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Education

Seniors scramble to meet new college application rules


Published:   |   Updated: November 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM

TAMPA – Robinson High School senior John Lennon has spent every weekend for the past month filling out applications for a different college or university.

Lennon’s strategy was to dedicate one weekend to each school so he wouldn’t get overwhelmed with the approach of early-application deadlines. So far, Lemon has applied to Georgia Tech, the University of Florida, Arizona State University and Colorado School of Mines. He plans to apply to two more schools, the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Texas A&M.

UF’s early deadline is Friday. Other deadlines, such as the one set by Florida State University, have already passed.

At this point in the school year, it is crunch time for students such as Lemon who want to get a jump-start on their college applications.

Lennon is already busy: He maintains a 5.8 grade point average while keeping up with course work in his rigorous International Baccalaureate classes.

“Our teachers haven’t exactly been loosening our work load,” he said.

Making the application process even more stressful, those using the early-application window face extra hurdles this year.

Students applying to any of the 500-plus colleges and universities that accept the online Common Application will notice that there have been some online glitches that slow down the process. The nonprofit organization created in 1975 rolled out a new version of the system this fall.

As a result, many, such as the University of Miami, extended their early deadlines to Nov. 8.

Senior Kailey Fernandez, 17, also in the IB program at Robinson, said she had some issues while applying to schools using the site, which many students use as a way to apply to multiple colleges without filling out multiple applications. “You’ll have a site up and it will log you out,” said Fernandez, who has applied to three schools so far. “It has a lot of problems.”

Students applying to UF will find that there is a new way to submit transcripts this year.

Rather than having their school send a transcript to the university, students are now prompted to type the grades themselves into an online system called Self-Reported Academic Record.

Lennon called the process “pretty lengthy” but said he was able to finish in enough time to meet the Friday deadline.

The university, which serves nearly 50,000 students, has an acceptance rate of 44 percent.

Seniors scrambling through the college application process also make this one of the busiest times of the year for school counselors and teachers, who are bombarded with requests for recommendation letters and scholarship nominations.

An estimated 92 percent of Robinson’s seniors will go on to further their education when they graduate.

“It’s a lot,” said Barbara Simmons, Robinson’s college and career counselor. “An English teacher told me yesterday she had 20 recommendations to do.”

On a recent afternoon, at the end of the school day, Simmons found five students lined up at her office door seeking advice.

To ease the work load for counselors and teachers, a group of parents volunteer their time in the school’s College and Career Center, which students fondly call “the Cube.”

Fernandez’ mom, Meg Fernandez, works in the center three days per week, helping students sign up for college-entrance tests and explore financial options and schools that could be a good fit.

This is the most important time of the school year for seniors, which can make it the most stressful, she said.

“It is intense,” she said. “It is a very complicated process. There are so many deadlines. We can help them outline a plan.”

This year, the parent volunteers plan to offer extra help in the school’s cafeteria while the students are at lunch.

Parent Anne Eason, who also volunteers in the center, said she encourages students to start thinking about college at the beginning of their high school years.

“The college application process starts,” Eason said, “sophomore and junior year in terms of identifying the kind of path you want to lead.”

ekourkounis@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7999

Twitter: @ErinKTBO

Pre-college checklist

October

- Attend a College Night or Pasos al Futuro financial aid meeting (for Spanish speakers).

- Send college applications off by the end of the month.

- Apply for scholarships, including one offered by the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

- Visit colleges.

December

Must submit all four-year college applications.

Apply for Bright Futures scholarships at floridastudentfinancialaid.org.

Gather tax information for FAFSA financial aid application.

Attend a financial aid meeting.

February/March

Attend NACAC College Fair at the Convention Center.

Some colleges will send out acceptance letters.

Apply for housing.

Last chance to apply for some four-year universities.

Apply for scholarships.

April

Schedule college orientation sessions.

Check up on financial aid packages.

Apply for scholarships.

May

Commit to attend a college.

Attend orientation.

Pay deposits and schedule courses.

Source: Robinson High School

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