by Becky GINOS
Parents start dreaming about their child’s future from the day they are born. But kids grow up fast and suddenly that tiny baby is a teenager and college is around the corner. Applications, scholarships, grades, it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. Fortunately, parents and students are not alone. Counselors at both the high school level and college level are ready to guide families through the process to find a perfect fit.
“You need to start with classes in the ninth grade,” said Viewmont High School counselor Karen Findley. “Take as many rigorous classes as you think you can handle and focus on math. Put an emphasis on extracurricular classes too. Counselors do a lot of interest surveys to help students think about careers. We encourage parents to look at elective credits. They need to be college prep classes or in their career interests because if they discover they hate it, it’s so much cheaper to learn that in high school than college.”
Findley recommends students get job skills in high school as well. “You can leave Viewmont with a CNA, a mechanic certificate or welding,” she said. “It might not be what they’ll do for the rest of their life but they’ll have a job skill.”
For those students who are college bound, Findley suggests taking a tour of the campus. Viewmont also has a scholarship coordinator who will meet with students and find out what is unique about them so that they can find scholarships that are best suited to their interests.
“Take a lot of math,” said Findley. “Students can complete the requirements in high school which will give them a leg up. Kids will take the ACT their junior year and then we recommend taking a second one in October of their senior year.”
Some colleges have very competitive admission requirements but there are plenty of others that will admit everyone who applies provided they graduate from high school. “Students usually self select,” said Findley. “They come in and tell me what their goals are and we figure out what they need to do to reach those goals.”
Viewmont offers an assembly in the fall for seniors where the students divide up and talk to representatives from all the schools in the state. “We’ll now have one for juniors in the spring,” she said. “We also have a college application week where we help students fill out applications in the library.”
Counselors start working with students as early as eighth and ninth grade, Findley said. “They do a College and Career Ready (CCR) meeting with ninth graders to map out classes for the next four years,” she said. “Juniors have the CCR and sophomores and seniors have a group CCR and talk about it in class.”
Viewmont posts ongoing information on the school’s website to assist parents and students with deadlines, applications, scholarships and financial aid. The state has also developed StepUp to higher education, an online resource for college information and requirements for eighth through 12th graders.
“Parents need to ask ‘am I just getting them into college or preparing them for college so they can be successful?’” said Findley. “They can sometimes be two different goals.”