Career Test  shown on the YPNG home page. It will give you an idea of careers that match your interests and that your are  naturally drawn toward that you can develop into a satisfying career. There are 900 jobs that are sorted in order of the your own unique test results after you take the online career test. You can also go to OK College Start  where there is a page for career planning where you can also do a self evaluation and then take tests that like the MAPP.  These test will all help you identify career categories that match your interests.

Part of good career planing also means thoroughly researching the careers you may be considering to be certain they will allow you to reach your personal goals for both job satisfaction and income. Here are some points to consider when you are doing this kind of research. All these points and more are covered in individual YPNG Mentor Articles.

  • Learn what the career involves in terms of what you will actually be doing most days so that you are certain it fits your personality and abilities.
  • Get a good idea about the number and type of people you will be collaborating with each day.
  • Understand the personal time commitment needed to be successful.
  • Get good information on starting salaries and how salaries for each career you are considering normally progress as you gain work experience. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has salary surveys for most job categories. Just put the category in their search engine on this page. 
  • Make sure you know the regional differences in earnings for many careers and if you would have to relocate to reach your personal goals.
  • Know what the growth prospects are for a particular career by researching the future demand for the skills you will acquire with your advanced education.
  • There is normally going to be some ongoing education required to remain competitive in many types of careers. Know what the requirements are for the careers you are researching and whether you or your employer pays for it.

When you have some ideas about careers you think you would like to pursue, make sure you take the courses offered in high school that are necessary for you to be admitted  to the colleges and training programs for that career. The YPNG Blog page has several articles relating to preparation in high school including Use All Four Years of High School to Prepare for College and A High School Action Plan.

II. Your College Application

The first thing to do is choose at least three colleges that have recognized programs for the career that interests you and learn what grades and test scores you will need achieve in high school to be admitted.  Next, get familiar with their college application forms and what is required to be submitted with each form like essays, high school resumes, letters of recommendation and test scores. While a few schools still require you to use their forms,  most  college's now accept a common form available online:

https://www.commonapp.org.

This common form saves you a lot of time because you only enter your information once and can use it to apply to multiple schools. The system on the website also alerts you when important deadlines are approaching like submission of transcripts of your grades and test scores. It will also allow you to view your application's progress on the site's dashboard.

Besides getting familiar with the information you will need to complete the application, also research the specific requirements for each college that interests you. These include things like the classes you need to take in high school to meet the requirements of each college particularly those subjects that relate to the college major you expect to pursue. YPNG will help you learn how to prepare everything to submit with each application like essays, resumes and letters of recommendation along with research on scholarships and financial aid available at a particular college as part of our program. With this kind of preparation, your entire application will standout to college admissions officers and increase the chances that you will be accepted by the colleges you would most like to attend.

When it comes time for you to apply, keep your options open. You have until May 1stof your senior year to choose your college. That means you can and probably should wait until all of the schools you’ve applied to have gotten back to you with their admission decision and any financial aid offers, including scholarships. That way, you can compare apples to apples to figure out which college offers the best overall value.

When considering which colleges to apply to, don’t be afraid of “sticker shock”—few students pay the full, published tuition rate. If you have good grades and test scores, colleges will usually reduce their costs and most will offer you scholarships and grants. In fact, don’t automatically assume that a private school is out of reach. Sometimes, they offer greater opportunities for financial aid. So, if you have a 3.5 GPA or higher and good test scores, consider applying to both public and private schools. There have been many Oklahoma high school students with good grades who have been admitted to prestigious private colleges and universities and received the financial aid they needed to allow them to attend.

Speaking of costs, you will see that most colleges have an application fee payable at the time you submit your application. However, this fee can be waived for eligible students. Colleges will usually provide a fee waiver for students on Free and Reduced Lunch.

There are three main things you will need to prepare to go with the most applications: the essay, an activities list or resume, and at least one letter of recommendation.

1. Essay

Most colleges will require you to write at least one essay. Your essay is meant to show the admissions officer how well you can write and that you can support ideas with logical arguments. Admission officers also look to the essay to show something about your personality. Every year, colleges have similar essay questions, or prompts. For example, one might be, “Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?” Don’t worry about choosing the “right” prompt; there is no right prompt. The point is just to get your words flowing and show a side of your personality that can’t be found on the application otherwise. You can find sample prompts, as well as links to sample successful responses, in the article titled, “Start in High School to Build a Successful Career” on the YPNG.co home page.

Plan to start writing your essay no later than the spring semester of your junior year. When you’re ready, jot down some bullet points—notes about the main ideas you’ll use to answer the prompt. You can then use these notes to create an outline to organize your essay. While there is no set formula, a college essay should generally be organized. This could include an introduction, an explanation of your main ideas with specific examples, and a conclusion. If I were you, I would show your outline to your English teacher or someone else whom you think would give you some good feedback.

Then, write a first draft, and don’t worry about mistakes yet. You’re just trying to flesh out your thoughts. Later, do a second draft to refine your writing. This is another good time to show your work to people you know, such as teachers or counselors. They may suggest some edits. But make sure any changes are in your own words. You never want there to be doubt as to who wrote it. Believe me, having been a college admission counselor, they can tell if an essay does not belong to you. A good question to ask yourself after finishing your essay is, “Could anyone other than me have written this essay?” Or, in other words, “Does this essay show who I am?” If you can answer “yes,” then you’ve done the most important thing.

2. High School Resume and College Interviews

Besides the essay or essays, you will be required to submit information on your application about what you’ve been doing during high school, inside and outside of the classroom. Your transcript will be able to verify what you’ve been doing at school, and a resume or activities list will give college admission officers a snapshot of your accomplishments outside of class, such as extracurricular activities, hobbies and work history. While a full resume is almost never required, it can be an asset when you meet with a college interviewer and is good practice for the business world. It is especially helpful to have a resume or activities list when you apply for scholarships, or when you ask people for recommendation letters. I suggest that you begin your resume or activities list now, and then add onto it as time passes. Here are links to templates the will help you gather information and compose your student resume, along with links to resume examples.

Most colleges offer you the option of doing a personal interview and like you to come to college for programs they have for students to visit their campus and learn more about their school. If transportation is a problem, they are usually going to be alumni in your area of Oklahoma who you can contact through your recruiter.

It is important to go to these programs and to meet the college recruiter face to face so they can learn more about you and you can show them that you have done your research, know about their college and their programs and can tell them the reasons you want to attend their school. Meeting a college recruiter should not be intimidating if you have done you homework choosing the colleges where you have submitted applications. They are looking to hear that you are enthusiastic about attending their school and learning more about you and your interests and your commitment to getting a college education.

 

3. Letters of Recommendation

Most college applications require you to submit at least one letter of recommendation. The required letter is usually  from your high school counselor, and some colleges will require that you submit more letters, usually from teachers. But feel free to send additional letters, such as from a coach or someone who graduated from the school you’re applying to. It is a good idea to build relationships with your counselor, teachers, and others early in high school. Not only is it just good practice, but it could also make the difference in a mediocre versus great letter of recommendation down the road.

I encourage you to make the ask for a letter of recommendation at the very beginning of your a senior year. Consider the people you are going to ask for recommendations carefully. These letters are normally sent directly to the admissions officer and you won’t get to see them. So, make sure the people you ask are excited about writing a recommendation for you. You can help them prepare to write your recommendation by giving them a copy of your resume and your essay that will go with your application. Remember that, in this situation, you are asking a favor. Give that person as much information as you can and plenty of time before the deadline, so they can write a great letter for you. I also encourage you to follow-up with a hand-written thank you card to show how much you appreciate the time they took for you.

4. ACT and SAT Test Scores

Although you may find a few colleges that rely more on your high school grades, the ACT and SAT are incredibly important tests for most college admittance, scholarships, potential work/study programs or internships. Colleges will normally accept your score from either test. You don’t have to take both. Oklahoma offers both the ACT and the SAT  to 11th grader for "free". Oklahoma students have traditionally chosen to take the ACT to fulfill the entrance requirements of colleges and universities. The number of Oklahoma high school graduates in 2016 who took the ACT was 32,854, or 82 percent. The number of Oklahoma high school graduates in 2016 who took the SAT was 1,503, or less than 4 percent. The main reason some people took the SAT was that there are a few colleges and scholarships programs like the the National Merit Scholarship that require the SAT. So as you research the colleges you wand to attend and scholarships that you want to apply for, check and make sure they are not one of the exceptions that requires the SAT. Also some people have a particular affinity for one to the other. You can use this guide to determine whether you’re likely to have strong preference for the ACT or the SAT. You might also try taking a practice test of each and comparing your scores.

The ACT has four sections — English, math, reading, and ccience — while the SAT has three sections — reading, writing, and math. The ACT gives you less time per question than the SAT, and it tests you on analyzing experiments and data in the Science section, while not testing you explicitly on vocabulary like the SAT does.  Spend some time researching the tests, looking at sample questions, and thinking about your skills and preferences.

You will definitely want to take at least four prep tests and balance this practice with some focused prep on your weaknesses after each practice test. You’ll should start prepping for the ACT and SAT tests well before test day, normally done in the Spring of you Junior year. A lot of students start a year before they plan on taking these tests.

1. YPNG has picked out some valuable ACT/SAT prep resources that are completely free.

ACT / SAT Websites

One of the  best places to learn all you can about the entrance exams is their very own websites. ACT takers can learn about test tips, read descriptions of the subjects tested, view sample questions, and browse through a downloadable booklet that contains a practice test, scoring key, test info, and more. ACT also has links to other prep opportunities, some of which do cost, but the free resources are great help too.

http://www.actstudent.org/testprep/

For the SAT students, the official site offers study guides, study plans, practice tests, information on what you’ll be tested on, and a breakdown of the SAT. Additionally, the SAT site provides a bunch of tips, tricks, strategies, and suggestions on how to study for, and take the entrance exam.

https://sat.collegeboard.org

Number2.com 

This site allows users to view tutorials, answer practice questions, create flashcards, and so much more in preparation for the ACT or SAT. The course is customized and adapts based on the user’s skill level and keeps track of what they’ve studied and how well they’re doing. There is even immediate feedback for every incorrect answer on a practice test, so the user can learn from their mistake and push forward towards a better score.

Number2.com has features from a vocabulary builder to a study plan email system. Every aspect of the site is designed to help students prepare to the best of their abilities. One user commented, “I couldn’t believe this when my friend told me that I can study for SAT using the computer. But now after studying something I can say that it is really helpful. THANK YOU very much for making this cool website.”

https://www.number2.com

FreeTestPrep.com

Steven S. via Flickr

The name says it all. This site offers a host of prep tools, including practice questions, video explanations, study guides, ACT/SAT articles, and flashcards. With easy navigation and a no-hassle setup, students can dive right into subject-by-subject quizzes that offer feedback on incorrect answers.

With a focus on high quality and student success, FreeTestPrep is a great tool for students looking to get an edge on the the ACT/SAT.

http://www.freetestprep.com

Power Score

Powerscore.com is a for profit company that has an area on their site with "Free"  SAT Help and Self Study area where you will find articles, free materials, advice and other information designed to increase your understanding of the SAT and the college admissions process. This is a well respected company with up to date prep materials.

powerscore.com

PrepFactory offers test preparation courses for a variety of tests — all for free! The company is passionate about closing the opportunity gap in education and want to make high-quality test prep available to all. Its platform can be used by students individually, or by teachers to guide an entire class of students through a test preparation course.

The ACT course offered by PrepFactory is easy to access. There’s no cost, just log in with an email address and password. You can work through strategy and skill lessons, watch videos on specific topics, take practice sets, and play games focused on words, numbers, and grammar. All of your activity on PrepFactory earns you XP points, which makes study time feel a more fun and perhaps even productive. The platform allows you to follow a laid out study path and track your progress as you move through the course.

https://www.prepfactory.com/

Your School

Many schools offer ACT/SAT review sessions for materials you maybe haven’t covered in a while; it’s always a good idea to take advantage of these sessions to dust off and polish those skills. The review sessions allow students to take notes, practice, study with peers, and ask the teachers clarifying questions.

 

III. How to Apply for Scholarships

The first thing to do is fill out a Federal Student Aid Application (FAFSA) to be eligible for federal need-based aid and most state aid. This application is also used by many private scholarship programs not just those sponsored by the federal and state governments.

Some colleges also require what is called a CSS Financial Aid Profile that is administered by the College Board and can be filled out online. Fees for the CSS can be waived if you received a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT.

Next research the scholarships that may be available to you.  Here are some places to start:

  • The financial officers at the colleges you want to attend will have lists of scholarships.
  • Your high school career counselor will usually have lists of scholarships and grants and will know of local companies and service organizations that offer scholarships to local students.
  • You may qualify for Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO). These are Federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to help them with their academic career.
  • Oklahoma has state grants based on financial need like the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant and the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant. You apply using the Federal Student Aid Application (FAFSA).
  • There are a number of free scholarship search engines on the Internet like “Scholarship Search” that will provide you a list of other kinds of grants given by private businesses. These companies most often employ engineers, architects and people pursuing other STEM careers. There are also service organizations like The American Association of University Women who have local chapters in Tulsa and OKC and the professional fraternity for black men, Sigma Pi Phi, that gives college scholarships to black male students. These are just two examples. We have a whole section titled   " Scholarships, Financial Aid and Ways to Reduce College Costsin the YPNG HS College Prep program pull down.
  • Most private colleges that have large endowments offer scholarships to students attending their school. They want both economic and racial diversity in their student bodies. If you have good grades and test scores, talk to admissions officers at some of the top schools. As two examples, Princeton and Yale both have active recruitment programs to promote diversity in their student bodies and generous scholarship and financial aid packages for those they accept. There have been recruiters from these schools who have come to Tulsa to recruit at the Tulsa Chamber’s Career Event put on every year and have attended other college recruitment programs in the state. Attending one of these will give you a chance to talk directly to these schools’ admissions officers. Take the resume you have prepared with you and see if they have an interest in recruiting you.
  • A  way to get a free college education is to qualify for one of the military academies. These schools offer an opportunity to get an engineering degree at no cost in exchange for a seven-year military commitment. We have a West Point graduate who is a YPNG mentor, Chris Chavez, in our mentor library. Her article will let you learn about how she was able to attend college by going to a military academy and how she built a successful engineering career after completing her military commitment.

Don’t miss filing deadlines for scholarships. They don’t always match the deadlines for admissions applications. Some scholarships have deadlines early in the fall of your senior year. Mark the due dates on your calendar and work your way backward to figure out how much time you’ll have to get each piece of the scholarship application finished.

Read the applications carefully and then gather the items you need. Most scholarship applications ask for:

  • High school transcript.
  • Standardized test scores – either ACT or SAT.
  • Your parents Financial Information including Tax Returns
  • Proof of eligibility if the scholarship is awarded to students from a certain ethnic group.

Keep copies of everything you send the admissions officer so that it will be easy for you to respond to their questions.

Most of these applications are submitted over the Internet. But if you have to submit a scholarship application by mail, track your package so you know it arrived. Use that date when you do your follow up with the financial aid or scholarship officer.

 

VI. Other Things to Know

 1. Student Services

Contact the office that provides support to students at the colleges where you are submitting applications. These offices are usually called Student Affairs, Student Support, or Student Services. They are the department at the college designed to enhance student growth and development both in and out of the classroom and help students navigate through college successfully. Some of the help you can receive through this officeincludedisability services, personal and academic counseling, peer mentoring, peer tutoring and suggestions for clubs that fit you interests. Remember it is important to get involved. Student activities add fun, friendship and give you opportunities that will help you demonstrate leadership qualities to prospective employers after you graduate and begin looking for that entry-level job.  Student programs can also include the basics like help paying for food, clothing and school supplies. Contact student services at the three colleges you are applying to, so you will know what programs are available. A good student services program is one of the things to consider when you are deciding on a college.

2. Map Out Your Classes for Each Year

Map out the classes you will have to take each year to be able to graduate on time before you regisiter. Then lean when and how you register for these classes. If you are late registering, the classes you want may filled, which can put you off your graduation schedule.

Get a required course list for your degree and for your major and minor if you have one.  Many schools have a required course list online on their website and student portal.  Printed versions can be gotten from the Registrar’s office.  Once you know the required classes, first make a list of the general education requirements that you have in addition to your major. These are usually classes such as English, Science and Math and sometimes a language. Make a list of those categories and the number of courses that you are required to take under each category. Then repeat this list for you major, and minor if you have one. It is not unusual that most of the courses you take your first two years are required courses and outside your major.

No matter what classes you need to take, make sure you know where and how to register and be sure to register early. The classes taught by the best professors and at the most convenient times always fill up fast. If you are one of the last people to register for a required class, you could end up an instructor you don’t want or with a time that conflicts with another class or is not convenient. Make sure you know how and when you can sign up for the classes you want

 

V. Know the Requirements for an Entry Level Job

Decide on three companies you would like to work for after you graduate and then contact their human resources department to learn what education and experience you must have for an entry level job. I know this sounds inconsistent.  But companies want experience when they hire people for entry-level jobs but not necessarily work experience. They will be looking to see that you have had some life experiences in college that demonstrates what are called soft skills.  Here are some of these soft skills that human resource managers look for:

1.  Develop Leadership Skill in High School 

This is probably the most valued skill of all because a good leader can inspire, motivate and raise the bar for everyone around him or her. Having a good leader at any level in the organization can create a lot of value. The best way for students to develop this skill is to search for leadership opportunities beginning in high school and then in college. This could mean becoming involved in student government or leading an extracurricular activity including professional organizations that have student branches on campus that related to your major where you will also meet with people who have graduated with your major and who can be good references.  Carol McNearn, a CPA and a Lawyer, is a YPNG mentor article who goes into detail in her article about the strategy she developed to become involves in these kinds of organizations and other ways she began networking in high school and later college. This deliberate effort helped her get a good job after graduation and should be an important part of your own career planning.

2. Strong Communication Skills

Employers are looking for people who speak well, write well and understand the importance of listening. This might sound simple, but often people struggle to communicate effectively, and this can slow down business in a world where speed is valued. There are many high school and college organizations where you can demonstrate good communication skills like speech, debate and theater.

 3. Demonstrate Teamwork

Working well with others is critical in most work environments. Rarely is there a job, project, or task that doesn’t have a better result when the minds of multiple people come together rather than going at it alone. Students can develop the skills necessary to effectively work with others in many ways, including participating in athletics and extracurricular activities. You can also opt to complete team-based projects such as service activities during high school and college.

Participating in these activities helps show potential employers that you are someone who will be a motivated, enthusiastic, committed, goal-oriented and will come to work on time each day prepared to do your job.

Also ask the person you are talking to in human resources about any internship programs or financial aid the company might have for college students pursuing majors the company needs. There are several architectural and engineering firms in Oklahoma that offer scholarships to promising students and internships once you have completed one or two years of your college course work.

 

It is important to know that you are in control of your life. Make good choices that will move you towards your career and life goals. 

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