University Preparation for First Time College Students
Q: My student is just starting to think about college. What can I do to help him/her understand more about the college admissions process?
A: Applying for college admissions can be overwhelming. By starting to plan and prepare now, you and your student are taking the first steps toward success. Here are a few tips to help you and your student get started:
- "Get the big picture." By learning as much as possible about college and financial aid now, you and your student will have a better understanding of the steps to take when applying to college down the road.
- Familiarize yourself with college entrance requirements. Understanding requirements now will help as your student selects high school courses required for college admission.
- Talk to your student. Discuss his or her reasons for going to college. Consider goals and opportunities. Talk about how their choices today affect college and career goals in the future.
- Encourage involvement. Encourage your student to do something he or she enjoys, such as playing a sport or musical instrument, volunteering, interning, or working in an interesting field. Remember, the level of accomplishment and involvement is more important than the number of activities.
- Ask about dates for the PSAT and ACT-PLAN tests. The ACT-PLAN is typically taken in the fall of the sophomore year. The PSAT is usually taken during the junior year. You want to make sure your student has registered and prepared for these tests. Visit www.collegeboard.com and www.act.org/plan for more information.
Q: When should my student take the PSAT/NMSQT?
A: PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It's a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT. It also gives your student a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship programs. This test measures your student's critical reading skills, math problem solving skills, and writing skills. Your student should definitely take the PSAT/NMSQT in his or her junior year. Your student may benefit from taking it during your sophomore year.
Q: What is the SAT and ACT?
A: The Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, measures how well your student will apply what he or she has learned in high school to college-level problems. It is a three-hour test which measures verbal and mathematical reasoning skills your student has developed over time and skills he or she needs to be successful in college.
The American College Test, or the ACT, assesses your student's general educational development and your student's ability to complete college-level work. The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The Writing Test, which is optional, measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. Your student may want to consider taking the ACT more than once. ACT research shows that of the students who took the ACT more than once 55% increased their composite score on the retest.
NOTE: King University accepts students who have taken either exam.
Q: When should my student take these entrance exams?
A: Your student can start taking entrance exams for practice as early as his/her sophomore year. Or, he/she can wait until junior year when more material has been covered in school. Be sure the tests have been taken by end of the junior year to allow time for retesting, if needed.
Q: How can I help my student prepare for ACT and SAT?
A: Purchasing study books, using computer software, or doing practice tests may help improve scores, and students may feel more confident during the tests. Make sure time spent for studying for tests is balanced with other studies and co-curricular involvements.
Q: When should my student and I start visiting colleges?
A: It is never too early to start exploring colleges. A good way to start is by attending college fairs in your area. Pick up brochures and explore web sites. Request information, catalogues, and financial aid information from the colleges that are of interest. Then, you and your student can brainstorm a list of important college characteristics (location, size, etc.) and develop a preliminary list of colleges based on desired college characteristics. Start visiting colleges during your student's junior year. When you and your student visit, take extended campus tours of 'top choice' schools. Be sure to sit in on classes. Visit with other students. See surrounding areas. Consider revisiting some of your student's top choices. Click here for more information on visiting King.
Q: What can I do to help my student in the college application process?
A: Let your student take a leadership role in contacting offices, asking questions, and completing forms, but help keep an eye on deadlines and responsibilities. Be available to proofread essays and give constructive criticisms on drafts of her application essays.
Here a few other steps your student will need to complete:
- Make final preparation of portfolios, audition tapes, writing samples, and other requirements for admissions or scholarships.
- Submit application materials. Keep copies of all applications and essays. Watch for deadlines.
- Send final transcripts to the school(s) where he/she has applied.
- Arrange for recommendation letters. Ask teachers, counselors, coaches, and other mentors to write recommendation letters. Give them a stamped, addressed envelope to mail letters. Be sure to allow time for letters to be written and mailed.