This is part two of our 4-Part College Match series with Sage Oak School Counselor, Coral Prendergast. Throughout these episodes, Coral shares informative and tactical resources for navigating the process of finding the right college for your student. Part 2 focuses on identifying what the student wants from the college such as location, size, majors, campus life, etc….
Topic 1: What is important to you?
Topic 2: College Planning Websites
Topic 3: College Fact Finder
Topic 4: Reach, Realistic, and Safe Schools
Topic 5: College Admissions Profile
Thank you for listening to the Sage Studio podcast presented by Sage Oak Charter Schools and hosted by Tiffiny Webster, M.A.Ed. We invite you to follow the show and leave your review below. Sage Oak Charter Schools is an independent study nonclassroom based TK-12 personalized learning public charter school serving students in Southern California. Visit sageoak.education for more information.
Sage Oak Website
Well, hey there. Welcome to another episode of Sage Studio. I'm Tiffiny Webster, and today I am welcoming back my guest Coral Prendergast. She is one of our counselors here at Sage Oak and we are in the middle of a podcast series about matching. Students to you say Coral, we're matching students to the right college College match. So finding the right fit for you in the college that you choose. Okay, I love this. And she is such a wealth of knowledge. If you didn't get a chance to hear our first episode. Go back and watch that. When you're done with this episode and you can find a little bit more information about how do you really discover your own interests? What are you looking for out of a college and what are you ultimately wanting to learn about yourself, so that you can find the right college that offers those things. Now, today in episode two, we're going to take those results and use those results to match us with the right college that offers those same things. Do I have that right? Yep. Yeah. Ok. Alright, so I'm going to turn it over to Coral. She's going to walk us through her presentation and guide us through the process of how we get to finding the right school. Yeah. So I'm going to share my screen. So the second part here is , what are you looking for in a university? So when you start to think, now we know who we are and what we are interested in our abilities. But now when I start to look at the college, what's important when I'm looking at the college, so, Is going to be to find out these different areas. So what kind of size are you interested in? Do you want to go to a really big school? Do you want to go to a small school? What kind of class sizes are you looking for? What about location? Do you want to be, you know, close to home? Do you want to be far away geographically? Do you like the sun? Do you like it where it rains more? Are you okay in the cold every year? You know, I have kids and they'll go off to college and they'll come back. They came home after one semester because they hated it and they're like, it's freezing in Nebraska. And I was like, what did you think was going to happen?, Nebraska? Like, these are the type of things . Yeah. That is actually a legit, qualifier. Can you handle the weather of the school that you're looking for? Absolutely. These are important things to check out. You definitely want to know what kind of activities do they have on that campus? What kind of clubs or sports or different things like that? Is it a very strong academic environment? You know, I know for myself, if I would've gone somewhere like Yale or Harvard or something like that, I would've drowned. Academically, that's not where I would want to be. I would be too overwhelmed.. But for me, I wanted somewhere a little bit more social, maybe D two athletics, you know? Not as hardcore academically. So taking all of that into consideration is really important. What the cost is, is it affordable? And I'm going to talk about cost a little bit in here because we don't want to rule out just because of costs. That's a big problem that people do early on.. Something that definitely needs to come into play, but more of a later decision, not right outta the gate., you know, big name schools, A lot of people will Google best colleges and it's UCLA and that's where they apply. When really when you get down to the nuts and bolts, that might not be a good fit for your personality or for your academics or things like that. Believe it or not, co-ed or single sex is still a thing. There are still colleges that are single sex and people might want that or not want that. So it's definitely something to factor or dorms, you know, some people will have dorms that are co-ed and some people aren't comfortable with that or that are separate. You know, you've gotta look into all of those things because you want to make sure that you feel comfortable with where you're at in life. I love that you're bringing up all of these different categories to think about or I know criteria is to think about because I think sometimes we just. Oh yeah, this is what I want. I want to go to college and what I might be thinking and what you might be thinking could be totally two different versions of what college would look like and feel like, and campus size and location and weather and all these things, but we maybe don't necessarily, consciously, break it down right? To what our vision is. Like we have this vision of college, but we're actually not breaking it down to oh, that must mean I want to attend a large campus. Or Oh, that must mean I really want to attend a campus that is where the weather is great. And so to take the time to really break it down by these factors, I think is really important. Because like you said, the worst thing would be to get all the way down the road and do all that it takes to get into a college only to get there for a semester and be like, oh, I'm freezing. Why did I choose this? So, or I hate the food. You know? I mean, that's important for crying out loud if you have to live there. Right. and how hard is it to get into that college? You know what I mean? Depending on your academic, like where your GPA is in class rank, is this a good fit for how hard it's going to be to get in? So this is a great resource right here. If you guys click here, it's going to take you to explain each of these different areas, the pros and cons to both sides of every one of them. You know, if you want to live in a city or if you want to live somewhere rural, it's going to talk about the pros and cons to all of those. And then it has you rate. And ask you questions specifically about those. And so it's just a really great resource. It's a fillable P D F that you can work on with your family to just talk about what is important, when I start looking at this. So it's a great resource for you guys to check out all these different, Things.. It really is such a helpful tool. I mean, I can just tell you from my own personal experience, like when I was going into school, I really wanted to have that college experience, right? I wanted the big football team, the big basketball team. I wanted a campus, I wanted a college town. Like I wanted everybody to be as excited about being on that campus as I was, and I loved.... at first . And then I realized that going to a school like that, my classes were impacted. I had to wait sometimes to get the classes that I wanted. Some of my beginning classes had 500 students in them. And we kind of talked about that a little bit in the first episode about trying to figure out, you know, what feels right to you? And I was the same way. I'm like, I just can't learn in the way that I want to with these types of factors. And I ultimately, I changed courses. I decided, you know what? I'm going to move my next year into a smaller campus where I can have fewer people in my classes. I can get the classes that I need. Because for me, it was really important to graduate in four years because I had other plans. I wanted to move on and do other things. And so, , you know, it really is worthwhile to take these factors into consideration. Doesn't mean you totally have to get it right and you might get there and discover new things about yourself that you didn't realize at the time were, oh, I didn't really think that the food was going to matter as much as it did, but I really miss, you know, this other type of foods. Things like that sometimes can play a bigger role than you anticipate. So just being aware of these things and taking some time to think about it ahead of time, I think it's going to really help our students. So I love this resource.. And that's why I wanted to put this resource together because this is something I do every year with students. So for me it's like secondhand knowledge.. But if this is your first child going to college, these are things you haven't probably thought about, you need to think about, you know? Oh, so true. That's why I'm excited to, I've done a lot of research from all different places, all different books and websites and.So these are different college planning websites, this is where you should be spending some time after you figure out, okay, I want a medium sized school. I'm okay geographically with this area. I want more city, or I want more rural. You know, these are the things that are important to me. Then you start using these different websites to search them. So on these websites, you'll be able to click on size of school major that you're interested in, all of those things, and it'll narrow it down for you and show you, okay, here's a list of schools you can search by state. So say I'm looking for a school in California that has a certain sport that has a communications major and is a medium size, I can put that and it's going to narrow it down for me and say, here's your list of schools to start looking at. So it's a really great way. Any of these you can click on. They're all linked out. This one, the California Colleges, I've already created all high school students a account. You just have to register your account. So if you're in one of the college and career, junior senior seminar classes, you've already registered it with me. But if not I put directions right here on how to do that. I love that. Thank you. That is such a helpful resource to our students to know okay, this is already set up for you. All you have to do is take advantage of the resource that we're handing you. I want to just ask this question for a second because I think... A lot of times we hear like how hard it is to get into college and we think that, our list is short. Right. We only have a few colleges on our list, and I know we're going to get into that a little bit later about putting your list together, the ones that you get into. But if a student wants to go to college, is there an option for them? Is it possible? Are there a lot of colleges to choose from or is there not a lot of colleges to choose? There are a ton of colleges to choose from and there's a good fit for everybody. It doesn't matter what kind of student you are. I'll just share. I wasn't a super strong student and I didn't have a high gpa, so I started at a community college for the first two years and took all my general education classes there and then I was able to transfer to a four year university and that was a great fit for me also, I don't think I was mature enough to live in the dorms and live on my own. I think that would've been a nightmare for me and I probably would've failed out. So it was a good fit for me at the beginning. But there's CTE e programs in the community colleges for trades and specific skills and certificates. There are transfer paths if you need to start there with your G P A and transfer out. And then there's all different four year universities all over the country that have different strengths and are looking at different things. And I think I even, let me see if I have it on here. I thought I had a map. Oh, I do. Can you guys see this? Yes, put it right there. Yes. You guys hear all the colleges look at this. Whoa. Okay. That is a great perspective. Yeah, . So you can find somewhere that's a good fit for you. And I want to encourage you, you know, sometimes we get in our little bubble of California here, but there are 500,000 seniors graduating from California every. 500,000, which means that's a lot to pile in these schools right here. There's some really great options outside of California, and we'll talk about that when we're building a list. But there's some really great scholarships that really make out-of-state tuition, not as scary as some people may think it is. So definitely there's a place, there's a fit for everybody. I'm so glad you said that because yeah, and this map gives such perspective. It's like we tend to think of maybe only the UCs or the CSUs because that's in our neighborhood and they happen to be really great schools. And I think that those are really great options, but they're not the only options. And boy does this map really send that message, right? Yes. Wow, there are a lot of different choices. So maybe in this process, going back to one of those, a growth mindset. Yeah. Maybe a growth mindset starts with, Hey, I'm going to be willing to consider options that maybe I didn't even know existed. Or maybe are beyond what I thought was going to be my comfort zone. Maybe I'm willing to go somewhere else if I discover that it's going to be the right fit for my interests, what I want to get out of college. And some of these things like the size, location, weather, all those other factors. So I love this Coral. You're really giving us some great tools for figuring out what's going to work. Okay. Yeah. I always tell kids with perspective too, if you're looking, say you're looking in Northern California and we live in Southern California, you know, that could be an eight hour drive where Arizona could be a three hour drive from some of us, so, oh, good point. It does take you like, it's okay to think outside the box a little bit, especially in your initial planning stages. Like you're just, these are different schools that have what I'm looking for. Keep an open mind, definitely Well and something else that you mentioned that I think is such a great point too, is that once you go through this process, you might discover, you know what? I'm not sure jumping right into a four year is even my plan anymore. Maybe now that I have a better idea about the size of the campus and where it's at and cost and all those things, maybe that's something that I'm going to be ready for in two years from now. And I'll start by taking my general education at a community college, knowing that's the end game and where I. To transfer to. Yeah, I think that's a really great point and a really great option for students to be able to kind of think about it in those terms. Virtual is another thing too, right? Yeah, absolutely. So many of these programs now, they offer virtual courses and you could either complete your entire four year degree online or maybe you do some of your classes or a year or so and then you move out. So a lot of different choices there. Loving it. What's next? Okay. So then once we kind of look at the different colleges, we know what's important to us and we're navigating narrowing down, you know, what that's going to look like. I did put a couple of extra things I want you to think about. Is there anything else that the college could provide that you wanted for your academic goals? So, This is something that I had never thought about till I was reading this book and it talked about if I need really quiet spaces to study, but it's a place that maybe the weather is, you know, sometimes rainy or stormy, like it's in a geographical place that has weather that I'm not used to dealing with, I'm not always going to be able to get to the library. So do the dorms have a quiet place? That they've set aside or quiet hours or, am I going to have a single occupancy? Those kinds of things. Think about how you're going to study, when you're going to study what that looks like and what's feasible with that. Because this is something I had never thought about. You know, do I have time in my dorms where there's quiet hours where I will be able to study if I can't get to the library? Oh, that's such a good point. I, my niece goes to school in Seattle, Washington. Right. So she's grew up in Southern California. That's all she knows now. She goes to school in Seattle. It rains cats and dogs all the time. And this has actually been a factor for her . She's oh, do I really want to like, put on all my rain boots, put on my jacket, grab my gear, and brave the weather just to get to the library? So it is a legit factor. I'm so glad you brought it.. And then also, you know, you want to be challenged but not overwhelmed. So looking at that academic rigor of the college, you know, am I going to be able to get my best grades there? Is this an environment where I can learn that fits my learning styles? You know, is it hands on if I need hands on? Or if it is it lecture hall, my sister can like, read anything and memorize it. She has that graphic, memory where she can just read it and be like, yeah, that was halfway down the page on the left. I am not like that , like I need to touch it. I need to interact and you know, what is your learning style and does this campus afford for that? Right. Where are you going to feel comfortable? Where are you going to fit in? Are you going to meet friends? You know, making sure if different people that are in your ethnic background or religious background or culture are look at those numbers and see is that a place where these people are or is this somewhere where you're going to get there and say, I feel a totally alone because people don't think like me, or people don't act like me. Which it's always good to, you know, broaden our horizons and meet new people. Sure. But there is also a sense where you do want to feel like you fit in as well um, that you have commonalities with people. So those are things to kind of consider. And then, Do they have office hours? Are you going to feel comfortable talking to the professors? And if not, what does their tutoring program look like? Do they have smaller groups where you can kind of interact with people? These are all things that you can ask. The admissions counselors, you guys on college campuses are like your concierge at a hotel. They are the ones that are going to know everything and they are going to be able to tell you, Hey, This is what you need to like dial into over here. This would meet your needs there. And when we talk about college visits, like they're the ones that you want to call and kind of schedule stuff with too, because they know all the answers. That's their job to know everything about that campus and don't hesitate to call them. They're like, you're a car salesman for the university. They want you, they want to talk to you, they want to answer all your questions. So reach out to them with any of these informational things that you.. I'm so glad you mentioned that because I do feel like sometimes we put this I don't know, this expectation on ourselves. Oh, we're supposed to figure out everything on our own, or we're supposed to walk into that college campus having done our homework, done our research and know what we're talking about. But it's also been my experience when I, you know, would call colleges on behalf of my students and say, Hey, we're just curious to know. Things that you just mentioned. Do you have online tutoring that students can tap into or are there office hours or all of those different things. And you are right. They actually love helping you. They love answering your questions. That's what they're there to do. And they like to make sure that you know, everything that their campus offers, that their programs offer. So I think that's really good advice and it's coming from a counselor, so you know, it's true. If a counselor is saying, call the counselor. Call the counselor. They're going to be your best resource for knowing that program and that campus the best. So thanks for that event. So the next thing that you need to consider is the, how much it's going to cost. Obviously this is a huge deal with your families. How much college is going to cost. It's a big investment. But there are also a lot of different ways to pay for it. And so within this presentation I linked out to a presentation a parent webinar that I did earlier in the year.. And so, looking at grants and explaining the difference between Pell Grants, Cal Grants, Chaffee Grant, promise Grant, all those different things, okay? When you come from the names up here, It's going to take you straight to that portion of the presentation and you can click right here and I've already recorded it all for you. Amazing. I love it. Again, this is why Coral is so amazing. She's so resourceful and she's made it so easy for you to really. You know, workshop this information, not just sit back and watch a presentation, but she's giving you the tools that you need to get in there and figure out what's going to work best for your family. So I love that. Yeah. So there's different grants. There's different scholarships. Some of them are merit based just because of your good grades and the things that you've done. Or some of them are needs based if you have a financial need or are lower income with your family. And then there's private scholarships which I send out to the seniors. I have a live document that I add stuff to every couple weeks that they can apply for. There are loans and I explain the differences between the different types of loans here that you should be aware of. And that all starts with filling out your FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid. And so I walk the seniors through that step by step. There's a presentation here as well that will walk you through that, but just know at this stage in the game, Yes, you need to consider the cost as far as how much things cost, but don't weed out colleges at this point because you think they cost too much. Because you won't really know your financial aid packages until about this time of your senior year, you know, March, April. And then when you start to get your acceptances, they will also give you your financial aid package. And you may see that something that had a really high price tag initially because of scholarships that you might get, it might actually bring it down lower than a state school. People always want to rule out private schools right out of the gate because they're so expensive, but they have a lot of university aid we call it, which is their actual college giving money out. They have a lot more than that than the state schools do. And so sometimes it can actually be cheaper. Like I said, sometimes outta state can end up cheaper and things like that, so don't rule it out, but be aware of it at this stage. Great advice. Thanks so much for that Coral. And then this is a bunch of different resources for you that you can link out to search for different scholarships. A lot of these search engines, they're free. This is what I want to say. Please do not pay people to help you find scholarships or to help you fill out your FAFSA. There's a lot of people out there, it's like scams, or they'll take advantage of you and say, oh, if you pay me$200, I'll find you a scholarship. Well, , they're finding you the Cal Grant or things like that, that you're already going to get automatically anyway. There are so many great search engines that are free and I put them here that you fill out, like your bio, you just go through this huge long survey and you know, this is our family income, this is how many people live in our house. This is different things about us, you know, your ethnicity and your activities that you're involved in, sports, all that kind of stuff. And then it will tell you basically here are different scholarships that you qualify for, you should fill these out. And so really use these free ones or use me as a resource that I can help you find some, rather than paying somebody to do it. because that's my job. You know, I've heard also too, that sometimes families will treat this as a job for their senior. So rather than, having their senior go work at, you know, a coffee shop or a fast food restaurant, they'll say, okay. Instead, your job this year is to just research all the different scholarships that you would be available for and tapping into Coral would be totally allowed. You could use a resource like Coral to help you do that because the money that you could potentially earn as scholarship money would probably be more than you could earn just working in a fast food restaurant or at a coffee shop trying to save for school. So sometimes I know parents look at it that way. They're like, okay, your job right here is going to be to just go find those scholarships because all the money that you earn with those scholarships could really have a big impact on the financial burden of going to school. Absolutely. And a lot of these, you can start earlier than senior year. You know, a lot of these scholarships they'll take sophomores or juniors and a lot of 'em take an essay in order to apply for it. So that is going to be a different series that I do on writing your college essays and all of that kind of stuff. But definitely preparing for that now, start working on an essay that's basically who you are and what you've done while you're in high school. That's the gist of what most of them are. But start working on that now because you're going to need it. So that's a great thing. And then there's also different calculators. So like big Future Sally May. They have different things that you can calculate the cost of school, and you should be get, you know, if you put in your income and family size, it'll tell you, you'll probably qualify for these different grants and so that you can kind of estimate and see what things might look like. So these are just tools and links for you guys to kind of start exploring that., but I help you with this that senior year a lot. So don't worry about that. And then you need to work on your college admissions profile. So this is really taking a long, hard look at your transcript and who you are as a student. And so I have created a worksheet here for you so that you can say, okay, check mark, and it gives you a score here on the right. So if I've taken four years of English, I'm going to have a one. Okay. And that's good. So looking at trying to accomplish ones in every area is going to make you really competitive for college. Okay? So we're working backwards, like golf score here. This is, we're aiming for low scores. Okay? Low score. Low scores. So you're going to look at this and you're going to go through and say, because at the end of this, if you're starting this in ninth or 10th grade, you can still make adjustments to your classes, right? You can sign up for that dual enrollment class that's going to give you the extra GPA bump. You can start it. It really makes you start thinking, oh, I should take that extra lab science., or you know, oh, I should take that fourth year of math, especially if I'm going to an Arizona school, because that they want four years of math. You know, really evaluating kind of what you're putting out there on your application. And so this portion's on your classes, and then we go into your class rank, which if you don't have your class rank, you can talk to your EA or you can email me and I can give it to you. And then your scores, oops, sorry about that. And then your scores. I know this is something I wanted to talk about is that. Most schools post covid have gone to test optional, so they're not requiring the SAT or ACT for a lot of the colleges. Cal States and UCs being two systems, but also a lot of out-of-state colleges. However, I'm still going to recommend that you take it by the end of your junior year because a lot of schools, while they might not be using it for. Admissions, they might use it for financial purposes.. So they might say, if you get this on your SAT, we're going to give you 5,000 more dollars. Or if you're looking at this specific major, like a math major, and you can score this, your admissions is going to, it's going to help. You know what I mean? So some of them, It might be connected to different majors or financial need and stuff like that. And then you're, that's important to know. So I think so financially it might be worthwhile for you to take the test because if you score somewhere in a certain level, then that could turn into scholarship dollars. Yes. Also class ranking, I think I've heard too, right, that for placement or ranking purposes. Yeah, it's definitely important.. Yeah. And so, and then this looks at your extracurricular activities. So looking at what have you done when you're in high school? Are you in sports? Are you in a s b? Are you in newspaper? Are you in volunteer work? You know, are you working an actual job? And then what would people say about you? This is kind of funny because that does go hand in filling out your college applications, is what your rec letters of recommendations say. So where do you think you would be here?. And so this is just like a worksheet and you guys are going to go up here, file, make a copy, and then you can edit it and you can, this can be yours to play around with. So that is building your admissions profile. So how likely is it that I'm going to get into this college? When I'm looking at, when I'm being really realistic about who I am academically, extracurricular activities, my class rank. When I look at all of that, what schools should I be applying to?. And then oh, here's the activities and experience log. So I've also created, you know, you should be tracking this. So when you click on this what's your activity? What years did you do it? How many hours? This is all stuff they're going to ask on college applications. So if you're starting this in ninth or 10th grade, start filling out this log now start thinking. What creative work have you done? What are your hobbies? What are your interests? This is what you're going to have to write about on your college applications. So it's good to start thinking about and planning for this now. And if you're not involved in any of this, now's the time to start getting involved in this, right? You're going to see kind of what they're looking at. So you can start saying, I think I better start some volunteer work. Or maybe you should, you know, travel or do things that I have to write about on my application. So this is a worksheet for you to go through on there. I love that, that, again, so helpful. And by the way, if you do not have a folder in your Google Drive yet , that's totally dedicated to college prep. I would get one of those pretty soon as I'm seeing all of these great resources Coral is creating for you. You're going to want to be able to store them in a place that you can easily go back to them, access them, add more details. So just make it simple for yourself in your Google Drive, create a new folder called college planning. And then all of these worksheets that you are working on you can just put in there and then that way you'll know where to find them so that you can edit them, update them. You know, recall them if you need to upload 'em for any reason to somewhere else. So, good to know here. Okay we're stacking up the resources, Coral. I love it. Okay, so now I want to transition into building your college list.. Okay. So we have gone through the process of figuring out who we are as a student, what our interests are, what we want out of a school. We have gone through the process of what do we want from a school, what the size is, what the location is what we want the campus to be like. And now we're figuring out like all the ways that we can figure out how are we going to match those attributes to another school? And we've also, looked at the huge map to realize, wow, there are a ton of schools out there. So now it just becomes a matter of taking what I want, matching that with the school that offers that. And then choosing from a shorter list, do I have that right? That's right. That was such a great training with Coral. And now in our next episode, we are gonna be talking about, now that we know about all the different possibilities out there, how do we narrow it down to just our top 20 and what schools should be on that list? Coral's going to be breaking it down in the next episode.