Free college application seminar offered at Northern Tier Library
The college application process can be overwhelming, but a free seminar at Northern Tier Library at the end of the month aims to help parents get an overview of what to expect, what to look out for and what to know as they begin the undertaking with their high school students.
“I’m 50, so when I went to school it was pretty simple,” said Bill Porti, of My College Advisor in Wexford, who will lead the seminar. “Now the applications have become outrageous. The essays have become outrageous — some colleges require five or seven essays on their applications. The different types of financial aid available, the scholarships, the ACT tests versus the SAT tests. … it just becomes a lot and it’s hard to figure out what’s important and what isn’t important. And that’s different for every student depending on their goals and what they’ve accomplished so far.”
The seminar is 90 minutes and is broken down into two parts, Porti said. He’ll start by talking about how to position your student academically at school and how to find the best match for your student. The second half covers financial aid.
Porti said when it comes to college planning, the earlier the better. Ideally parents and students should be working on the process throughout the entire junior year.
“The College Board estimates that it takes about 100 hours to make a college plan,” Porti said. “Break that up into a couple hours a week and it’s not so bad, but if you try to cram it all into the last two or three months it becomes overwhelming and you can make the simple choice instead of the best choice.”
One of the common challenges Porti finds is that parents too often rely on “best of” lists when helping their children decide on a college. Those statistics can be manipulated, he said, and even when a school is rated highly for a particular program that may not mean it’s among the best choices for a particular student. The student’s academic history, the type of learning environment he or she needs and the cost of the school all play a part in finding the best fit, he said.
Working through a detailed process early on also helps students to focus on a study path.
“If you ask any high school junior what they want to go to college for, most don’t really know because they’ve never really been walked through the steps to give it serious thought in a way that’s meaningful to them,” he said. “You have to have a goal in order to reach it. Not that every student will figure out what they want to do before they leave for college, but it has to be a little narrowed down. Until you know what you want to go to school for, and have realistic expectations of what you’re going to study and learn, you don’t know how to pick a good institution for what you want to do.”
Porti stressed that the seminar is strictly informational, and there will be no pressure to purchase a service.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until someone points it out to you, and this seminar is to make participants aware of the resources available, how the system works and some of the things that they need to discover before choosing a college,” he said. “I’m just there to talk about how students can do the best they can in the college process.”
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.