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A few helpful tips for the future of next year’s senior class

Students planning on taking the next step after their senior year of high school, can start preparing for the future now.

Among other things, Community Scholarship Advisor Dana Ardovino, suggests taking time during the summer to have candid talks between parents and children and to build résumés.

Park City High School has offered a "vita" for years. This template helps students gauge their past careers by committing their achievements and academic qualifications to paper. Through the form, students can expect to identify the holes in their experience and act accordingly.

Over the summer, for instance, students can plug gaps in their résumé with jobs, internships or volunteer gigs. Ardovino maintains a list of volunteer opportunities in Park City. In terms of work, students can expect to benefit by not only building their résumé, but also by identifying aspects of potential careers that may not suit their personalities.

Candid talks may be difficult, but students and parents should be honest on costs and available funds. The total cost of attending any higher education facility can become rather exorbitant when all factors are considered. The College Board Web site, in fact, claims that costs at both private and public universities are up about six percent since last year. An out-of-state surcharge for a public university can tally more than $10,000. Students and parents should "be very, very realistic about how they want to spend their college savings," said PCHS counselor Bonnie Beattie.

US Bank offers a very simple formula for calculating financial need. They suggest creating a total yearly cost of attendance and subtracting family contribution (family contribution can be determined on results of need analysis) from that number. The resulting figure should indicate a student’s financial need. More information can be found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov . Students should be reminded to fill out only the form specified for the correct year.

With patience, however, students can begin the scholarship application process now. Ardovino recommends http://www.fastweb.com as the best starting point for scholarships, but she recommends that students check every college they apply to thoroughly for opportunities. Some schools may award students initially for their academic excellence, but other scholarships will take some degree of research. Proactive parents might even go so far as to find the applications and simply hand them off to students.

The application writing aside, the toughest part of the college process may be identifying the schools that best meet the needs of each student. Summer could be an excellent opportunity for students to visit the colleges that interest them most and see first-hand what each institution offers. While visiting campuses, Ardovino suggests that students take the time to visit admissions and make a quick run past the financial aid office as well.

Lastly, students can use resources such as the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking or the College Board Web site to gauge the competitiveness of each school and prepare themselves accordingly. Truly organized students might prepare a matrix and stack their qualifications and interests against the requisites and curriculum at their favorite universities.

Those interested in preparing actively for college entrance exams should not underestimate the value of a class. Some of Ardovino’s former students showed her marked improvement in their scores. Classes are available in Salt Lake City through the University of Utah and through old stand-bys like Kaplan. Others might choose to save some money and practice on their own with the guidance of a test preparation book.

Most importantly, students can use the summer just to get their materials organized. "I usually tell my juniors to prepare a spreadsheet over the summer that lists the colleges they’re interested in," said Beattie. That list should include deadlines, costs and forms. Ardovino adds that students can use a dated folio to keep forms organized; sometimes even printed Web site shots can help serve as reminders.

Beattie also reminds parents that while this process can be difficult and time-consuming, that students should be granted autonomy to learn from the experience. "This is their process and there are valuable things (life lessons) involved," she said.


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