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FAMILY | FOR THE KIDS

If You're Thinking of College, Start Academic Preparations Now

September 04, 1997|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Kids, your college career begins today.

That's the opinion of Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Charles Weis. Even if you're only in eighth grade or a freshman in high school, you're already in a position to do things that impact your college career.

His advice about students' early preparation is: "The work they do now [in secondary school] will save them [time and money] down the road. For instance, each advanced placement course they take in high school is a course they don't have to pay for in college--and preparation to get into these courses begins as early as the eighth grade."

He also wants Ventura County kids to start thinking about how to line up scholarship money for college--and offers his office phone number--383-1901--as a source of information on scholarships, especially local awards.

He urges high school students--even freshmen--to make arrangements during these first days of the school year to meet the campus college counselor and plan a schedule that will facilitate college enrollment.

And eighth-graders, he says, should consult the assistant principal or counselors at their schools to ready themselves for the college-related courses they will need to take as high school freshmen.

At Newbury Park High School, veteran college counselor David Holmboe, also the school's attendance and welfare coordinator, urges freshmen there to "start out very focused."

He cautions freshmen--and sophomores--against saying to themselves: "I don't have to worry about [taking challenging courses] because it doesn't count yet.

"Your whole high school transcript becomes part of your permanent record--in terms of college applications."

That's the tough news. Another way to think about it, Holmboe said, is that students can positively influence their college admission chances by demonstrating early commitment and by taking the right academic course load.

It's the individual college or university, rather than government agencies, that has the most say in how much grant money an applicant for financial aid will get, said Holmboe. Colleges are able to consider academic records as well as family need, whereas federal funds are granted solely on the bases of family income.

Federal funds come to students mostly in the form of loans, which have to be repaid. But funds awarded by individual colleges and universities are more often outright grants--not loans.

Financial need is a major factor in the state of California's Cal Grant program. But to qualify, you need to sustain better than a 3.0 grade-point average beginning as a freshman in high school. And this money doesn't have to be repaid.

Finally, Holmboe said, students need to know that college admission and most scholarship awards are based heavily on performance during one's sophomore and junior years in high school. And you can't take the quality courses needed in those years if you haven't prepared.

So, even if you're only 13, it's college time.

BE THERE

High school students in Ventura County--especially freshmen--should check with their school's college counselors to make sure they are enrolled in courses necessary to get into college.

Sophomores should ask counselors for the PSAT Student Bulletin and make immediate arrangements to take the PSAT test Oct. 14 or 18, if they want to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship on graduation.

Juniors and seniors interested in college grants, especially local funds, should call 383-1901 and ask for "scholarship information." Deadlines vary but many are prior to winter vacation.

Seniors should request Cal Grant information by calling the California Student Aid Commission, (916) 445-0880. The application should be submitted by winter vacation.

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