How to navigate college admissions process

From ninth grade onward, just about every moment matters for students in the college admissions process. / Mary Green

It’s a long series of steps from when students walk the halls in high school to the time they step foot on a college campus. But these days, just about every moment matters.

“When you get to high school, your ninth grade year starts — everything counts,” said Yolanda Skinner, director of guidance at Westover High School. “Everything counts, from then on. Whatever you do now, you know, it’s going towards your career, your education.”

Before her students decide where they’ll apply to college, Skinner advises them to start early, with so much information available at their fingertips.

“You can do a web search,” she said. “Kids are into technology these days. Google the colleges. See what they have to offer.”

“Start early” is a phrase Skinner repeats about the process, and it’s the same tip given by someone on the other side of the admissions process for when students do apply.

“You don’t want to get behind this process. Start early. Take your time,” said Dr. B. Donta Truss, Albany State University vice president for enrollment management and student retention. “Get as much of the information that you possibly can. Get that information turned in in a timely manner, and you’ll be well ahead of the game, and you’ll be fine.”

Dr. Truss said Albany State, like many colleges and universities, looks at admit students they believe will make the most of their time.

“We want to set our students up to be successful,” Dr. Truss said. “We want to provide them an opportunity, but we also want to know they’re going to graduate.”

Skinner said it’s important for that feeling to be reciprocated, for students to feel they will have a positive experience on that campus as well.

“You want to make sure that you’re comfortable, you feel safe there and that they have what you’re looking for as far as your education because you’re paying for it now,” she said.

When it comes time to foot the bill, HOPE scholarships at Georgia schools are available for students with a 3.0 GPA, but Dr. Truss also recommended keeping their eyes peeled for other opportunities.

“Looking at any civic groups. Looking at your churches. Looking at any particular fraternities or sororities in the area that are offering scholarships.”

For federal aid and money from the schools themselves, Dr. Truss said to stay on top of when FAFSA opens Oct. 1.

“Financial aid is delivered on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you want to get that done as soon as possible,” he said.

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