Education feature: Officials say timing important when applying for college

Clovis High School senior Mary Cate Burns, right, receives help Wednesday from senior class councilor Diane Tunnell at the school. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Procrastination and college preparation don’t mix, according to many college officials.

The bulk of college deadlines for the fall semester have already passed, college officials said. That includes most scholarship deadlines and most college application deadlines.

Students should begin planning for college as early as their freshman year of high school, some college officials suggest.

Because Clovis high school students do not transfer to the high school campus until their sophomore year, they “sometimes forget that they are working on high school credits in the ninth grade,” said Clovis High School senior counselor Diane Tunnell.

“They need to begin investigating colleges and find out what requirements that college has and what classes they need to take (to get into that college),” Tunnell said.

The admissions criteria at the University of New Mexico is labeled moderately difficult, according to the UNM Associate Director of Admissions Robin Ryan.

On the first screening (of UNM applicants), Ryan said admissions officers examine the grades earned in seven essential areas of study.

She recommends college-bound students complete four English classes, three math classes (including algebra and one level above algebra), two science classes (with at least one lab), two social studies classes (including U.S. History), and two years of study in one foreign language by the end of their high school senior year. Though some East and West Coast universities may have stricter class guidelines, Ryan said these are the courses which are required of incoming students at UNM and elsewhere.
There is one significant financial aid deadline which still looms.

The deadline for Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) in New Mexico is March 1, according to college officials. The form, filed federally and sent to institutions which students are interested in attending, is essential for students seeking student aid, college officials said.

And all college-bound students should seek financial aid, regardless of their financial status, said Dixie Hutchins, Assistant Director of Marketing for New Mexico Student Loans, a private, nonprofit corporation founded in 1981 by the New Mexico State Legislature to guide parents and students through the potentially messy process of getting to college.

“There is a misconception that students may not qualify for federal student aid because their parents make too much money. There are all types of aid,” Hutchins said, “and everybody should apply.”

Other tips

Use the Internet
The Internet is such a prominent research tool, some colleges have stopped sending brochures to high schools, Tunnel said. “I go to Yahoo or Google and type in the name of a university, and usually that university’s Web site pops right up,” Tunnel said. Essential deadline and financial aid information is usually available there, she said.

Watch your ACT
Most colleges in New Mexico require scores from the ACT, an assessment test, for admissions purposes. Other states require SAT scores. Find out which scores your college of choice needs and register to take the test well ahead of that school’s application deadline.

Be well-rounded
Colleges these days don’t rely solely on grade-point averages and test scores, although they are important components in the application process. Admissions officers can be equally impressed by extra-curricular activities and community service, college officials said. “Be involved at the high school level. There is something for everybody,” Tunnell said.

On the Web:

Source: CNJ staff