• Pro Tips on Applying to College for High School Juniors

    The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Office of College Readiness teamed up with partners Peer ForwardPrince George’s Community CollegeMaryland Higher Education Commission and other leading voices in education to host the #ReadyPGCPS Twitter Chat, offering high school juniors tips on how to successfully navigate the college application process. For those who missed the conversation, here is a recap of the questions asked--and crowd favorite replies!

     Q1. What should PGCPS juniors be prioritizing right now and over the summer?

    “Juniors should really consider taking the June SAT or ACT while everything they’ve learned is still fresh! Many colleges have early application deadlines in October! Go ahead and get at least one test under your belt so you have the option of applying.” -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    “Juniors should be ramping up your college search and have a list of 10-15 potential college choices. Juniors should also start asking for recommendations from teachers to use during the application process. “The early bird gets the worm!” -Peer Forward

    “Juniors should begin researching the financial aid programs offered from MHEC and document what they need in order to apply. This includes deadlines, paperwork, contact numbers, etc. They start by visiting http://mhec.maryland.gov” -Isaiah EllisMaryland Higher Education Commission

    “Prepare a challenging schedule for senior year; Contact your recommendation writers; Start working on your application essays.” -Lateefah DurantPGCPS CTE

    “For students who need test prep, all PGCPS students have a Khan Academy account!” www.khanacademy.org -Doreen HogansPGCPS Professional School Counseling

    Q2. What resources are available to juniors who want to research and connect with colleges?

    “Students who can’t physically tour a college should watch live college tours hosted by Get Schooled! Also, http://campustours.com is a great resource for virtual college tours. These are great options if you can't travel to the school you're interested in." -Peer Forward

    “Follow colleges on Snapchat and Instagram to get a feel for campus life. Also sign up to ‘get more info’ from schools you are interested in so to begin getting those mailers and invites for prospective student days." -MyAdvisorSays.com

    “I get my students to research colleges on MyBigFuture! If students have a College Board account, they can log in, save schools they like and look for more through a tailored search. They can even see how their test scores stack up." -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    “Juniors can begin connecting with alumni organizations in their area as well as begin dialogues with recruiters of that institution to determine if the college will be a good fit for their future." -Marcel Adams, Early College Access Programs, Prince George’s Community College

     Q3. What advice do you have for first generation students navigating the college process?

    “Establish a relationship with your professional school counselor and Peer Forward advisor. Attend all events sponsored by the Office of College Readiness.” -Doreen Hogans, PGCPS Counseling

    “Make it a family affair. You’re not applying for college, the WHOLE FAMILY is applying for college!" -Segun Eubanks, Chair, PGCPS Board of Education

    “Ask for help early and often! It’s so hard to know what exactly it is that you don’t know. Find an adviser, an older family member, a friend in college - someone who understands the current application process and can help you through! Also, don’t be afraid to reach! Don’t be afraid to try for a school that’s big, or out of town, or even out of state. Do what feels right for you. Go where you feel like you can succeed. Don’t get weighed down by others’ opinions.” -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    “Mentors matter! Though you may be first generation, you are surrounded by college grads in school everyday. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask for help! I was a first generation college student too but had friend's parents as mentors too!" -Curtis Valentine, PGCPS Board of Education

    “There are no bad colleges. Don’t be caught up in the hype so much that you don’t ask questions and regret a decision. Do research and find a network of people like professional school counselors and teachers to honestly dialogue with. The earlier the better.” -Prince George’s Community College

    “Seek help from others who will support you along the way—a teacher, counselor or friends currently enrolled in college. Visit http://imfirst.org for a list of colleges committed to providing supports for first generation students." -PGCPS CTE

    Q4. Should students bother applying to colleges they think they can’t afford?

    “If you have the academic chops, apply anyway. Especially if you are at the top of your admissions class, it’s very likely the school will offer merit or need-based aid. But have a backup school ready just in case. Or look at community college for a couple of years first." -MyAdvisorSays.com

    “Depends! College can be affordable when you research/plan. Every student situation is unique. You could qualify for significant/less aid at different colleges. You won’t know until you apply, submit your FAFSA and receive/review your Award Letter. Review it carefully." -Prince George’s Community College

    “APPLY ANYWAY! Financial Aid looks different at different schools! Don’t pay attention to the sticker prices. Wait until you get financial aid award letters back to make a decision. If you never apply, you’ll never know what aid you may have received." -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    “Yes! Financial aid and scholarships are available. Another great resource: Academic Common Market whereby you pay in-state tuition to out of state schools. -Prince George’s County Community Relations

     Q5. What are your favorite tips or resources for seeking financial aid, scholarships and grants?

    “Follow our Twitter list “Scholarships” for dozens of accounts that tweet out scholarships constantly!" -MyAdvisorSays.com

    “A great mobile app is Scholly. Also, check out organizations (Greek, etc.) that offer scholarships." -Prince George’s County Community Relations

    “Grant money can run out so get your FAFSA done as close to October 1st as possible. If you’re selected for verification, handle that expeditiously as it can also slow down your financial aid award and affect the amount you’re given!" -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    “Too often students don’t spend enough time planning, researching and applying for scholarships and they lose out. Our favorite financial aid sites are: Prince George’s County Memorial Library SystemPrince George’s County Community College (we award up to $500,000 annually to students) and Maryland Higher Education Commission. Also, look to your church, sororities and fraternities, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Free money is out there!” -Prince George’s Community College

    “If you’ve got your eyes set on an HBCU, see if the school is a member institution of the United Negro College Foundation! If so, there’s probably scholarship money you can apply for through the United Negro College Fund. I hear that every year a ton of money gets left on the table." -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    Q6. What final advice can you offer to juniors starting the college application process?

    “Mentors matter! Choose two college grads as mentors to help think through pros/cons of college types (HBCU, PWI, Community College, Military). Don't choose college based on career (it will change), but choose a school that will open you to new people, a passion, and make you challenge yourself!” -Curtis Valentine, PGCPS Board of Education

    “Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. With preparation, anything is possible! Also, remember you have to create a MDCAPS account to accept any State award. Once awarded you have two weeks to do so! So, get ready, prepare and have fun!” -Isaiah Ellis, Maryland Higher Education Commission

    “Compare your college offers before you make a decision. Look at the money over four years, not just the first year." -Prince George’s Community College

    “Senior year can be stressful. If you’re strategic you can have college applications and FAFSA done by December or even earlier and greatly reduce some of that stress. Start early!” -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    “The college application process can get really expensive—especially if you’re not strategic in narrowing down your list of schools. If you need financial assistance to apply, speak to a counselor ASAP. Help like NACAC Application Fee Waivers exists!” -Krista McGuire, College Advising Corps

    Want more information? Follow our partners on Twitter and search #ReadyPGCPS for more great insights from the chat!