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Freedom High School Oakley

Advice For Students Preparing For College

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Calling all Liberty, Freedom and Heritage high school students – I'm sure you get your fair share of unsolicited advice from your parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and even your fellow classmates, but before you put those ear buds back in your ears and rock out to some Green Day … hear me out on this one.

Preparing for college!

Stop yawning, this is important stuff.

So your grades are decent and you have a healthy dose of extracurricular activities and volunteer work going on … but do you know what else you can do during your freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years of high school? This is not a test, so chillax! It's only tips you can use. Okay, so sit back and get your cell phone out so you can take pictures of this article – because who writes with an actual pen and paper anymore?

So I spoke with Lisa Spencer of Concord – owner of Next Phase College & Career Advising, and she helps people move into the 'Next Phase' of their lives in two ways: 1. Career counseling and job coaching – she does this for high school and college graduates, as well as career changers and people returning to work – so that means older people like me! 2. College admissions advising – which she does for high school and college transfer students, where she helps them get into schools that are the right fit for their own unique needs.

Freedom High School

I asked Lisa to give me the top 3 things juniors and seniors should do in order to prepare for college. She said the following …

1.    Determine the caliber of college you want to aim for and plan out your entire high school curriculum accordingly. Some students plan too rigorous of a schedule and then apply to schools that would've been fine with half that.

2.    Take full-length practice ACT and SAT tests early in junior year to determine which test to focus on and how much prep you'll need. Don't blindly take a real test and "see how you'll do."

3.    Find extracurricular activities that interest you and you can stick with long-term. There's no "right" or "best" activity, but you want to focus on quality over quantity. Remember that activities outside of school, including work (even fast food), internships, and volunteering are all great options.

I asked her how soon is too soon, to begin planning. I was expecting her answer to be Kindergarten, but surprisingly (and seriously), she said that planning class schedules and participating in activities should start in freshman year, but the real work should start junior year. "You really do yourself a disservice if you wait until senior year to build your college list, take entrance exams (SAT/ACT/subject tests), visit colleges and decide on a major," she added.

Which made me think … so what are the don'ts? What are some of the mistakes students, even parents, make when it comes to preparing for college? While "waiting until senior year to start preparing" made her list, she gave me two more big no-no's:

1.    The top mistake is focusing too heavily on super selective, elite colleges and trying to get into the same schools that everyone else is applying to. 
2.    Relying on "Best Colleges" lists and believing that they must know something you don't know. Dig into what criteria they used to build that list. Is that the criteria you would use in determining what makes a school good for you? Most likely not.

Lisa said that preparing for college is mega important. By properly preparing in advance, one could avoid the statistics she gave me, for example that about 30% of students will drop out of college before their second year and 41% of students never graduate from college. I can't help but think that if students (and parents) did their research and prepped ahead of time, they would choose the best college to go to in the first place and won't be part of these statistics. Is this where I drop the mic and say "you're welcome!"

And parents … here's some advice for you too! 

Once you find your nest empty since Johnny or Susie are headed off to the big "U" (as in university), call Cypress Self Storage (Oakley's newest self storage facility currently under construction) to find out what size unit you will need to store everything your kidlets left behind in their bedrooms. Why? Because you are going to need that now-empty space for your NEW office, craft room or workout gym (and saving some gym membership fees while you're at it). That empty room is now prime real estate for YOU! It's time for you now to do the things you want to do – that is, if you have enough money left after sending endless checks to cover dorm room pizza nights!

Course parents might not encounter Empty Nest Syndrome if their kids decide to stay home and attend a two-year community college – and save lots of dollars in the meantime (just forget about that new home office or gym!). If this is the case, consider going to Los Medanos College in Pittsburg and Brentwood – they're building a new Brentwood location by the way, or Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill and San Ramon or Contra Costa College in San Pablo. All three colleges belong to the same district and they offer countless great core transfer courses to a four-year college.

OH, and I forgot to mention … Lisa Spencer of Next Phase College & Career Advising will hold a free college info night at Ygnacio Valley Library in Walnut Creek on March 26, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. She also offers free, no-obligation, 30-minute phone sessions and you can make appointments or register for workshops at www.nextphasecnc.com. 

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