Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Getting ahead on ‘getting in’ to college

Parents, students prepare for admissions process

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Ashlee Schuppius wants to attend Hampton University in two years and become an executive manager for a fashion line. Her mother, Tania, wants to make sure her daughter gets accepted to college first.

Both mother and daughter felt better prepared following a ‘‘College Admissions 101” seminar Thursday night at the Fairland Library.

‘‘Everything you do now counts for the future,” said Ashlee Schuppius, 16, a junior at Springbrook High School and Silver Spring resident.

‘‘It gives me a timeline,” said Tania Schuppius. ‘‘I know exactly what she should be doing in her junior year.”

The Schuppiuses were two of a dozen parents and students with questions about weighted GPAs, SATs, ACTs, early admission and college interviews and essays. Susan Rundbaken, a pre-college programs coordinator with Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions who does similar talks at local high schools, fielded the queries.

Her overarching message: plan ahead.

‘‘It’s important to start early on and make yourself the perfect college candidate,” Rundbaken said.

And with good reason. Three million high school seniors graduated last year, 60 percent of who applied and enrolled in college, Rundbaken said. More students apply to college each year, a trend expected to continue until 2014, according to Kaplan.

Rundbaken encouraged students to take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, as grades in those classes are of ‘‘considerable importance” to nearly 80 percent of admissions officers when deciding on whether or not to accept a student, according to a 2006 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. By contrast, the same study reported that less than 60 percent of admissions officers assign the same level of importance to admissions tests like the SAT and ACT.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, quality is recommended over quantity, Rundbaken added.

‘‘Colleges would rather see you take a leadership role in a club in your junior or senior year...than join 10 different clubs,” she said.

All of the talk about extracurriculars and academics had Judith Porzel wondering about her son, Caleb, a junior at Good Counsel High School. Caleb Porzel is an average student, his mother said, but would excel in the interview and essay portion of a college application. Much of his free time is taken up by football, she said, as the running back is drawing interest from college coaches.

Porzel still had questions for Rundbaken following the seminar, but the Silver Spring resident said she had a good foundation of knowledge about the admissions process. ‘‘I just wanted to get my feet wet,” she said. ‘‘It’s nice to know the scenarios.”

Porzel planned to review the information with her son as well. ‘‘It’s really time to start thinking,” she said.

Chris Kelly, 14, will only be a sophomore at James Hubert Blake High School next week but is already thinking about the extracurricular activities and Advanced Placement classes he needs to take in the coming years to ensure he gets accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Kelly came to the talk with his mother, Patrice, who said she wanted to learn the basics of the admissions process.

‘‘I just don’t want to miss anything,” said Patrice Kelly, a Silver Spring resident.

Rundbaken recommended students take the SAT in the spring of their junior year and begin the application process before the start of their senior year. The timeline, plus the pending start of school, had Ashlee Schuppius shaking her head.

‘‘I’m going to have to work this year,” she said.

By the numbers

Facts and figures from the college admissions game:

More than 25 percent of students submit more than five college applications

73 percent of colleges reported an increase in applications last year

The most selective colleges receive 25 percent of all applications

27 percent of students take at least one Advanced Placement course

The national average score on the SAT is 1518 (out of 2400)

Source: Susan Rundbaken,Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions