6 ‘Secrets’ to Getting Your Child Into College

Let your college preferences be known to the admissions office. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Let your college preferences be known to the admissions office. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

New technology is enabling students to apply to more colleges now than ever before, but that same technology is also increasing competition among students.

With more than 17 million students unrolled in undergraduate programs in the USA, and high school juniors and seniors applying to sometimes dozens of schools, each must find ways to make themselves stand out from an ever-growing pool of applicants.

To make that happen, college admissions experts from Georgian Court University, Monmouth University, and The College of New Jersey as well as local financial planners shared their college entrance strategies on Thursday with parents and students at FirstEnergy Park, home of the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws, during the most recent installment in the Asbury Park Press speaker engagement series, APP Talks: Getting Your Kid Into College.

Here are six ways they say students can grab the attention of admissions officers, according to the panelists.

1. Pick out the right school

“Fit is the most important thing,” said Bill Behre, chief academic officer of Georgian Court University in Lakewood and father of two college students.

Prospective students should decide whether they will be happiest in an urban, suburban or rural setting, and whether they want to attend a large research institution or a small, intimate liberal arts college.

Students also need to consider how far away they want to be from their families, said Robert Mc Caig, vice president for enrollment management at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.

College fairs are a good place to browse the academic programs of a variety of schools and get ideas on campuses to visit, said Mc Caig. Visiting campuses during the sophomore and junior years of high school is also an important part of the selection process, he said.

“It’s a marriage of sorts,” said Behre. “You have to find the one that matches you.”

2. Take college placement tests seriously

“SATs still matter at a lot of schools,” Mc Caig said.

Take practice SATs to be familiar with the layout and style of the test. For students who are not happy with their score, many find the ACT is an easier option, experts said.

“Choose the one that fits you,” Behre said.

Transcripts are still the most important piece of the application, so high SAT scores must accompany good grades in challenging high school classes, they said.

3. Start saving early

“There’s plenty of different savings vehicles,” said Jeff Rossi, founder and president of Peak Wealth Advisers of Holmdel.

In addition to college savings accounts, parents can chose from federal parent PLUS loans, Perkins loans and Stafford loans to finance their teenager’s education. They must carefully research each loan type and see which interest rates would best benefit their family.

Certified financial planner Patrick Kenny of C & A Financial Group of Manasquan warns parents to be careful about co-signing college loans.

Unlike home loans and credit card debt – which can be defaulted on under certain circumstances – “student loans are forever,” Kenny said.

If parents co-sign a loan, “make sure your child knows the impact paying this loan has on you,” he said.

The government will garnish a former student’s wages to recoup the loan money rather than let that adult default, Kenny said.

College officials say students and parents should not let an institution’s sticker price prevent them from applying. Colleges and universities have student aid net price calculators on their websites, and financial aid officers can provide an assistance package during the application process.

Rossi said having a strong transcript and high grades will make students more attractive to institutions, lead to more opportunities for scholarships, and save a student money in the long run.

“The future comes real quick,” said Kenny. “Just be smart about it.”

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SOURCE: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press – Amanda Oglesby

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