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Advice for college applicants

The following article is from Suffolk News-Herald.

Saturday marks the end of another Virginia College Application Week, but the work for most students is far from over.

Paula Craw, vice president of student success and outreach for ECMC, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that focuses on student success in higher education, said November is "crunch time" for students.

"Students are busy and hopefully getting their ducks in a row before the holidays," Craw said. One of the biggest hurdles for a high school student in the college application process is preparing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Craw said.

"It seems overwhelming, but it's a very important part of the college application process," she said. "The majority of families today need some sort of financial aid in order for their students to attend college."

Adrienne Miller, Access College Foundation advisor for King's Fork High School, said she typically assists with at least 200 FAFSAs each year. This allows students more scholarship opportunities, even if the student is financially sound, she said.

"I don't want (them) missing out on any free money," she said.

Miller explains to freshmen that they need to get serious with college applications as soon as possible. She reiterates this in their sophomore years.

"The earlier you do it, the better you'll feel," she said. "There's a step each time, and each time you do the step, everything is going to fall in and you'll be fine."

Upperclassmen should be ready with resumes that detail any relevant extracurricular activities and job experiences to make their applications more competitive, Craw said. "The list of ways students can differentiate themselves is long," she said.

For references, students should speak with teachers in core subjects that pertain to each student's prospective studies, Miller said.

Also, if there's an essay option, take it, said Shawn Foster, advisor for Lakeland and Nansemond River High Schools.

"If it says optional, it really means to do the essay," she said. "It's going to show that you took the initiative to do the extra work."

Along with keeping track of application deadlines, completing SATs and ACTs, and applying for all available scholarships, students need to make time to visit to their potential college campuses, Miller said.

"It's good to go during the week, because you're able to see the students walking from class to class," she said. "Sometimes you aren't able to get that full picture of a college visit on the weekends."

Above all, she said, students and their families need to be patient during this stressful time.

"I always tell them trust the process," she said. "If you do the foundation (work), then I'm going to do everything I can to help you make this decision, and so far that hasn't let me down yet."

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