By DONNA STILLINGER The Brunswick News
For many high school seniors, submitting applications to colleges is all wrapped up. For those who haven't sent in their applications, is it too late? Maybe not, says some local high school and college counselors.
The summer before the senior year of high school is the best time to start getting things together to apply for colleges, school officials say. Most students do the majority of their application work in the fall of their senior year, with most four-year colleges having application deadlines of November to December.
"We start thinking about college selection in the junior year and start giving the seniors timelines in the summer before senior year that remind them of the things they need to do to prepare for the application process and to remind them of all of the opportunities we have to help them in that process," said Glynn Academy senior counselor Dr. Aundra Simmons-Vaughn.
What does the application process entail?
"The college application process is standard at most institutions — students should complete the college application, send current high school transcripts and (SAT or ACT) standardized test scores to each college to which they apply," said Kimberly Burgess, admissions counselor at the College of Coastal Georgia. "Some institutions may require additional documents such as essays and letters of recommendations, so it is very important for students to research and determine what all of their potential schools require so they provide the needed documentation for an admissions decision to be made by each college or university."
Both Burgess and Simmons-Vaughn agree: It is always good practice for students to complete the application process early.
"In most cases, early applicants are able to start additional enrollment processes early as well," Burgess said. "For instance, students who apply and are accepted to College of Coastal Georgia prior to February 1 when seeking admissions for the upcoming fall semester are able to apply for institutional scholarships which can be useful in forming a student's financial plan, outlining how they or their families will pay for college."
College admission isn't as competitive as one might think. According to the College Board, fewer than 100 colleges in the U.S. are highly selective, which means they accept less than 25 percent of applicants. Close to 500, four-year colleges accept more than 75 percent of applicants. Open-admission colleges accept all or most high school graduates.
What if you haven't submitted an application to a college? Is it too late to do it now?
"In most cases the answer to this question is no," Burgess said. "However, some research institutions within the state of Georgia and other out-of-state colleges have early fall admission deadlines (in the spring), and it is always important for students to be aware of the deadlines so they can be considered for fall admissions.
"I try to stress to both students and parents that it is important for seniors to begin the admissions process as early as possible because the enrollment process at every school requires multiple steps beyond admissions which include but are not limited to: applying for financial aid, applying for housing and orientation."
Glynn Academy still has college visits planned and will have recruiters on campus. It's something they have done since school started in August.
"We keep college admissions counselors coming to the school to visit with students as groups and on an individual basis," Simmons-Vaughn said.
"If students have followed the timelines we give them and checked all of our 'News Flash' reminders, they are in good shape. If they are a bit behind, we can help get them where they need to be.
"All of our counselors maintain a web page to share information with the students, teachers, parents, and community. We also produce news flashes with up-to-date pertinent information."
Glynn Academy keeps the parents involved and on track, too. The school holds a fall parent meeting for college admissions and preparing for the HOPE scholarship. A spring parent night meeting focuses on financial aide and HOPE eligibility.
Also, in collaboration with College of Coastal Georgia, they will host College Goal Georgia, a financial aid event to help parents complete the FAFSA, the financial aide form package.
"The FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year was available on January 1," Simmons-Vaughn said. "Students and parents will need to have completed the 2015 taxes before completing the FAFSA unless you are not required to file taxes. On Feb. 9, we will have our financial aide night information session and in March we will have people here to help parents and students fill out the package."
What if you are the parent of a high school junior? What can you be doing now to help get your student ready to apply for college?
"When I talk to juniors and their parents, I stress that now is the time to plan college visits and by the start of their senior year, they should have narrowed down their college choices to their top five colleges, they should have taken the ACT or SAT at least one time and they should visit their top colleges," Burgess said.
"College visits really give students and parents the chance to get a good feel for the college itself and the admissions process at that school. It also gives the student the opportunity to see if they can see themselves at the college for the next four years."
Burgess said that while websites and promotional material from colleges are useful, nothing can really compare to the feel you get from a college visit.
"Taking the ACT or SAT as a junior simply gives students the ability to get familiar with the test and if they do well then they have one part of the admissions process completed," she said.
"Finally, students really can alleviate a lot stress from the process by narrowing down their college wish list to their top five colleges. The list should contain colleges that meet their academic needs and match their financial plan."
Once students and parents decide on a college, Burgess said it's time to begin researching the available resources available at the chosen school.
"Resources should include both academic resources and personal resources," Burgess said. "I see new incoming freshmen struggle the most with knowing what academic resources are available to them on the college campus and how to use them appropriately throughout the semester. It helps to know where to turn when you are struggling in courses and helps prevent failing grades during the first academic year."
"Knowing where you are going by early summer helps reduce stress and makes the transition from high school to college a bit easier. But right now is not too late to start applying."
Simmons-Vaughn stressed that it's not too late for students to apply.
"For those students starting the application process now, it's not too late, but it is important to work with the timeline of the schools you are interested in and stay on track with your school counselors to make it all come together," Simmons-Vaughn said.