HLCS College Planning and Resources

Welcome to the road to college!  Our desire at Hume Lake Charter School is that each student, upon graduation, will be equipped and prepared to attend college, if they so desire. This information has been put together to begin to help you as the student and the parent think about the choices, options, and opportunities that lie ahead in the coming years.  This is only a first step, hopefully it will begin to answer some of the question you may have, open the doors to the resources that are available to you, and begin dialogue in your family about the possibilities for the future. 

Hume Lake Charter School Staff is committed to help you along the journey and to find resources that can support you in each step of the process.
 
This resource includes:

¬    A planning list for parents of ninth- and tenth-graders

¬    College planning calendar for juniors

¬    College planning calendar for seniors

¬    A guide for assessing your list of colleges

¬    Tips for parents on finding a college match

¬    Twelve myths about paying for college

¬    Senior-year calendar for students applying for financial aid

¬    Considering a community college

Administration and Counseling Staff
Hume Lake Charter School

A Planning List for Parents of
Ninth- and Tenth-Graders



Even though it may seem that getting your child ready for college should begin a few years from now, important groundwork can take place in ninth and tenth grade.  Here is a list to help you make sure your child is on the right track:

Grade 9
1.    Create a four-year high school plan. Once your child is settled into ninth grade, introduce the idea of preparing an overall plan for high school that relates to his or her goals.
a.    Make sure you and your child knows what high school courses are required by colleges, and that your child’s ninth-grade courses are on the right track.
b.    Map out when these courses should be taken
c.    Familiarize yourself with the various levels of courses offered by Hume Lake Charter School, particularly the UC/CSU path.

2.    Start your child thinking about careers. Encourage your child to develop a tentative career goal.  Of course it will change – often – but it’s the thought process that counts.
a.    Help your child to identify interests – likes and dislikes – not just in academics but in all areas.  This will help your child to focus on goals.
b.    Encourage your child to discuss career options with others, such as the school counselor, teachers, recent college graduates who are working, professionals in the community, etc.

3.    Meet with the school counselor.  The school counselor knows how to help your child get the most out of high school. Make sure your child takes the opportunity during the school year to discuss post-high school plans with the school counselor.  Parents are encouraged to participate in these meetings too!

4.    Save for college.  It’s still not too late to start a college savings plan, if you haven’t already.  Every little bit helps
•    Investigate state financial aid programs and 529 plans.

5.    Obtain a social security number for your child if you don’t already have one.  This is often required for applications, testing, scholarships, etc.

Grade 10

1.    Meet with your school counselor – again.  Make sure your child meets with his or her school counselor to ensure that he or she is enrolled college preparatory and UC approved courses. 

2.    Ask if the PSAT/NMSQT is offered tenth-graders.  While this test is usually taken in the eleventh grade, it is also often offered in the tenth.  That’s because it provides invaluable feedback on the Student Score Report; tenth-graders can them work on any disclosed academic weaknesses while there is still ample time to improve them.

3.    Is your child interested in attending a U.S. Military academy?  If so, he or she should request a pre-candidate questionnaire and complete it.  A questionnaire can be obtained from www.adacemyadmission.com.

4.    Attend college and career fairs.  These often take place at neighboring schools and the school will inform you of them as the arise.

5.    Support your child’s participation in a school activity or volunteer effort.  Extracurricular activities help students develop time-management skills and enrich the school experience.

6.    Tour college campuses.  If possible, take advantage of vacation or other family travel opportunities to visit colleges and see what they are like.  Even if there is not interest in attending the college you are visiting, it will help your child learn what to look for in a college, and the different options that are available.


College Planning Calendar for Juniors
Fall
•    Start with you: Make lists of your abilities, social/cultural preferences, and personal qualities.  List things your may want to study and do in college.

•    Learn about colleges.  Look at their Web sites (www.collegeboard.com has links).  Talk to friends, family teachers, and recent grads of your school now in college.  List college features that interest you.

•    At school, sign up to take the PSAT, which is given in October. Hume Lake Charter School works with Immanuel School in Reedley to allow juniors to take this test at their facilities.  If you plan to ask for testing accommodations (because of a disability),be sure your eligibility is approved by the College Board.  Check with your school counselor for details.

•    Make a file to manage your college search, testing, and application data.

•    If appropriate start to gather material for a portfolio (for example, if you’re interested in drama, music, art, sports, etc)

•    With your family, start to learn about financial aid.  Read the Department of Education’s Funding Your Education about federal aid programs, (www.ed.gov).  Use Getting Financial Aid published by the College Board and the financial aid calculator at www.collegeboard.com to estimate how much aid you might receive.

Winter
•    Sign-up to take the SAT and/or ACT at least once in the spring and again next fall.  Register online or through your school.  Fee waivers are available for students with financial need.  To prepare, download practice booklets from www.collegeboard.com (for the SAT) or from www.act.org (for ACT). 

•    Begin a search for financial aid sources. National sources include the College Board Scholarship Handbook and electronic sources.  Don’t overlook local and state aid sources

•    Ask a counselor or teacher about taking the SAT Subject Tests in the spring.  You should take them while course material is still fresh in your mind.  You can down load “Taking the SAT Subject Tests,” which offers test pre-advice from www.collegeboard.com.

Spring
•    Visit some local colleges – large, small, public, and private.  Get a feel for what works for you.  Attend college fairs, too.

•    Scan local newspapers to see which civic, cultural, and service organizations in your area award financial aid to graduating seniors.  Start a file.

•    Develop a list of 15 to 20 colleges that attract you.  Look up the websites for these institutions and see what their entry requirements are; what majors they offer; what their student life, sports, and extracurricular programs include. Request viewbooks/catalogs and information about the financial aid and academic programs that interest you.  Visit some colleges over your spring break.

•    If you are considering military academies or ROTC scholarships, contact your counselor before leaving school for the summer.  If you want a four-year ROTC scholarship, you should begin the application process the summer before your senior year. For more information look into www.military.com/ROTC.

Summer
•    If you are an athlete planning to continue playing a sport in college, register with the NCAA Clearinghouse (www.ncaaclearinghouse.net).

•    Find a full-time or part-time job, or participate in a camp or summer college program.

•    Visit colleges. Take campus tours and, at colleges you are serious about, make appointments to have interview with admission counselors. 

•    Create a resume – a record of accomplishments, activities, and work experiences since you started high school.

•    Download applications (or request paper copies) from the colleges to which you’ll apply.  Check application dates, and application fees – large universities may have early dates or rolling admissions.




College Planning Calendar For Seniors

September
•    Narrow your list of colleges to 5 to 10.  Meet with a counselor about them and, if you have not yet done so, download college applications and financial aid forms.  Plan to visit as many of these colleges as possible.
•    Create a master list or calendar that includes:
    o    tests you’ll take and their fees, dates, and registration deadlines.
    o    college application due dates
    o    financial aid application forms required and their deadlines.  (Note: Aid applications may be due before               college applications).
    o    other materials you’ll need (recommendations, transcripts, etc.)
    o    your high school’s own application processing deadlines (for transcripts, ets).

•    If you can’t afford application or test fees, a counselor can help you request a fee waiver.
•    If you have not had your test scores sent to the college to which you are applying, be sure to contact the College Board or ACT to have your scores sent (www.collegeboard.com or www.ACT.org ).

October
•    Try to finalize your college choices
•    Prepare Early Decision, Early Action, or rolling admissions applications as soon as possible.
•    Ask for teacher or counselor recommendations if you need them.  Give each person an outline of your academic record and your extracurricular activities.  For each recommendation, provide a stamped, addressed envelope, and any college forms required.
•    If you’re submitting essays, write first drafts and ask teachers and others to read them.  If your applying for Early Decision, finish the essays for that application now.
•    If you have not had your test scores sent to the college which you are applying, be sure to contact the College Board or ACT to have them sent.

November
•    November 1-15: For Early Decision admissions, colleges may requires test scores and applications between these dates.
•    Complete at least one college application by Thanksgiving.
•    HLCS will send transcripts to colleges. Give the school staff the proper forms at least 2-3 weeks before colleges require them.

December
•    As your finish and sent your applications and essays, be sure to keep copies.
•    If your college wants to see seventh-semester grades (the fall semester of your senior year), be sure to give the form to your counselor.

January
•    If you apply to colleges online, be sure to have your high school send a transcript – it goes to colleges separately, and by mail.

February
•    Finish your semester strong!! Accepting colleges do look at second-semester senior grades!

March
•    Keep active in school.  If you are on a waiting list for a school, the college will want to know what you have accomplished between the time you applied and the time you learned of its decision.

April
•    You should receive acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April.  If you’ve not done so yet, visit your final college before accepting.  As soon as you decide, notify you counselor of your choice.
•    If you have questions about housing offers, talk to you counselor or call the college.

May
•    May 1: Colleges cannot require a deposit or commitment to attend before May 1.  By that postmarked date, you must inform every college of your acceptance or rejection of the offer of admission and/or financial aid.
•    Send your deposit to one college/university only.
•    Are you on the waiting list at a college? If you will enroll if accepted, tell the admissions director your intent and ask how to strengthen your application.  Need financial aid?  Ask whether funds will be available if you’re accepted.
•    Work with a counselor to resolve any admissions or financial aid problems.

June
Ask your high school to send a final transcript to your college



Assessing Your List of Colleges


As you develop a list of colleges that interest you, be sure you can answer these questions about them.

The Basics

•    Where is the college? Can you locate it on a map? Is it too close or too far from home? Is it too cold or too         hot there?
•    Have your take the course work the college requires for admission?
•    What size is the college? How many students are undergraduates?
•    What is the college’s selective ratio (what proportions of applicants were admitted last year)?
•    Does the college offer majors that interest you?
•    Is the college coed or single sex?
•    What percentage of students lives off campus?
•    How many of the students graduate in four years? Five years? Six years?
•    How many first-year students return for their sophomore year?
•    How much does the program cost?  What is the total per-year expense?
•    What is the average professor/student ratio in the classrooms?
•    Are most of the classes taught by professors, faculty with doctorates, or aids?
•    What type of financial aid is available?
•    What, if any, is the religious environment on the campus?

Where would you fit in?
•    What are the college scores for the SAT or ACT?  Where does that place you?
•    What was the high school GPAs of most of the freshmen last year?
•    Are freshmen guaranteed on-campus housing? Are they required to live in on-campus housing? If not, where      do they live?
•    Are there extracurricular activities that interest you?

Visit the colleges’ Web sites, read the guidebooks, and look at their literature
•    What are their strong academic programs? (Ask college representative, students, graduates, and teachers)
•    What courses are required for graduation?
•    Are the courses you need/want available each semester? At convenient times?
•    Are there special programs that interest you (study abroad, internships, etc)?
•    What is the social life like?
•    Do the pictures and the language the college uses to describe itself attract you?
•    What is your general impression of the college?
•    Is the school accredited?
•    If professional certification is required for employment in the field that interests you, how many students             enrolled in the school’s program pass the certification exam?


Admissions process
•    When are applications due?
•    Does the college accept the Common Application? If so, does it require supplemental forms?
•    What does the application contain?  Are essays required?
•    Is an interview suggested or required? Is an interview available from staff or alumni?
•    When may you visit the college? What is its policy regarding campus visits?
•    What are the financial aid deadlines? What financial aid forms are required?

Now answer these questions
•    Am I a strong candidate for admission to this college?
•    If I am not a strong candidate, what are my chances?
•    Do I want to visit this college?
•    What additional information do I need?



Tips for Parents on Finding a College Match

How can your child find colleges that match his or her needs?  First, identify priorities.  Next, carefully research the characteristics of a range of schools.  Finally, match the two.  Here are some college characteristics to consider.

Size of the Student Body

Size will affect many of your child’s opportunities and experiences:
•    range of academic majors offered
•    extracurricular possibilities
•    amount of personal attention your child will receive
•    number of academic resources available (e.g., books in the library)
•    social interactions and connectivity

In considering size, your child should look beyond the raw number of students attending.  For example, perhaps they are considering a small department within a large school.  She/he should investigate not just the number of faculty members, but also their accessibility to students.

Location

Does your child want to visit home frequently, or is this a time to experience a new part of the country or state? Perhaps he would like an urban environment with access to museums, ethnic food, or major league baseball games.  Or, maybe he hope for access to the outdoors or the serenity of a small town.

Academic Programs

If your child knows what she wants to study, she can research the reputation of academic departments by talking to people in the fields that interest her.  If your child is undecided, as many students are, she may want to choose an academically balanced institution that offers a range of majors and program.  Students normally don’t pick a major until their sophomore year, and those students who know their major before they go to college are very likely to change their minds.  Most colleges offer counseling to help students find a focus.

In considering academic programs, your child should look for special opportunities and pick a school that offers a number of possibilities.


Campus Life

Your child should consider what college life will be like beyond the classroom.  Students have to maintain a balance between academics, activities, and social life.  Before choosing a college, your child should learn the answers to these questions:

•    What extracurricular activities, athletics, clubs, and organizations are available?
•    Does the community around the college offer interesting outlets for students?
•    Are students welcomed by the community?
•    Is there an ethnic or religious group in which to take part?
•    How do fraternities and sororities influence campus life?
•    Is housing guaranteed?
•    How are dorms assigned?

Cost

In considering cost, look beyond the price tag.  For most students, today’s college costs make finances an important consideration.  At the same time, most colleges work to ensure that academically qualified students from every economic circumstance can find financial aid that allows them to attend.

Diversity


Your child should explore what she might gain from a diverse student body.  The geographic, ethnic, racial, and religious diversity of the students can help students learn more about the world. Investigate which student organizations or other groups with ethnic or religious foundations, or service components are active and visible on campus.

Retention and Graduation Rates

One of the best ways to measure a school’s quality and the satisfaction of its students is to learn the percentage of students who return after the first year and the percentage of entering students who go on to graduate.  Comparatively good retention and graduation rates indicate that responsible academic, social, and financial support systems exist for most students.




Twelve Myths about Paying for College

Billions of dollars in financial aid are available to those who need help paying for college.  Yet a lot of misinformation clouds the facts about what type of aid is available and who is eligible.  Here are some myths dispelled for those confronting the process of securing financial aid.

1. College is just too expensive for our family
    •    Despite the media hype, a college education is more affordable than most people think, especially when you consider that college graduates earn an average of $1 million more over the span of their careers than high school graduates.  The average yearly tuition at a four-year-public college is 2006-2007a was just $5,836.  there are some expensive schools, but high tuition is not a requirement for a good education.

2. There’s less aid available than there used to be
    •    In fact, student financial aid in 2006-2007 rose to a record level of $135 billion.  Most students receive some for of aid.  Less of this aid now comes in the form of grants, however; most aid is awarded through low-interest loans or institutional and other grants.  You should carefully consider the financing package you’ve been offered by each college to determine which makes the most financial sense.

3. My family’s income is too high to qualify for aid
    •    Aid is intended to make a college educations available for students of families in many financial situations.  College financial aid administrators often take into account not only income but also other family members in college, home mortgage costs, and other factors.  Aid is awarded to many families with incomes they thought would disqualify them.

4. My parents saved for college, so we won’t qualify for aid
    •    Saving for college is always a good idea.  Since most financial aid comes in the form of loans, the aid you are likely to receive will need to be repaid.  Tucking away money could mean that you have fewer loans to repay, and it won’t make you ineligible for aid if you need it. A family’s share of college costs is based mostly on income, not assets such as savings.

5. I’m not a straight-A students, so I won’t get aid
    •    It’s true that many scholarships reward merit, but most federal aid is based on financial need and does not even consider grades.

6. If I apply for a loan, I have to take it
    •    Families are not obligated to accept a low-interest loan if it is awarded to them.  One financial aid administrator recommends applying for aid and comparing the loan awards with other debt instruments and assets to determine the best financial deal.



Senior-year Calendar for Students Applying for Financial Aid

September
•    When you write or e-mail colleges that interest you, ask for financial aid info, including what forms to file and their due dates.  Put this date on your calendar and to-do list. 
Note:
    -    All colleges ask you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) not just for                           grants/scholarships, but also for college loans.  See November.
    -   Some colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.  Get a PROFILE Registration Guide from a                    counselor or click on the Pay For College line at Collegeboard.com and fill out the application online.  You           can register as early as October1.
    -    Ask if your colleges requires their own forms, too.
•    If you plan to apply for Early Decision, ask whether your college offers an early estimate of financial aid eligibility and which forms to file

October
•    Research aid opportunities using your library, financial aid guidebooks, and Web sites, including Scholarship     Search on collegeboard.com.  Your counselor may have other resources, too.  Look for the following:
    -    Federal financial aid sources;
    -    Private scholarships;
    -    State and local programs; or
    -    Scholarships, including merit and departmental scholarships, offered by colleges to which you’ll apply.                 Reference materials include books (College Board Scholarship Handbook) and search engines (e.g.,                 collegeboard.com); both report on national sources of aid.  Look for both local and state aid sources.
•    Begin work on aid applications.  Private scholarship program may have very early deadlines.
•    Use financial aid calculators like those at collegeboard.com to estimate your family’s college costs.

November
•    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  it can’t be submitted before January 1.  You can download a worksheet to organize your information.
•    Visit www.pin.ed.gov and get a personal identification number (PIN).  You will need a PIN to use as an electronic signature if you complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov (not at fafsa.com, which is a website that charges at least $79.95 for its services).

December
•    You and your family may want to save final pay stubs for the year. On aid forms that you’ll file early in the new year, use the stubs to estimate income.

January
•    Submit your FAFSA as soon as you can after (but not before) January 1. Men 18 or older must register for the Selective Service to receive federal financial aid.  To register, complete a check-off box on your FAFSA, or register at any post office.

February
•    Parents and students are encouraged to complete and file income tax returns as soon as possible.  Colleges may request copies of your tax returns to finalize aid offers.

March
•    As you receive letters of acceptance, check with aid offices to see if additional documentation must be submitted.  Some colleges may request copies of your family’s income tax forms, W-2 forms, and other materials.

April
•    Use the online “Compare your Aid Awards” tool at collegeboard.com to help you understand and compare financial aid award offers from two or more colleges.  Talk with financial aid officers if you have questions.  If you get no aid (or not enough), ask whether other financing plans are available.

May
•    If you’ve been offered aid from your chose college, be sure to accept the offer as instructed in your award letter. (Note: You’ll need to reapply for financial aid every year.)
If you’ve received aid from other schools, let them know that you won’t be attending. 


Is Community College for You?

¬    You know where you want to be but need some training to get there

¬    You want to explore different choices before settling on a path

¬    You need to cut the cost of a four-year college degree

¬    You want to sharpen your study skills before enrolling at a university

¬    You want to continue to work at your job while going to college

¬    You want to live at home

If you checked even one box on the quiz, you may want to check out a community college.  You won’t be alone – 45 percent of all first-year college students start at a community college.

These institutions offer two kinds of education
1.    If your goal is a four-year degree, you can earn a two-year (associate) degree at a community college, then transfer to a four-year college as a junior.
2.    You can earn an occupational degree or certificate in two years or less, then start working immediately in a high-demand field.

Many community college students have jobs and family responsibilities, Scheduling classes may be a big challenge. So community colleges tend to offer courses during the day, in the evening, and on weekends.  They have pioneered new teaching methods, too.  Some offer courses online (distance learning), combine Internet and classroom learning, give interactive TV courses, condense semester courses into shorter time frames, and more.



This above resource information is adapted from
The College Counseling Sourcebook, 4th Edition
© 2007 The College Board.