Dwight has started his university application process. He’s our second son, so it’s not my first rodeo, and as we proceed, I feel like I have good information and advice to offer readers. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years, about testing, applying, essay writing, finding the right fit, financial aid, and taking a gap year. I’m going to share our journey and hopefully I will help other families, military or not, to successfully navigate the twists and turns of the university quest.
Last week, Dwight and I attended his school’s University Kick-Off. At this half-day event, the High School Counselors introduced the college process and gave information to arm us with knowledge to not only get into college, but also to find the right fit. After all, There are countless options for higher education and each student has unique goals, hopes and dreams. Finding the right fit uses a complicated mix of art and science, and the process cannot be rushed.
Dwight attends an international school, so kids at the Kick Off will eventually go to colleges and universities all over the world. I am familiar with the United States’s system, so I will focus solely on that. There’s a school out there for everyone; the goal is to find the perfect one for each young man and woman. Parents, check yourselves. Try very hard NOT to influence your child’s decision based on your preconceived notions. Remember, where he goes is not who he’ll be. You can buy the book about this topic, and watch the author’s video for further information on that. The name of the university your child attends will not dictate his future, what he does with the four+ years of learning and living will.
I feel like the first step towards higher education is the PSAT. Most schools offer it to first semester Juniors, and it’s a great tool to gauge a student’s future performance on the SAT, the primary university entrance exam. When your student receives his PSAT score, he gets an indication of how he might perform on the SAT in the future. If the score is not where the student wants it to be, he can start prepping for the SAT by using free online resources. The SAT is a test designed to assess a student’s academic skills. Don’t rush your kid into taking the SAT. The test is designed for High School Juniors and Seniors. Don’t make the mistake of making your kid take the test too early, because it is likely that he isn’t ready and won’t do as well as he will in the future. Second semester Junior year is an ideal starting point. I also recommend that students take a practice ACT test. Generally, students only need the SAT or ACT, not both, as they are both widely accepted by colleges and universities, but by taking practice versions of both, students can make an educated decision as to which test suits them, and therefor, which to pursue. Practice versions of both tests are available online.
Encourage your child to do independent, casual preparation before taking the test for the first time. After seeing the results, your child can decide if he wants to do further preparation and testing. If the test scores and GPA (Grade Point Average) indicate similar levels, the test has done its job. Counselors advise that students not over prepare for these assessments. If a student scores very well on the test and has average grades, university admissions staff might wonder why there is such a difference. Is the kid an underachiever? Did he study obsessively for the test? Why? Once a young person has his scores, he can start to narrow down his list of universities to which he will apply. Most universities list their range of accepted test scores right on their websites- a helpful tool for finding a good match.
The first step, for any student desiring to go onto higher education, is taking the SAT or ACT. Student learning and testing styles differ, so comparing performance on both can be very helpful. Now is the time to register for the SAT or ACT, if your child has not already done so.
If your family has questions that you’d like to see answered here, leave them in the comments or send me an email at CINChomefront (at) gmail.com, with the heading: Adventures in Application.