University 101


There was a time when college was reserved for a stereotype of brilliant brains, thick-rimmed glasses trends and pocket protectors. It is now 2017 and the stereotypical college student cannot be defined. Universities are still concerned with test scores, but now they take a broader approach and consider the whole person. states:  “You are more than test scores. Colleges care most about the work you’ve done in high school. They look for students who have earned strong grades in challenging courses. They also try to learn about your character by looking at what you do outside the classroom. Take advantage of opportunities like the application essay and college interview to paint a more vivid picture of who you are.” Who you are and what you have done to contribute to the world around you will eventually lead you to your university.

Patty Brittain, Assistant Principal at St. Gregory Cathedral School in Tyler, understands that discussing college at an early age helps build a strong foundation for further academic success. “We believe it is important that children think about attending college early.  The children served here think of college as just the next logical step in their education,” Brittain explains. Patty also recognizes the importance of a positive college influence built at home. “We reinforce the attitudes and beliefs about a college education that first starts in the home.  Many of our students have siblings at Bishop K. Gorman, so they experience first-hand the natural progression through the college preparatory curriculum.” 

Once a strong foundation for the need to further your education has been laid, college prep programs can guide future college students in the right direction. Jim Bell, CEO of Capstone College and Career Advising, says that ACT and SAT scores are still vital for entry into a college of your choice. These scores, however, are not lone indicators of future success. “Some students don’t perform to their potential on exams, and some may perform beyond their potential in a classroom.  Therefore, they may be very successful in a college classroom even though their test scores may not reflect that,” Bell shares. “As a result, many colleges will look at a wide range of indicators to try and get a broader picture of a student’s potential. When I work with students who have low test scores, I encourage them to put extra effort in other areas so that colleges can get a more holistic view of their abilities. A general rule of thumb for most is, to begin with building your GPA and the rigor of coursework in high school (such as AP courses, Dual Credit, Honors, IB, etc.). Beyond that, colleges will then look at test scores, community involvement, leadership development and involvement in extracurricular activities. The key is starting early. We like to work with students at the Freshman level. When we do that, we can help them with course selection, maintaining a strong GPA, developing a four year leadership development portfolio, connecting them with community service opportunities and developing a strategy to help them gain admission to their right fit college. The college application process is so rigorous now that it is almost impossible to try and cram everything into a senior year that is already filled with busy activities.” 

For college hopefuls to find the right fit for them, Jim advises them to think about these important questions. Which institution offers what you need to equip you for your future fully? Which college will help you gain a career after you graduate? In effect, it is all about you!

Thinking about furthering your education can be overwhelming and potential college students may find themselves swirling in a sea of flooding information. If there is anything to take from this, take these five tips from Jim Bell when planning for your college career. These tips are beneficial to both parents and students.


Jim Bell’s Five Tips

1. The best time to plant a tree ... is ten years ago. The second-best time is right now. If you haven’t started, the second best time is to start right now. Don’t put it off!  In my 20 years in education, I have had countless seniors who have wanted to advise freshmen to take their classes seriously and start planning for college their first year in high school.

2.  Don’t be afraid to ask help from others. There are many great resources available to students. You can get advice from your teachers, your counselors, your principals, experienced professionals, friends who are in college and even your parents. Utilize all of the resources that are available to increase your chances of success.

3.  Take advantage of opportunities. If you have an idea of what you want your college major to be, seek out individuals in those careers to visit with and learn more. Shadow them, intern with them or even work in a low-level job in their company if you can. If you are presented with an opportunity to serve others, take advantage of it. If you are given the opportunity to go the extra mile in class, accept the challenge. If you have big dreams for yourself, high school is not the time for mediocrity. 

4.   Learn to develop a good balance of fun and work. You have a responsibility to perform well in the classroom and give your best effort. However, it is important to balance that hard work with rest, relaxation, family and friend time, as well as time for yourself.  

5.  Pace yourself and finish strong. A track athlete running in a 1600 meter race has to complete four laps around the track to complete the race. Look at each high school year as a lap around the track. If you start out too strong, you will burn out and finish at the end. If you start too slow, everyone is a lap ahead before you begin to pick up the pace. You fall behind if you are fatigued at the finish line and you cannot catch up if you wait until it is too late, no matter how hard you sprint those last few yards. The successful ones are the ones who have trained hard, understand their capabilities and know the perfect time to push a little harder.




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