Keep options open, college admissions officials advise

Editor’s Note: The first part in an occasional series about preparing for college in an increasingly competitive world.

By Joe Tash

For the uninitiated, the process of selecting and applying for colleges can be a daunting task, thanks to a bewildering number of options in higher education, including whether to attend a two- or four-year school, a large campus or a smaller, more intimate school, public or private, big city or rural.

With college costs continuing to rise, and budget cuts forcing colleges to tighten admissions, the competition is fierce, and missteps can mean a student loses the opportunity to attend the school of his or her choice.

Admissions officials and counselors at both the high school and college level urge students and parents to work together to come up with the best plan for the child’s education, and take advantage of advisers and online resources for support.

“It’s their high school counselor, that’s who they really need to connect with.  By just setting up an appointment and discussing post-high school options, counselors will be able to answer all their questions.  That’s the best resource kids and families have,” said Brennan Dean, head counselor for both Torrey Pines High School and the San Dieguito High School District.

The San Dieguito district serves Solana Beach, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Carmel Valley and Encinitas, and includes both middle and high schools.  Among the district’s high schools are Torrey Pines, Canyon Crest Academy and La Costa Canyon.

San Dieguito is a feeder district for MiraCosta College, a community college with campuses in Encinitas and Oceanside, and falls within the service region of Cal State University San Marcos.

In 9th and 10th grade, Dean said, students should focus on taking classes that meet college requirements, and also getting involved in extra-curricular activities, such as sports or student government, “things that they can talk about in essays and on applications.”

By 11th grade, students should start forming the list of schools where they want to apply.  Applications are due in the fall of senior year.

Dean said he advises students to start by thinking about the location and climate of where they want to go to school, whether they want to try life on the East Coast, or stay in the west.  Do they want to go to a large school with a football team and lots of school spirit, or a smaller liberal arts school where students can get to know their teachers well?

Lise Flocken, faculty director of transfer services for MiraCosta College, said students should also consider such factors as whether they want to join a sorority or fraternity, be near an international airport, attend a school with a religious orientation, stay close to home, or spread their wings and study in a distant location.

She said students and parents should sit down together and discuss the entire range of options, taking into consideration what the students want and the family’s financial resources, as well as admission requirements for various schools.

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