The Money Savvy Money: Demystifying the College Application Process

by Mira Reverente

It's not always about the grades. Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals.

It’s not always about the grades. Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals.

Last week, a friend invited me to a college plannning information session. I was thinking, “Oh no! Another one.” But she made a “no sales pitch” promise, and I trust this woman. I was hooked, so I RSVPed and off I went.

As a working journalist and as a parent, I’ve sat through so many of these presentations, sessions, workshops, Q & A’s; the names are so fancy sometimes, but it’s always the  same banana, so my expectations were low. I was pleasantly surprised to learn many surprising and interesting things about the college application process.

For you parents out there and for your children, here are some eye-opening info nuggets worth sharing:

It’s not always about the grades. Sure, they are important, but colleges also look for extra-curricular activities like volunteer work and sports. They look for passion. So your child volunteered at an animal shelter. Good. How long? One summer maybe not good enough. So he/she started a non-profit to raise money for the shelter and lower the rate of animal euthanasia, even better!

Expand horizons. So your child has a 4.0. What else was he/she into? Volleyball? Church volunteer? They are looking for well-rounded individuals who are contributing members of society. The speaker said something like this, “They are looking to accept individuals who can enrich the others’ lives. Not just a straight “A” student who did nothing but study.”

Get to know teachers. We get it. Due to never-ending state budget cuts, classrooms are fuller than ever and teachers are more overwhelmed than ever. Encourage your child to get to know his/her teachers. No brown-nosing, but make an effort to be remembered. Introduce yourself. Go the extra mile for projects and assignments. Volunteer to help out. During college app time, show initiative by offering to write an “ideal” recommendation letter. Bottomline: strive to be memorable.

Spend summers wisely. Related to #2, shy away from the “beach bum” temptation and spend the 10.5 weeks of summer break well. Volunteer. Take a new class related to your intended major or area of interest. Striving to be an art history major? Train under a local artist. Intending to be a business major? Interview a small business owner or offer to shadow him for a few weeks.

There’s a four-year college for every student who wants to attend one. Don’t count them out entirely but go beyond the Ivy League schools. Did you know that Harvard rejects 80 percent of valedictorians who apply every year?

According to the speaker, there are over 2,200 four-year-colleges across the US. Do your research. Tour college campuses during breaks. Ask around. Look up small colleges in other states. Find the right fit for your child. Start building that college list early–middle school for me. Good luck!

Mira Reverente is associate editor of CVH and a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in many local publications. Her first book on money came out last fall. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for more money savviness tips or check out her new blog 

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