What Parents Need to Know to Support their Child’s Pathway to College

By Michelle Sandoval, Leader Program Manager, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera

If you’re a parent of a graduating senior student, you may start to notice a different type of energy coming from your child as he or she begins to prepare for the college application process. It’s an exciting and stressful time for families because there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of new information to learn.

I recently held two workshops—one for parents and one for students—to help each of these groups gain a better understanding of what’s to come and what to expect over the next few months. To help keep parents “in the know,” I’ve created a summary of important topics to keep in mind as they support their child’s pathway to college.

1. Scholarships. It is never too early to start looking for scholarships. While the concept of scholarships during Senior year is much more traditional, scholarships for underclassmen start in the form of “Fly-in” programs (see Daniel’s story in this newsletter for more on “Fly-ins”). For students from low-income households, “Fly-in” programs tend to cover transportation and housing while visiting the college campus. Spots for these tend to be highly competitive because of the individualized attention they provide to selected students. College Greenlight provides an overview of what these programs look like and the application deadlines.

2. Community Service Hours. It is highly important to continue completing community service hours and not stop just because it is Senior year. A lot of students tend to stop because they get caught up in Senior year events or think that the hours won’t be weighed as heavily as community service they completed in previous years. But showing commitment is very important when being considered for college acceptances to UCs and Private colleges, so I encourage students to keep volunteering.

3. How many college applications should we submit? All students should apply to at least 10 schools, including a combination of Cal State Universities, University of California schools (if eligible with a minimum A-G GPA of 3.0) and private universities. While privates tend to be more costly in comparison to the other two options, surprisingly, they can be even more affordable once financial aid is factored in. The difference in financial aid that students THINK they will receive usually stops them from applying; however, if they don’t apply to the college, they won’t know if they’re accepted. And, if they are not applying, they won’t ever know how much financial aid they truly would have received. SO APPLY! APPLY! APPLY!

4. Cal State vs. UC. Cal State Universities and UCs (unlike private universities, which tend to look at the overall GPA from ALL 4 years) use what we call an A-G GPA to determine eligibility and admissions. This GPA may be different from what we see on the transcript because it only includes core courses and does not account for a lot of “fun” classes such as electives. So, we have to ask for help from a counselor to manually calculate it before we apply!

One thing to note is it’s never too early to get involved with the process. I encourage parents of sophomores and juniors to be mindful of these topics, as well. And if you’re ever in doubt or need more information, please join one of our workshops or feel free to email me at michelleg1dpr@gmail.com.

G1DPR and El Rancho High School Alum Bethania Perez moving into UCSD with the help of her parents.