Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinking ahead

Next fall, Quinn will start pre-school. So what am I thinking about? Picking colleges. Not for Quinn of course, but for Zaven. He's a junior this year. When I was in high school, you didn't really spend much time thinking about college until you were a senior, but the competition for scholarships is a bigger deal now, and we WILL be needing those scholarships. So the hunt for the perfect school, the perfect scholarship, and the perfect major all begin earlier.

So far, Zaven has been doing most everything right. He gets good grades for the most part. He takes difficult classes. He's involved in sports (via swimming), extra-curricular activities, music lessons, and he volunteers. So what is there to think about? Tons, apparently.

First off, he needs to at least have an idea of what he wants to major in so that he can pick a school which is strong in that program. He's thinking about paleontology, which has been a love of his since he was Quinn's age. Neither of us know anything about which schools offer good paleo programs, so we need to do research. And to make things just that more complicated, paleo isn't really an undergraduate major. It's a master's or doctoral program. I have no idea what the preferred undergrad degree is in.

Once you've picked your potential schools, you request an application. Yes, in your junior year. Why? So you can spend the next YEAR working on getting the perfect application, essay, and recommendations.

I swear I'm not making this up.

Who does that? Who spends a year on an essay? Apparently, a lot of people. Probably, a lot of parents. But the fact is that enough people do this that not doing it puts you at a real disadvantage both in getting accepted to the school and in getting financial assistance from them.

Then there are all the scholarships to research. That was becoming a big field when I was in high school. Rich parents paid for someone to go through all the potential scholarships their kids could apply for, find those most suitable to their kids, and do most of the work in filling them out. They didn't write your essays, but they filled in all the forms and organized all the materials you'd need. This was pre-autofill. Filling the things out took forever.

Apparently, that service quickly devolved into an array of potential scams. Some of the companies wrote the essays for the students, others didn't research the scholarships which resulted in kids and parents wasting time applying for scholarships that they couldn't possibly get, and most companies simply sent the family huge lists of thousands of scholarships with no guidance into which ones to apply for or how to apply... which is where I'm at. Sure it sounds great that there are all those scholarships that Zaven could get. But have you ever googled the word 'scholarship'? 44 million results. How on earth does one narrow that down? Even the reliable sites that our school recommends has thousands and thousands of scholarships that one can apply for. And since everyone wants those which have a big payout, there's a lot of competition for those. Schools now recommend that instead of trying to get one major scholarship, students try to get several dozen smaller scholarships. Thirty $500 scholarships means $15,000. That's nothing to sneeze at.

So here we sit, looking at spending the next year and a half trying to sort through all those potential gold mines for just the right gold mines.

How come I'm doing this while I still have a kid in diapers? And (heaven forbid) will this even be harder when Quinn is in high school?


Anonymous said...

Oh yup, the college prep starts so young now!

Azaera said...

Wow that sounds tough, we only have 2 universities and a college in my city and for me it was an easy choice since I didn't feel like moving out of province for school. I wonder if Skyler will want to do post secondary.. I guess I will have to do research on what kind of schools offer the best support for blind students.. Hmm.