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Take the right classes for college acceptance

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As a long time college administrator, high school counselor, and tenured professor, I have advised many students and families on an educational plan that will ensure his/her child completes the necessary courses to get accepted into a college of the child’s choice. It usually comes to a big surprise to parents when I tell them this type of planning best starts when their child is in 7th grade.

Yes, when we went to college, it wasn’t a big deal. We took the college preparatory track courses at our local high school and we got into the best universities no problem. My husband is a graduate of UCLA and myself of USC. However, I can’t tell you how many parents I come across who tell me they probably won’t be able to get into these high ranking colleges in today’s college market, and I agree.

Today’s college market is fiercely competitive and a lot more complex than years before. Those residents who live in California though are luckier than those who reside outside of California due to the incredible higher education system California has to offer at a reasonably low cost. There are 112 community colleges along with 10 world renown Universities of California and 23 California State Universities all for a substantially lower price than most colleges in the United States; there are more public higher education institutions in California than anywhere else in the world.

So, if you live in California, you are at an advantageous of being able to apply to one of these higher education institution, however, the challenging part is trying to get in. What is the secret to being admitted to one of these colleges especially the ones in the top tier like UCLA or UC Beckley?

There are many variables that colleges take into consideration when accepting students into their university. I will identify these variables through my column each week to help parents and students increase their chances of getting accepted to the college of their choice.

As mentioned above, I would like to stress the importance of educational planning and starting as early as possible when your child is, for example, in junior high. Why junior high you ask?

Because the college preparatory courses you must take in high school in order to get into college, especially the higher tier colleges, have prerequisites that you must fulfill before you can take these college preparatory courses.

For example, to be competitive for admission to the top tier university circuit, you must be at the level of math equivalent to Calculus or do well on the math section of the SAT or ACT. Not only will these institutions look for this level of aptitude on your college entrance exams, but also in your high school college preparatory courses. So how do you get to this level of math by high school? It takes years of prerequisite math courses and so if you do not have the appropriate math preparedness by junior high, you might never make it to this level.

In my over 20 years working in higher education, math is one of the main factors that not only influences college acceptance, but also college graduation. I can’t tell you how many times students would come see me in the dean’s office ready to graduate, but failed to take their math classes. Even worse, they never took college preparatory math courses in high school so they have to start from the beginning of the math sequence taking non-degree applicable math courses that don’t even count except for building their math skills so that they can register for a college level math course in order to graduate. Some of these students have fallen so far behind in math that they might have to spend 2 years just taking one math class at a time because math is sequential.

As I stated in the beginning of this column, start your educational planning in junior high with your child. Make sure your child is on the right track from the beginning so that your child doesn’t fall behind in high school.

Question from Our Readers:

I have a son going to the University of Oregon next year. The college asked him to take a math assessment test. Why does he have to take this if he took statistics in high school along with algebra and geometry? Mandy G.

Unfortunately, math courses taught in high school are not necessarily the same course taught in college. Community colleges have been trying for years to work with their local high schools so that the math curriculum would be the same so students, for example, wouldn’t have to take statistics in high school and then again in college, but unfortunately, this has not happened yet.

For now, I tell parents to make sure their child in high school either takes AP math courses, which will give them college credit for that course if they score high enough on the AP exam or take all of their transferable math courses (algebra, statistics, calculus, etc.) at the local community college. Otherwise, your child will be assessed when they enter college and will be placed in the math class at the level of the assessment test. All colleges have different math assessment tests, which can score your child higher or lower. This is a big deal because if your child scores low on the math assessment test, as stated above, he can spend lots of time and money just taking math in college. Also, depending on your child’s major in college, he might need statistics versus calculus. It’s best to research ahead of time what math will be required for your child’s major.

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Avenues is a full service college and career advisement firm for young students as well as adults looking for a career change. Email info@avenuescca.org or call (818) 359-0859.

July 13, 2015

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