College application advice from high school seniors

Juniors can start applying in the summer for colleges

Michael Foster cannot wait to start his college career.

The high school senior is graduating from University Prep Academy High School in Detroit and will start studying social work this summer at Bowling Green State University.   His college is paid for with a full-ride scholarship through the president's leadership academy at Bowling Green.

"This is big in my house because my mother, she got her degree, but my father didn't, my brother didn't even get his high school degree, and so I'm just going to be the one to make it," said Foster.

Demari Miller will be studying neuroscience at the University of Michigan.  His college costs also completely covered because he won the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

"It was very exciting.  When I got the letter, I showed my mother, and she was like in tears almost," Miller said.

Miller said growing up, his family taught him going to college was extremely important.

Both students say staff at University Prep Academy High School helped keep them on track through the application process, and both recommend students ask for help.

"The application process is really hectic, especially when you have deadlines that are seemingly far away but they're closer than we actually expect," said Miller.

"Deadlines, they will sneak up on you. They really will," Foster said.   Foster said his school helped him plan everything out so he would meet his deadlines.

"College counselors and coordinators, they work together to ensure our students have education, the background knowledge about each step that you need to follow along the way to be prepared for college," said Venus Crosby, the director of college and career development. "So financial aid information and how to write a college essay."

During a signing day event at the school, all 119 seniors signed commitment letters to the college of their choice.

Crosby said for juniors getting ready to enter their senior year, they can begin applying to college as early as this summer.

 "Juniors who have just taken their ACT exam, their standardized test for college entrance, they should prepare to retake it.  So over this summer they can start registering for the September or October ACT or SAT and get an updated score.  Colleges prefer to see more than one score," Crosby said. "Get your letters of recommendations in, requests to those teachers or counselors who you want to have letters of recommendations from to assist you in getting into those colleges, and then from there start looking into applying."

Kim Lifton also speaks to high school students about applying for college.   Lifton is the president and co-founder of the Wow Writing Workshop, an online program that helps students with the essay-writing process.

"They should start thinking about what they want colleges to know about them.  They should start looking at colleges that they're qualified for, they should look at their GPAs and see where they match with the various colleges," said Lifton.

Lifton said students should really be thinking about it and doing research.  She also recommends college tours and look for virtual tours of colleges.

"The most important thing that students need to do is get good grades, take challenging classes, get decent test scores, and No. 4 on that list is (the) college essay," Lifton said.

Both Lifton and Crosby say parents need to let their children take the lead in the college application process.

"Parents always want to get in and 'I'll help them write their essay or I'll apply to the college for them.' But it's really important during that senior year that the parents stay close, but stay hands-off in a sense, so they can be prepared for the transition when it's truly on them after they graduate," Crosby said.

Foster suggests students apply for financial aid early.  He said the sooner someone applies, the better their chances of getting the aid, especially for FAFSA, federal student aid.

Lifton's Wow Writing Workshop offers free tips, videos and webinars with information about college admissions from leading experts. For example, find out what MSU Director of Admissions Jim Cotter and UM Assistant Director of Admissions Kim Bryant look for when selecting their freshmen classes and more!