stressing it all along, you have to support it. If your child is willing to do the necessary things-grades, applications to school and scholarships essays-there is help out there.
GET AN EARLY START
The process of getting into and being successful in college s
tarts early. Stewart of the College Board suggests students take the right academic courses, “real math, science and English courses and advanced courses, not just general ones. Affluent families spend lots of money on prep courses, but they help only marginally.” Stewart points to the PSAT, normally taken during the sophomore year, as the best diagnostic measure of a student’s achievement thus far. “It lets them know where they’re going their junior and senior year and what courses they’ll need to take.”
Likewise, William Bowen of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, which focuses on higher education issues, says parents and students should really think through how hard the student wants to work. “People have to be honest with themselves. How interested are they in academics? Our study shows that while some students have lower test scores and grades coming in [to college], they took advantage of the opportunities they were given once they were admitted.”
Most colleges and universities practice some kind of “diversity” that’s not limited to just SATs, ACTs or GPAs. “We reserve 10% of our freshman class for students who show potential [to succeed in college], but may not have met the traditional admissions requirements,” says William Harvey, president of Hampton University in Virginia, No. 7 on the BLACK ENTERPRISE/DAYSTAR TOP 50 list.
The average SAT score is 1050 with a 3.2 GPA; Hampton requires a minimum score of 920. Harvey says they would consider a student with a 900 SAT score on the strength of his or her transcripts and a good recommendation by a guidance counselor. “The theory here is that all of us have had some help in our lives, or we would not be where we are today,” he explains. “But once they’re in, they have to perform like everyone else.”
However, the key to performing well in a competitive environment is ensuring that the student is within an academic range of his peers. “The issue is that the individual student has to make a good match and realistic assessment of where they belong,” says Daystar CEO LaVeist. “You must look at the personality, temperament and experience of the student in helping to determine the environment that’s right for him or her.”
Experts suggest students and their parents look at the school’s strengths and how that fits with what the student wants to study. Joyelle Johnston, currently a senior at Union High School in Union, New Jersey, plans to major in pre-med/psychology when she starts college in the fall of 1999. With solid SAT scores, 1150 on the first try and 1270 the second, Joyelle is looking for a liberal arts college on the East Coast and seems sold on Cornell University in upstate New York, No. 50 on BLACK ENTERPRISE/DAYSTAR TOP 50 list. “I want good