9th and 10th Grade Overview
Following is the PA's summary of Ms. Quinn's overview of college preparation topics for 9th and 10th grade families.
The importance of extracurricular activities
Ms. Quinn noted that most Tech students understand the importance of GPA, rigorous courses, and standardized test scores for college applications. However, many students are less focused on the importance of extracurricular activities. While extracurricular activities are not as important as academics in college admissions, many selective schools prefer students who have at least one activity outside of school that they pursue with some passion. [PA thought: having non-academic interests probably also makes kids happier and gives them hobbies for later in life.]
Also, Ms. Quinn suggests that students participate in class more. Most selective schools require two letters of recommendation, and teachers can make more insightful comments about a student if that student participates in class regularly.
[PA note: there are many issues arising from the information coming out in the current Harvard admissions court case, which are too complex to discuss here. What the case may have shown is the importance that some selective colleges supposedly attach to the non-academic components of an application. Having a couple of extracurricular activities and strong teacher recommendations hopefully helps a student appear more interesting to an admissions officer.]
Colleges with loan elimination/reduction policies
Ms. Quinn summarized the policies of colleges who aim to give financial aid that minimizes or eliminates the use of loans. Financial aid can come in the form of grants, which are reductions in the cost of attendance (i.e. a lower bill to parents) or loans, which require students or their families to borrow money to pay the cost of attendance. Grants are of course much better. Ms. Quinn's list shows some of the colleges that aim to use grants instead of loans.
Note that the family incomes listed are not "limits." Typically, colleges will require zero (or small) contributions from families below the incomes listed and increasing contributions from families above the stated incomes.
Colleges that Tech students commonly apply to
Using Naviance data, Ms. Quinn created a very useful list of colleges that Tech students most commonly apply to. Note the differences between the colleges' overall acceptance rates and the acceptance rates for Tech students. Most colleges limit the number of students they will accept from a particular region and high school, so being from New York City is hard, and being from NY's largest specialized high school is even harder. [PA thought: On the other hand, Tech students likely get a much better education than they would at the large majority of other high schools in the country.]
This phenomenon, dubbed "saturation" by the Tech College Office, suggests that Tech students should make sure that they apply to some colleges that are not on this list. Many smaller colleges in the Northeast, and colleges outside the Northeast, are likely more eager to accept Tech students than the colleges on the list Ms. Quinn put together.
Also, students should show "demonstrated interest." Tech students need to convince these colleges that they're genuinely interested in attending. That means students should sign up for emails from the college, attend that college's info session at Tech (if they offer one), research the college on its website, and, especially if the college is in the NY area, visit. See the write-up from Ms. Maysonet-Sigler in the College Office on the importance of demonstrated interest.
For details on each college's acceptance rates, and the GPAs and SAT/ACT score that successful Tech applicants have had in the past, check out Naviance. [PA note: for a tutorial on how to use Naviance, see the PA's Unofficial Guide to Naviance.]
It's important that students be active in something over their summers. It can be work, studying, camp, community service, or other meaningful activity, but it should be something.
Ms. Quinn put together this list of colleges that offer summer programs. Prices can vary widely. They are a good opportunity for students to learn something as well as demonstrate that they can handle college-level work.
[PA thoughts: It is unlikely that attending a summer program at a college has any meaningful impact on a student's chance of acceptance at that college. For example, attending Brown University's very popular (and expensive) summer program is unlikely, in and of itself, to boost a student's chance of admission to Brown. However, it could help a student demonstrate that she can handle college-level work and also give that student some insight into Brown that might help the student write a more-informed essay. But there are cheaper ways to do college-level work and an info session and an overnight stay at Brown could also give the student insight.
Also, the courses offered are at varying levels of rigor. Even though some courses earn college credit, many do not appear to be at the same level of rigor as, say, an AP course. To determine how difficult a summer "college course" really is, students and parents should do some research on the specific courses. That research might include calling the school and asking how the course compares to an AP course. A Tech teacher might also be able to look at the syllabus and give thoughts on whether it is truly a college-level course. Many College Now courses, especially in math and science, do not appear to be much more difficult than Regents courses. Such courses probably wouldn't be very useful for a Tech student, who will take the Regents course and maybe even the AP course in that subject. A few of the College Now courses are actually at the level of an introductory college-level course, but to determine if they are requires some research. Call College Now or ask a Tech teacher for help in evaluating rigor.]