The road to college



Information learned is meant to be shared – especially about the tricky topic of applying to college.

Student applying for colleges online. PHOTO by

My son is a senior in high school with aspirations of a top-flight college education. He’s worked hard in high school, balancing sports, community involvement and homework on the way to an A average. He doesn’t ask for help, nor does he come home from school and tell me just what happened in a meeting with his counselor, about the speaker who came to campus to talk about college or the latest scholarship newsletter that was passed out in homeroom.

So, I’ve done my own homework on the whole college process and could write a book about it. I’ve attended college fairs, talked to admissions counselors, made campus visits. Today, since it’s college application season, I’ll just share the knowledge I’ve gleaned on that topic, saving other tips I’ve learned for future columns throughout the year.

How many schools should my child apply to?

The number that I keep hearing is about six. That should include at least one, but preferably two, colleges that are considered “safety” schools and the same amount of “reach” schools. Then, students should apply to two or three schools that fit their wish lists in terms of campus size, course offerings and such that they think they would have a good chance for admission. Safety schools are those where the student meets all the criteria for admission and is affordable; reach schools are those that might have such selective criteria or so many applicants that acceptance is not assured.

How do we figure out which schools to apply to?

If you have a child who is a junior or senior in high school, your mailbox is probably as full as mine is with letters and brochures from colleges. Have your child go over them – better yet, go over them together – and sort them into yes and no piles. Throw the reject pile in the recycling. Your student should do further research about the ones of interest to help whittle the kept pile. Some things to consider: Does the campus offer academic programs of interest? (There’s no sense in applying to a school known for the sciences if a student wants a career teaching a foreign language.) Does it have enough housing for everyone who wants it? Does it offer clubs of interest or have facilities that are important to the student, such as a dining hall that serves late at night or a gym that opens before class? Can first-year students have cars on campus or live off campus?

If the campus makes the cut and is close enough, schedule a visit. If it is far away, most college websites offer virtual tours to help familiarize students with the campus.

What about filling out all those applications and the application fee?

Many colleges today allow students to submit what is known as the Common Application, which is just what the name implies: one application accepted by multiple universities. That means just one admission essay, too.

By making a campus visit or by going to a campus website and providing some student information, students increasingly are finding application fees being waived. My son has at least 100 emails in his inbox, inviting him to apply at no cost. Some of those schools are on the top of his wish list, so the savings will be considerable since an application typically is at least $50. Between the cost of SAT prep classes, the SAT itself, senior pictures and more, senior year is expensive. Look to save money any way possible, and a visit to the website, or sending in a postcard you might receive with a campus brochure, can get your child on the list for a free application.

We can’t afford private school. Should we bother applying?

Yes. As tuition rates are rising at state universities across the country, the difference in cost between private and public institutions isn’t as great as it once was. Plus, depending on the college, packages offered upon acceptance can help to lower the price tag to close to that of a public institution. One mother speaking at a college seminar I attended told the crowd how she paid nearly the same amount of tuition for her two sons, one at a private college and one at a public university. Colleges also will offer tuition reductions based on factors such as family size and income, as well.


Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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