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June 2012 1

College prep: from GPAs to SATs, what matters most

by Alison Stanton Sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance”

filled the air during recent graduation cere- monies in many local high schools. Hundreds of enthusiastic students, wearing colorful caps and gowns, are celebrating the successful con- clusion of 13 years of schooling. For the many local high school graduates

who are planning to attend college, part of the summer will be spent getting ready for the next step in their education. From regis- tering for courses to maybe even packing up and leaving home for the first time, the prospect of starting college is an exciting time for most students. According to Steve Kanner, a school

counselor at Hamilton High School in Chandler, the process of getting into col- lege is not something that starts senior year. In most cases, he says, students and their parents are well versed in the topic

before students even begin high school. “For most students, the decision process

starts to heat up around 11th grade,” says Kanner. “At that grade and age, they are ready to start making some decisions or at least realize that the next step in their life awaits.”

Too well-rounded? Although Kanner says

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high school students who have college in their future plans should certainly strive for good grades and test scores while being involved in their school and commu- nity, he cautions against pack- ing too much into the schedule. “In some ways, I believe

alphabet soup are a big part of the college entrance process. From the ACT to the PSAT and SAT, Kanner says most students take a variety of tests, most often beginning with the PSAT in October of their junior year. “In the Chandler Unified School District,

we provide the ACT to all juniors in April free of charge; it normally costs about $50,” he says. “This is an excellent way for stu- dents to assess their college options and for the high schools to make sure each stu- dent has been given an opportunity to sit for a test. Additionally we try to help stu- dents make decisions about which tests fit their own needs. Our school offers free test prep seminars to students at various times of the school year.” While taking these tests can be a stressful

experience for some, Kanner says students should remember they have essentially pre- pared for them since elementary school. “Good reading, writ- ing and math skills don't

just appear. Students who have had success in those areas all through their school years usually end up doing well on college admissions tests. But we

also have seen students who have made some dramatic improvements from year to year in high school by devoting some of their free time to test prepara- tion.”

there is a misconception about well-rounded students. I see colleges more interested in stu- dents who have made an impact in one or two areas than to see a laundry list of activities. Although there's nothing wrong with exploring differ- ent extracurriculars, to do it to beef up a col- lege application might be a mistake.” As for flawless grade point averages, col-

APPLY EARLY: High school students can start research- ing college scholarships during their junior year. Stock photo

Future Sun Devils Students interested in

applying to ASU should look into various scholarship opportunities as early as their junior year, Burge says.

He recommends using the Google Alerts

leges are always looking for students with unique abilities, talents and leadership skills, Kanner says, not necessarily straight A’s throughout their entire high school career. “I've seen many students heartbroken

about earning one or two B's, but I try to assure them colleges are not looking for perfection.” David Burge, executive director of

undergraduate admissions at Arizona State University, says the school’s admission standards are pretty well- regulated by the Arizona Board of Regents, with 16 core competency areas within coursework examined as well as performance measures like grade point average, standardized test scores or class rank. “If they have completed all 16,

then they are admitted,” Burge says. For more specialized schools at

ASU, like Barrett Honors College, Burge says specific academic pro- grams and letters of recommendation come into play.

Testing, testing Admission tests that sound like

they came straight from a can of

THE GATEKEEPER: ASU Undergraduate Admissions Executive Director David Burge encourages students to start the admissions process early and seek scholarship opportunities to fulfill college dreams. Submitted photo

system to watch for any news on scholar- ships. Students might have to tweak key- words a bit over time to get the best information, he adds. After prospective students fill out online

applications, they submit supporting materi- als which Burge says typically include a tran- script reflective of their academic work and standardized test scores. The scores can sometimes help a student

who struggled in a particular subject to get admitted, Burge says.

BE PREPARED: By starting to prepare well in advance, high school graduates can feel confident, not confused, about starting college.

“If students don’t meet the core compe-

tencies in certain areas we can look at their test scores. On paper the student may have a deficiency but when it comes to testing he or she might have done very well.” For parents who assume they cannot

afford to send their child to ASU or other universities due to cost, Burge offers reassurance. “Don’t self-select out of the process until

you allow the process to finish. Don’t assume that it’s out of reach because of your perception,” Burge says, adding that students should start applying for scholarships as soon as it is prudent to do so. “Follow up with the schools after applying and keep the line of communication open.” Kanner says it’s also important to stay

realistic when deciding where to apply. “Your list should include colleges that

reflect a realistic assessment of your admis- sions chances. There is nothing wrong with a dream school but your list shouldn't include every Ivy League college and Stanford only. Remember there are over 3,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and most offer out- standing educational programs.”

Alison Stanton is a freelance writer who lives

in the East Valley. She can be reached at

Resources Books: “Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College,” by Sally P. Springer, Jon Reider and Marion R. Franck “Countdown to College: 21 To Do Lists for High School: Step-By-Step Strategies for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Graders,” by Valerie Pierce and Cheryl Rilly “Preparing for College: Practical Advice for Students and Their Families,” by John J. Rooney, John F. Reardon and Katherine Haley Will


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