Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 25, 2013

Area counselors push college awareness

College visits, college trivia part of statewide event this week.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Ninth-graders at Peru High School got a crash course in college life Tuesday.

They spent two hours at Indiana University Kokomo learning about everything from financial aid and admissions to student life and the ROTC program there.

It’s never too early to start thinking about life after high school, their teachers say.

“Research shows that if they’re thinking about college early on, they’re more likely to go,” Peru High School teacher Shannon Smith said.

If that’s the case, then a whole lot of students in the state will be a little more likely to pursue postsecondary education after this week.

On Monday, Indiana kicked off College GO Week, a statewide campaign to help students of all ages plan for college.

“College GO Week is designed to give all Indiana students the opportunity to access and succeed in college,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. “There are many steps students and families should take to plan for college and career success, and it’s never too early to start. The campaign offers activities and resources for Hoosiers of all ages, from students starting elementary school to adults thinking about returning to school.”

At Eastern Junior-Senior High School, guidance counselor Tricia Harrison challenged seventh- and eighth-graders to a college quiz.

She said there are only four all-male universities left in the country, and one of them is in Indiana. She asked them to name that school.

Winners received T-shirts, cups, bags and other accessories emblazoned with college logos.

She tries to make it fun for those students. The goal is to get them excited about college and careers.

“Ninth grade is a little more down to business,” she said.

Tuesday she visited the ninth-grade college and career planning class to talk about GPA, transcripts and college admissions.

She showed them how easy it is to Google search college admission requirements. Students were tasked with finding out if their own graduation plans match up with those requirements.

One student was dismayed to find out that Butler University might be out of reach because of a failing grade in English class.

Harrison said it’s good for students to find these things out now while there’s still time to come up with other plans.

It demonstrates just how important College GO Week is, she said.

“Things we assume they know, they still don’t know,” she said.

One girl asked her what the difference was between the high school’s End of Course Assessments and the SAT.

The questions sparked meaningful discussion, she said. It was a lot for the freshmen to take in, though.

“They looked a little overwhelmed, but it’s information they need to know,” Harrison said. “I just told them, ‘I don’t want you to have any surprises and regrets as seniors.’”

Northwestern High School counselor Geana Moore plastered fliers all over students’ lockers this week to get them thinking about college.

She also planned the second annual college application night. Counselors will spend an evening helping parents and students start their applications.

Last year eight families showed up to take notes and ask questions.

“It helped several students,” she said. “Starting the application process is intimidating.”

Peru High School freshmen spent time learning about college life from students who are experiencing it right now.

A panel of IU Kokomo students spent 20 minutes Tuesday answering questions about all facets of college life.

One asked if college students get to create their own class schedules.

Education major Maggie Grinstead said they do. But with that, comes responsibility.

“Work on your time management,” she said. “That was the biggest struggle for me.”

She told them to schedule time for homework and studying. She admitted that she rarely studied in high school and still got good grades. That wasn’t the case in college.

She also told them to apply for as many scholarships as possible even if the payout is only $200 and even if they’re not sure they qualify for them.

“I got a four-year scholarship because I was the only one who applied for it,” she said. “I didn’t even fit the criteria.”

Grinstead had another piece of advice for students: Start studying for the SAT now, even if it’s just for five minutes a day.

She started studying a week before the test and didn’t score as high as she would like.

Peru High School student Olivia Sharp said the advice will help her in the coming years. She learned a few things about what she can do now to get ready for college.

She plans to pursue a degree in business when she graduates. She wants to be a buyer for a big company one day.

Moore said it’s hard to say how many students she reaches during College GO Week. She has no way to really assess the value of it.

“If nothing else, it places an emphasis on college … that this is important to us,” she said. “It creates a college-going culture.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com