Preparing for CollegeOct 01, 2021
It is incredibly important to begin preparing for college in a timely manner. This could begin as early as the first year of high school by focusing on maintaining good grades and figuring out what you might want to do as a career. Navigating applying for colleges can be daunting, as it is sometimes complicated. Bridge Leadership Academy has developed a 6 step plan to walk you through the college application process.
Step 1: Your Top 5 Schools
A good first step to take as a future college student is to research and come up with a list of your top 5 prospective schools. Doing this will allow you to decide what is most important to you in a school. Asking yourself questions about what you want out of a school will help you determine which one is the right fit for you. When crafting your college list, don't forget to consider your state university, HBCUs, and your local community colleges! Provided below are 30 questions to help get you started.
Step 2: Talk With Your College Counselor
Your high school and college counselor is a great resource to help you through the preparation process. Typically you begin working with a college counselor during junior year of high school. They are knowledgeable about a wide array of college-related subjects, including but not limited to: Helping you gather recommendation letters, providing aid and other resources to help you perfect your application essays, and guiding you through the early application process. Additionally, it is good to check in with your counselor and make sure you are on track for high school graduation. Provided below is a list of further subjects you may want to bring up with your counselor.
Step 3: Keeping Up With Your Grades
For upperclassmen, seniors especially, it is tempting to fall into what is commonly known as the '"Senior Slide" or "Senioritis". Of course, it is important to take care of your mental and emotional health during this transitional period in your life, but it is also important to keep up with your academic performance. While you don't necessarily have to be a straight-A student, a good rule is to keep your GPA at a 3.0 (equivalent to a B letter grade) at the minimum. Doing this ensures that you will qualify for a large majority of scholarships while making a good impression on a college application. Provided below are some tips on staying motivated during senior year while still being considerate to your mental health.
Step 4: The ACT/SAT
The majority of colleges will, in some capacity, require either an ACT or SAT score upon applying. While a student can take both tests, many students usually opt for one over the other, and most colleges accept either test score. The decision of which test to take comes down to your child and their learning style. Many students choose to take the ACT, especially if they struggle with standardized testing. Both tests can be taken as many times as wanted or needed, and only your highest score will be submitted to your colleges. Discuss which testing option is best for you with your college counselor.
The ACT measures what a student already knows. It covers material that the student should have learned during high school.
The SAT is used more as a predictor of what a student is capable of learning. It deals with material that the student may NOT have learned in high school.
Both the SAT and ACT offer fee waiver eligibility applications which will allow your child to take the test for free up to four times. Check with your counselor to see if you are eligible to apply. Provided below is more information on ACT/SAT fee waivers.
The final deadline to register for the ACT depends on when you want to take the test. You can still register after any one deadline, however, a late registration fee will apply. Below is the schedule of ACT test dates as well as each date's registration deadline.
*Note that the September 11th test date has already passed.*
Provided below is a link to the ACT official website on what is required for registration, including a test center locator, and information on accommodations.
Like the ACT, the SAT registration deadline also depends on when you want to take the test. You can still register after any one deadline, however, a late registration fee will apply. Below is the schedule of SAT test dates as well as each date's registration deadline.
*Note that the August 28th and October 2nd test dates have already passed*
Provided below is a link to the SAT official website on what is required for registration, including a test center locator, and information on accommodations.
ACT/SAT Test Preparation
The ACT and SAT also offer a range of FREE preparation tools, such as practice tests, and study guides. Provided below is a link to all of the preparation services offered by the ACT and SAT.
Step 5: FAFSA
The “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” is a form completed by current and prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. While there are no income limits to apply, it is highly recommended that every student submit a FAFSA, as aside from any federal funding you may receive, “many colleges use FAFSA data to award their own aid.” The FAFSA will determine basic information about your financial aid eligibility through your federal tax information and covers grants, loans, and work-study options for students, as well as being combinable with any outside scholarships.
FAFSA applications for the 22-23 academic school year begins October 1st, and the federal deadline for submission must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Central time on June 30, 2023.
Each state also has its own deadlines. The Kansas deadline is April 1, 2022, by midnight central time for priority consideration, and the Missouri deadline is Feb. 1, 2022 for priority consideration, with applications accepted through April 1, 2022, by midnight central time. Be sure to talk with your college counselor about any deadlines your school may have regarding the FAFSA as well as resources dedicated to helping you navigate the FAFSA application process.
To learn more about how FAFSA aid works, as well as information on the different types of aid and what you'll need to complete the application, follow the provided links below.
Step 6: Applying For Scholarships
Scholarships are something that every student should apply for. Scholarships represent what is essentially free money, and make it easier to avoid taking out student loans so that you can graduate debt-free. There are many different types of scholarships for every student. Some scholarships can be put towards any school-related expenses, others may only be used, for example, for the cost of textbooks, and some may only be used within a certain academic field. Generally, a good time to start researching and applying for scholarships is in November, National Scholarship Month. The Bridge has provided information on different types of scholarships below.
Many businesses and organizations in your community are interested in acknowledging local students by sponsoring scholarships. Students applying for local scholarships generally face less competition than if they were to apply for national scholarships since local scholarships are only available to students within a certain area. Provided below is a link to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation's list of scholarships to get you started.
KC Scholars is locally based out of the Kauffman Foundation, and was “intentionally and purposefully designed as a community asset.” The organization is dedicated to helping fund higher education for students of low and modest-income families in the Kansas City area. 76% of KC scholars are students of color, and they are inclusive to students from all schooling backgrounds, whether that be public, charter, private, or homeschool. The KC Scholars organization offers a ‘Traditional Scholarship’ option for current 11th graders, the eligibility requirements which follow below.
- Be a current 11th grader during the application cycle
- Be home-schooled or attend a public, charter, or private high school in the following 6 counties: Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte (MO) or Johnson and Wyandotte (KS)
- Be lawfully present in the U.S. or DACA eligible and DACA applied/approved
- Have at least a 2.5 cumulative high school unweighted GPA (5 semesters from 9th grade to the fall semester of 11th grade) or at least a 16 on the ACT or at least an 800 on the SAT)
- Be considered low- or modest-income. Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculation on the College Board EFC Calculator must be 12,000 or less. The calculation is based on household income, the number of members in the family, and the number of family members that will be in college at the same time. It is the amount of annual financial support a family can be expected to pay toward the student’s college education.
A "Traditional Scholarship" plan will award up to $5000 per semester for up to 5 years for universities, and up to $2000 per semester for up to 5 years for community colleges. Any remaining funds from an academic year may be used for summer classes as well. To remain eligible, a student must plan to attend one of the 17 KC Scholars colleges or universities and must also maintain continuous full-time enrollment, with summer attendance optional. Provided below are the 17 colleges and universities one may attend using KC Scholars funding.
KC Scholars also offers a college savings match program for current 9th graders, for a 1:1 match of up to $1,000 and an additional $400 of incentives. This is a one-time award. To learn more about this program, follow the link provided below.
The application requirements and dates for 2022 are to be decided posted on the KC Scholars website, linked below.
Many identity-based scholarships exist to support students with specific social identities and backgrounds, including but not limited to: racial, ethnic, gender, and orientation based identities. These scholarships exist on both local and national levels and are dedicated to broadening the number of underrepresented groups in the college classroom. Provided below is a link to help you explore some of these identity-based scholarship opportunities.
Due to the high volume of students applying to win, national scholarships are often more competitive and require more effort to make sure you stand out against the crowd. However, for this same reason, national scholarships can also offer a greater amount of financial support. Provided below is a link to help you explore some of these national scholarship opportunities.
School Specific Scholarships
Every college offers some sort of financial aid for prospective students. Make sure to research any colleges you are interested in to find out what types of financial aid are available to students, including on-campus jobs or work-study options. A good place to start is on your college's website. You can also go to your college counselor for assistance, or reach out to your college's financial aid office.