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Getting teens on the college track

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While college serves as an excellent opportunity for young adults to further their education and receive training that will get them started on a career path, the admissions process is becoming more and more competitive.

Therefore, it is important for parents to become informed of how to ensure their child is on the right track toward continued education after high school.

Planning for college actually begins in middle school, when eighth grade students work with their guidance counselor to create a four-year plan for high school. Part of the focus of this planning is to determine whether the student wants to go to college, technical school or straight to work.

Parents should talk openly with their kids about these options and discuss which high school courses they will need for the track they choose. Freshman year of high school is a great time for students to begin a list of college possibilities and discuss them with their parents. This discussion should include what students are looking for in a college experience, such as location, cost, area of study, extracurricular opportunities in which the student wants to be involved, and philosophy of the institution. While many teenagers may not know the exact career they want to pursue, most will know the general direction they want to take, such as focusing on an education in the arts, sciences or foreign languages.

As students move through tenth and eleventh grade, they will take college entrance exams, narrow down their lists and set up visits to the colleges to which they are planning to apply. Applications for admission should be sent in early fall of their senior year. Colleges not only review grades and test scores, they also look for students who challenge themselves, have varied interests and can communicate their goals.

When choosing courses, students should choose classes that are challenging, but also interesting to them, to increase the likelihood of success and good grades in the course. Students should also get involved in clubs and activities at school, and seek out summer jobs, camps or leadership opportunities to demonstrate discipline, interests and character to colleges.

Throughout the process, it is important for parents to offer their teenager guidance and support to give them the encouragement they need to succeed after high school in whichever path they choose.

Spokesperson Background:

Regina Alexander is a licensed counselor at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital, specializing in mood disorders.  She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Greensboro College in 2002, and earned a Master of Social Work from the joint program at University of North Carolina Greensboro and North Carolina A&T University in 2007.