Contrary to popular belief, what students accomplish in the ninth and tenth grades has a profound effect upon which colleges they will eventually have the opportunity to attend. Many of the steps necessary to prepare for college really should begin even before high school. There is much that a student can do in the first two years of high school to improve their chances of not only getting admitted to the college of their choice, but of succeeding in college and earning their bachelors degree.
FRESHMEN & SOPHOMORES
Most students simply don't read enough; the educational consequences of this are severe. The stronger a student's reading skills, the more likely they will perform well in all of their classes, and the better their vocabulary will be. Performance on tests like the SAT and ACT, one of the most significant factors in college admissions, is heavily influenced by the depth of the test taker's vocabulary. Frequent reading will also allow students to strengthen their grasp of grammatical concepts that may have been neglected, which in turn will help to improve their writing skills. Reading trashy novels or poorly written tabloids isn't as helpful; parents, if you are concerned about what your child is reading, ask your child's English teacher for some suggested books.
Colleges and universities are looking for students that will not only succeed in the classroom, but who can add something to their campus community. Students who have strong interpersonal and leadership skills, who work well with others, and have demonstrated a willingness to get involved in their community, are greatly desired. There is no limit to the activities in which UAG students can get involved. Some examples include student government, sports, community service, JROTC, volunteering, dance, and musical performances. What is it that you enjoy? Whatever it is, get involved. It doesn't have to be with UAG, either. Keep in mind that you shouldn't simply join as many clubs as possible to make yourself look good; you should be an active participant in any activity you to which you commit and should stick with it over time. College admissions officers can easily spot those students who are just looking to pad their resumes.
USE COMMUNITY SUPPORT
There are countless organizations across NYC whose mission is to serve students who may not have access to educational opportunities. These community based organizations provide a wealth of free services to teens who may otherwise slip through the cracks or just miss out on meeting their true potential. Tutoring, college planning help, SAT prep, college trips, art or music classes, are among the many free services these organizations can provide. UAG has been working to establish relationships with c.b.o.s throughout the city including Upward Bound, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, The Door, and Bottom Line, among many others. UAG students should consider linking up with a community based organization through Ms. Hogarty, our partnership coordinator, or the UAG College Office or Guidance Office. You can also use the following link to identify college access programs in your area.
EARN GOOD GRADES
It sounds pretty obvious, but many students assume that colleges aren't really looking at the early years of high school. Not true. Colleges evaluate the entire high school transcript, which contains the final grades for every class taken in high school. A poor freshman or sophomore year will not be overlooked. Low grades in ninth and tenth grade will lower the overall grade point average; a low overall gpa will eliminate you from consideration not only by selective colleges, but most scholarship programs. Also, your performance in your early high school career will affect just what kinds of opportunities will be available to you at UAG in the upper grades. This leads us nicely into our next topic.
TAKE CHALLENGING COURSES
College admissions counselors want students who are academically prepared for college. The best way to prepare for college is to take a rigorous high school program that includes college level courses. Students that have done well in honors, Advanced Placement, or college courses in high school are considered to be more likely to succeed in college by selective colleges and universities. High achieving UAG students can begin to take honors and Advanced Placement courses in the 10th grade; juniors and seniors may eventually be invited to take courses for college credit through the CUNY College Now program. Only students who have exceptional grades and a strong work ethic will be considered for such classes.
EARN A REPUTATION - A GOOD ONE!
First impressions go a long way. During your senior year you will need to obtain letters of recommendation for college from your teachers and college counselor. What will they say about you? Were you a hard working, helpful, cooperative student who could work well with your teachers and peers...or were you a terror in the classroom? Did you come to class each day prepared to learn, or did you show up late with no homework and a bad attitude? You begin building your reputation the first day you enter UAG, and a bad one can be hard to shake. Do your best to show your teachers that you are a young person who cares about your future and your community from day one.