Encourages adequate preparation for college

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Preparing for college and going through the application process can be a daunting task. There are several components, including establishing a strong academic profile, building a college resume, conducting a college search, and finding financial resources that all families should be familiar with.

A student’s academic profile is comprised of transcript with grade point average and SAT or ACT score. I would recommend that high school students take as challenging a course load as they can handle, and do their due diligence in those classes, as this will lay the foundation for more advanced courses, such as Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which look great on a student’s transcript. If a student is struggling, particularly in English or Math, some extra help can be a worthwhile investment. Approximately half of New Jersey’s high school graduates are not prepared for college level work when they get there, which means they require remedial instruction. This costs families thousands of dollars in extra tuition for instruction the student gets no credit for.

In addition to the academic profile, students have the opportunity to show college admissions personnel who they are by way of their college resume. This is where the student should list any awards, honors, or accomplishments outside of the classroom. Gainful employment, community service, fundraisers, food drives, or volunteering with a church group are all excellent ways to showcase your humanitarian efforts and show the colleges of interest the type of person you are, a good citizen who works well with others and will be an asset to the school.

You will also need to conduct a college search narrowing down your college of interest to a manageable list of a couple of safety, a couple of target, and a couple of reach schools. I would recommend using a college search engine to pare down the list; there is such a feature on collegeboard.org, the creators of the SAT test. Once you’ve narrowed your list, visiting the schools will go a long way to informing you which is the best fit for you, even if you’re not sure why. It might be the climate, the people you meet during your visit, or just the overall atmosphere.

To see what you qualify for regarding financial aid, you will fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (fafsa.gov), and you can also go to the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (hesaa.gov), a New Jersey based agency that offers both need and merit based financial aid. It is also worth researching the financial aid packages offered by the schools you’re interested in. Finally, try going to Fastweb.com or goingmerry.com, two scholarship search engines; every little bit helps.

I live in Stanhope, New Jersey, with my wife and son. I can be reached at 917-670-8022 or paulkelly@collegeedgenj.com for anyone with questions or who'd like to discuss this further. Our web site is CollegeEdgeNJ.com.

Paul Kelly


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