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COLLEGE CONNECTION: Parents can get answers to all “college” questions

All parents of high school students are invited to attend a local presentation where I will be discussing the highlights of my newly released book, College Planning Strategies for New Jersey Students. Talks will be offered at 7 p.m. at the Hillsborough Public Library on Tuesday, January 23, Bridgewater-Raritan High School on Thursday, January 25, and Montgomery High School on Wednesday, January 31. The presentations are free, however advanced registration is required by calling 908-369-5362.

College is typically one of the most expensive undertakings in a person’s life. By planning in advance, and following specific strategies, students can greatly increase their chances of meeting with success in gaining admission to the college of their dreams and securing the funds to pay for it.

There’s so much information that all college-bound students need to think about, starting in their freshman year of high school. They need to begin identifying their areas of passion and pursuing clubs, activities, internships, and experiences that will demonstrate a level of knowledge and commitment once their senior year rolls around. They need to establish a pattern of involvement in volunteer work that, ideally, is related to their areas of passion. They need to choose courses as “electives” that may help them identify, or rule out, potential college majors. What students do during their first three years of high school will greatly impact the strength of the college applications they will file early in their senior year.

Many of the college preparation experiences of New Jersey high school students are exactly the same as those of students throughout the country – such as striving for the best grades and preparing for, and taking, SAT or ACT exams. But there is much information, specific to New Jersey students, that is particularly invaluable to them. New Jersey college-bound students would do well to learn from the experiences of their peers who preceded them. There are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., and no one is able to research and/or visit them all. So it’s extremely beneficial to find out which colleges are most popular with New Jersey students over the course of recent years. (Hint: New Jersey students who leave the state for college head, in the largest numbers, to the University of Delaware, Penn State, Drexel, and NYU.)

In addition, many states have scholarship programs that are available solely to their residents. During my presentations, I will discuss the NJ Stars scholarship program, as well as other sources of scholarships for local students. The goal, for all college-bound students, should be to avoid college debt. The fewer loans a student takes out, the less money – with interest – he or she will have to pay back when college days draw to a close.

Susan Alaimo is the founder and director of SAT Smart in Hillsborough that has been offering PSAT, SAT, and ACT preparation courses, as well as private tutoring by Ivy League educated instructors, for 25 years. Visit www.SATsmart.com or call 908-369-5362.

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