- Cullman, Alabama

March 17, 2013

Students should start early planning for college

By Lauren Estes
The Cullman Times

HOLLY POND — Getting accepted into college takes a little more time than most high schoolers think, but teachers say the target age for college preparation is not just set on seniors, but sophomores and juniors.

Holly Pond guidance counselor Karen Rowell has been giving college checklists and advice to students for more than 10 years through a meet-and-greet with college representatives.

“My goal is for the students to understand admission requirements and scholarship opportunities way in advance so they can be preparing for those deadlines,” Rowell said. “A lot of times students, not understanding the admission requirements, will at the last minute try and apply to a college but will not have the ACT score, or a high enough GPA.”

Hosting workshops like this allows students to grasp a better understanding of what is to come in their junior and senior years of high school. Holly Pond Middle School hosted eight different college representatives to come and share with area students last week about what each college had to offer, ranging from prices, to scholarship opportunities, to requirements in order to be accepted.

“I’ve done this in the past and recruiters from the colleges will say to them, their eleventh grade year is very important,” said Rowell. “The students GPA at the end of their eleventh grade year is what they will be looking at, and I think it will help these juniors to realize the importance of getting to work more drastically on their GPA and ACT so they can have the admission opportunity in the fall.”

The ACT and grade-point average are two of the main concerns for students. Juniors Victoria Bryant, Sophia Turnbough, and Mitchell Naler have similiar thoughts on what is to come in college prepartion, as well as what has already passed.

“If I can study enough for the ACT and get my score up, then I can get a full ride to college and not worry about it,” Bryant said. “Studying for school is also very important because your GPA will be looked at by colleges too.”

The students agree that creating some type of “game plan” for college preparation allows them to not be forced to get eveything together at the last minute.

“Most students don’t realize the need to start their research now,” Rowell said. “Their senior year it’s too late, their 11th grade year is built on researching the colleges, getting the ACT score and the GPA to where it needs to be because scholarship deadlines begin early September, October and to December of their senior year. If they don’t have an ACT score, then they will be left out.”

Rowell and students agree that declaring a major can often be the deciding factor in choosing what school you will attend. Some students find where their passion lies early on and begin to create a plan to fulfill those particular goals.

“I want to major in computer engineering and have known that since I was twelve,”Turnbough said. “I’m passionate about technology and I guess it’s easier because I have known and have been preparing since I was in ninth grade.”

Naler says that college preparation starts at home and often at a young age, but entering high school is a respectable time to begin exploring options.

“It’s never too early to start,”Naler said. “Get as much information about a college as you can. Decide what major you want to go in to and what career you want to do the rest of your life. Take the ACT as many times as you can, it will get you more comfortable with it each time.”

Rowell’s college planning checklist includes: Applied to TRIO, applied for admission, college admission essay, scholarship essay, volunteer/ community sheet, resume, references, college application fee, acceptance letter, tax records, FAFSA completed, small photograph, envelopes/labels, transcript requested, NCAA, and signed with FASTWEB or other scholarship sites.

Holly Pond teacher Tracy Adams discussed the big picture of her two sons, one dealing with the college preparation as a junior and the other currently in college.

“Volunteer hours, leadership opportunities, the ACT score, anything that can make your resume stand out and above others who are applying is important in college preparation,” Adams said. “Try and job shadow and research the careers that you believe you’re interested in. So many times student choose colleges and careers based on money, but there are more factors than that. I think they have to look at what they feel like God’s plan is for their lives and where can they be happy.”

* Lauren Estes can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 270 or at