How High School Juniors Can Prepare for College – OBHF Podcast Ep. 14
When it came to college we knew we didn’t know everything, so we needed to find a college coach who could tell us how high school juniors can prepare for college. We’re so grateful to Rita Waters, who coaches juniors and seniors (watch for that episode soon) in the San Diego area.
Rita has been helping families navigate the college journey for years. The summer before junior year, Rita meets with families and gets them started on the admissions process. She gets a feel for the kid, and the parents, and lets you know what to expect. She walked us through the process, helped us get organized and coached our son as he went through his testing, college selection, essays and more.
She introduced us to the blue crate brigade, and you’re gonna want to know what that is.
This episode will walk you through how high school juniors can prepare for college with tips such as:
- The strategy behind visiting lots of colleges even if they aren’t the ones you’ll apply to
- Understanding the holistic approach colleges are taking to student evaluation
- With 4000 colleges in the US and universities in the US, why you should focus on the ones that “fit”
- The importance of junior year grades
- Ensuring all your prerequisites are met
- Pacing challenging classes
- How to make the application process easier
- And so much more
Many thanks to Rita Waters for her expert college admissions advice.
Stay tuned because we’ll be following this interview with an episode aimed at how high school seniors can prepare for college.
You can listen to the pod on the blog, on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. We’re so glad you’re listening! And if you like what you hear, please give us a top rating on Apple, it makes a difference and we’ll be forever grateful!
Proudly Sponsored by:
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- How High School Juniors Can Prepare for College with College Coach Rita Waters Transcript– OBHF Ep. 14
[Music – Our Bird Has Flown]
From the Dusty Urban Ham Shack studio of WB6QWD, lit by a single Edison bulb hanging from a cord, this is the Our Bird Has Flown podcast.
Paul M Bowers: Hello and Welcome to the Our Bird Has Flown podcast, I’m your host Paul M Bowers. Singing[Paul M Bowers], thank you ladies great job today. In today’s episode of the Our Bird Has Flown podcast, we will be talking to the Bowers family, college, coach Rita Waters, Rita is going to tell you all about how high school juniors can prepare for college and get straight while they can. In the meantime, we are going to talk a little bit about our sponsors which is the National Conflict Resolution Center.
National Conflict Resolution Center works with thousands of individuals across the globe to resolve conflicts in all levels of society , through their unique and effective training programs, check out the National Conflict Resolution Centre at ncrconline.com. So Rita Waters welcome to the Our Bird Has Flown podcast.
Rita Waters: Thank you.
Paul M Bowers:Tell us a little bit about yourself, you are a college coach.
Rita Waters:Yes, I’m there to help the young student navigate their path through the college admission process it can be a little daunting, a little over whelming so I’m there to help them calm their nerves down and get them a bit more organized so they can have a pleasant experience, not one that’s filled with stress and anxiety.
Paul M Bowers:In fact, our experience with you, because you are our family college coach [Laughter] our experience with you was– you also help family and it’s not just that you helped our Jesse and navigate his way, but you helped us too and tremendously we thank you.
Rita Waters:You’re welcome.
Paul M Bowers:It was a very successful experience and we found you on a referral from another family who had had two kids to go through and also very pleasant experience, so you are really good at what you do.
Rita Waters: Thank you, I think one of the reasons why I can help them in that regards is being a mom, I went through the college process myself. We have an only child and she did not get into her first choice the first time around.
She was one of those kids where I say, everything works out or there’s a reason why things happen and having her go through that process and helping her friends and classmates, I think as a mom it’s a really neat perspective versus some of the people who maybe gone through the anxiety with the midnight application stress.
Paul M Bowers:[Laughter] and that was part of it for us you included your personal experience as well, that made it easy for us to relate to you, now has this always been what you have done for a living?
Rita Waters:Well, actually I started after college going into construction.
Paul M Bowers:[Laughs] No kidding.
Rita Waters:So, I was an on-site superintendent, worked my way up to project manager, eventually went to a national company where I was the vice president of development and so I went the business route after college, and it wasn’t until after we had our daughter later in life, I became more in tune to and more interested in helping other students. I am a first-generation college grad, my parents never graduated high school.
How do you remember what it was like fifty years ago to go through this? And unfortunately, some circumstances haven’t changed for the better so, I’m here to help those kids and families overcome those problems that still exist.
Paul M Bowers:And again, you are successful and that was our experience, so, you started doing this– how long now have you been doing this?
Rita Waters:This would be my eighth cycle.
Paul M Bowers:No kidding!
Rita Waters: [laughs] Yeah.
Paul M Bowers:Do you get better at it as you go?
Rita Waters:I get more experienced at it, there’s always something to learn, there’s always new kids, always new circumstances, always new colleges and majors in society.
Paul M Bowers:So, do you go to colleges and interview them? Do you experience colleges to whom you are recommending them to?
Rita Waters: Yes, I try to visit at least ten to twenty colleges a year.
Paul M Bowers: Wow!
Rita Waters: I think, like I tell my students and their families, the more colleges you see the more colleges you’re going to like and the more you’re going to know what you don’t like and it always help when I refer a college or I can talk about a college I can say oh yes I was in that library or there is a really neat coffee shop on site, or check out the new mechanical engineering lab, I think it’s very helpful not only to the students but for me to also give a personal aspect.
Paul M Bowers:So did you go to Quinnipiac university?
Rita Waters: [Laughter] Actually no, I drove by it and to tell you one of my daughter’s best friends will be attending the medical school there.
Paul M Bowers:No kidding.
Rita Waters: Yeah.
Paul M Bowers:Your friend can help us with Jesse, but still I can tell you it’s a pretty fantastic place, I have been there twice now and I look at it and say wow this is the Porsche of Universities, it’s a pretty amazing campus but I was pretty astounded by all the campuses we visited and there’s a little bit of envy sending Jesse off to it.
Rita Waters:Yeah, when I visit colleges, I stand there and I go; I wish I knew about this when I was this young.
Paul M Bowers:You know that’s really true and one of my personal experience of college, as you go through the process, you’re left on your own and I was a terrible math student, the rest of the classes I could pretty much phone in but Math I could not and I came away from high school thinking, I’ve gotten C’s and D’s in math, so there’s no college that’s going to want me and now I look back and I say, are you kidding? My kid has not done well in math and he got into 5 of the 7 that he applied to.
Rita Waters: I think a lot of families have to understand that colleges are taking more of a holistic look at students, so yes, grades are still very important, they’re still at the top of the list, but you also have other factors to consider, their performance, not only from a G.P.A standpoint in their classes or coursework but what do they do in addition to projects in school and outside of school.
Your son is a great example, he has all these wonderful student government activities that he was involved with that often don’t show up on the transcript but they can show up on the resume of a student and that will entice or encourage colleges to say hey this is the kid we really want involved, not only in the classroom but on campus and outside in the community.
Paul M Bowers:Well, one way or the other and I don’t know what magic cocktail it was but he did extremely well and I think a lot of that has to do with targeting. You really helped him target the direction and classes in school that would really fit him well rather than I really really want to get into that bright big good college. No lead him to the one that fits.
Rita Waters:Yeah and fit is the word we use a lot in the industry but it’s one of those things that you want a college that fits your student, you don’t want to make your student fit the college, there are over four thousand colleges and universities in the country there have has to be at least twenty to fifty colleges that fit your student.
Paul M Bowers:You know it was a tremendous experience and obviously we appreciate your help with that. Now, you are going to tell us today a little bit about families that have juniors in high school and subsequently on the Our bird has flown podcast you’ll talk about seniors so folks, listeners, do subscribe and check out the next gripping episode if you have a senior, or if you have a junior anticipating being a senior. Tell us a little bit about what you do when you have a student that is a junior and how high school juniors can prepare for college?
Rita Waters:Okay, now it’s a good time to be having this discussion before the junior year starts, there are a few things that I like to emphasize to junior families, first of all as everybody knows, grades this is the last full set of grades that the majority of colleges are going to see when they’re looking at your students’ application. Your student needs to give his or her all this year.
If there are any hiccups in the student’s background now is the time to take care of that.
Whether that means taking an online class to make up a grade if they are missing a prerequisite, for instance a lot of students sometimes forget they need a performing arts class. A full year in order to be entered into the U.C. system.
Now is the time to make sure that class is going to be taken, maybe you want to make up class over the summer, now is the time to be figuring out where they can do that, another thing to consider is the rigor of classes a student is taking. Next year is not the time to be taking five A.P. classes if in fact you’re only been taking one or two.
Paul M Bowers:So, you want to start that at this point you want to start- making it show now.
Rita Waters:Yeah, you want your student to be challenged and successful, a lot of people ask me, was it better to take an A.P. class and get a B or take a regular class and get an A? Well, the classic answer is you want an A in the A.P. class, but the thing is you want your child to be successful, you don’t want them stressed out so that by the time they get to college they are totally fed up with the challenge of getting good grades.
The other thing that happens in junior year is this is the year of what I call the testing. The goal is to hopefully have your student achieve the scores that they want for their colleges that is on the S.A.T., the A.C.T and possibly subject tests. It’s important that if they can get that done by the end of junior year, then they have the time to concentrate on other aspects of the college application, for instance the actual college list and the essay.
So, again we’re talking rigor of classes, we’re talking about G.P.A. and we’re talking about test scores. Another important fact is remembering is that your students are involved in so many things. Your son, I was surprised at how much he did outside the classroom.
Paul M Bowers:I was surprised too! At least what he claimed to be doing outside the classroom. I think they did a lot of video gaming, to be sure a lot of video gaming.
Rita Waters:I think we kind of skirted on that a little bit.
Paul M Bowers:Well we’ll just call that research about that.
Rita Waters:That’s right but now is the time to start, moms and dads thinking about what your student has done since the summer after eighth grade. Believe it or not on the college application there are little boxes that say how many hours a week and how many weeks per year has your student been involved with this activity? That can be quite a daunting task for a student to sit there at ten o’clock at night, trying to fill out the application.
So if you guys can start making a list now or start collecting information on that, fifty percent of the stress and filling out the application is alleviated by being prepared. Having the activities figured out is a good way to do it. Another thing is it is more important I think to have a few really strong activities versus just a laundry list.
Your son was involved in the student government aspect of things and some technical. Other students are involved in the marching band or sports. They don’t have to have a job and be in marching band, and be in technology. Find the things that they really like to do and that shows up in the essays that they write.
Paul M Bowers: I noticed that and it also showed up in the interview. He was very, I say you know I’m a proud parent so, I think he successfully self-identified his strengths. He wants to talk, he’s really good at talking and so he applied it in different ways. He applied it when you think of the government program outside of school he did.
They didn’t have a debate team at his school but they had something like it and he did really well, excuse me. So he applied that and then when he went for his interview it was very clear where his strengths lie. Another thing that surprised me is they didn’t care about his math grades; they were not asking anything about his math grades. I always thought you go to the college, they’re going to point at the math grades and they reject.
Rita Waters:Now there are many they want to involve students on campus.
Paul M Bowers:Yeah and somebody knows their group.
Rita Waters:And they can identify with it and contribute to the campus and the campuses that he ended looking at were the campuses that he knew he could get into his group.
Paul M Bowers:Yes, indeed. I think I hear a chime, it’s time for a word from one of our sponsors Green Fresh Florals. That’s Carlos Franco, he has Green Fresh Florals in San Diego’s Hillcrest, have a look at greenfreshflorals.com. They are a proud sponsor of the Our bird has flown podcast. So Rita Waters, what else do you have on your iPhone for us?
Rita Waters:Okay, I’m looking on my list here, yes another thing that is great to do, junior year for families is to start looking at all colleges. You have that Thanksgiving break coming up on school holidays, Christmas break. Now is the time to look at colleges and if you can’t tour the colleges it doesn’t have to be colleges that your students are going to apply to.
You should be able to go out and look at a college that or you see for instance here in San Diego the U.C.S.D. campus that is a huge research university, have the student walk that, take the tour and get a feel for it. We have Point Loma Nazarene University here in town it’s a small faith-based college. Have the student go and visit that college. USD, University San Diego, San Diego State that way when you’re looking at colleges and if you can’t afford or the timing isn’t right, to go visit different colleges across the country you can at least relate to the ones that you’ve seen here locally.
Doesn’t mean they have to apply to the college. You’re going somewhere near relatives for vacation and there’s a college nearby, go look at it. As I said before, it’s just as important to know what the student wants versus what a student doesn’t want on a campus.
Paul M Bowers:It does help them visualize a lot and I remember taking Jesse and his friend Rory, even when I think they were in middle school and we used to ride the trolley for fun and I took them out to San Diego State and we walked around a college campus and like me, I’m looking at it. I had been to San Diego State back in the 80’s and it was a fantastic experience.
Just that they could see these are huge institutions with buildings and lots of different things to do. so they started visualizing that and then as we went to some of the colleges to which Jesse was applying, it really starts to come home about how does it feel? Does it feel right? Now the ones that I saw looked like resorts and they felt like me the whole time. I remember Marist college.
Rita Waters:They are a lot different.
Paul M Bowers:Marist College right on the river, I have been to resorts, and I thought wow I could go rowing here.
Rita Waters:The other thing is too, is when you go around to campuses and you’re there during the school season or the school year you get a feel for the students that are there, you know?
Do the students look at you and say hi? You know it’s funny to say but how do they dress? Are they in flip flops during the winter? You know is this a type of student that your student is? You know there are other places where they– it’s very competitive academically, so is that where your student wants to be?
And then go visit the library, go to visit the tech Center, see what sources are available in a particular major. If you’re an arts or performing arts major see if there’s a show being performed .What is the latest art gallery or exhibit that’s being featured within that department? There’s so many different aspects to a college choice that while they can’t go out and explore that, they may discover new majors or interests while they’re there.
Paul M Bowers:Well we learned a lot from our tours we learned a lot from the tour guide and a lot more than I think the college expected us to. There was a different attitude with the different tour guides and obviously, at the time they’re not a hundred percent representation of the college but usually the tour guides were in groups anyway and the way that they interrelated with each other, from which department did they come.
Rita Waters:Exactly, and remember that the tour guides on the tours, they’re students there and so they’re volunteering their time or they’ve been chosen to provide these tours and it’s an interesting way for your student to really get the insight on the college.
When you sit down in the information center, information session that is, you are getting information from the admissions office and there’s what I call the adult speak is going on but during the tours, you really get a feel for, okay what do the kids do there on the weekends? Where do they hang out on the weekends ? What type of student is in what department? What is the favorite major? Favorite professor on campus?
So, the tours are important from the aspect that your student can see okay, is this really where I think I might fit? Is this where I think I might want to apply?
Paul M Bowers:Well one of the colleges that struck us pretty strong and I don’t remember the name of it at the Newport News Virginia, small private, well actually it’s not a private it’s a public college. And it looks like a private one and it’s in Newport News Virginia, it was the last alternative, it was that one or Quinnipiac and I don’t remember the name of it.
Nevertheless we went to this place and we actually did a special trip to see this one because it was so close and it fit so well. We hadn’t seen it, so we went there and we were greeted at the door, spectacular buildings everywhere, all the students are in ties and jackets, it’s like a prep school.
You approach the door of the admissions office and two of them open the doors for you, you walk in and there’s ushers. Oh come on over and look at this, it was so well orchestrated and so well done that it was almost intimidating. It’s like I just cannot see in this.
Now I think it was an excellent school and I had a slight preference to it on primarily probably because it was about half the price, but it was a fantastic university and really a very different experience from touring the other college. I suspect you have anything else on you for how high school juniors can prepare for college on your iPhone?
Rita Waters:I think for the juniors here again if by the end of the year a suggestion is, if they’re interested let’s say in engineering or if they want to become a nurse and they have a certain question in mind, if they start looking into if not internships during the year, or over the summer maybe shadowing at a company.
A lot of students come back to me and say afterwards you know Rita I really like this and there are students who come back and say no way. So, it’s a good way for them to experience what they think they might want to do as a career or even as a major.
Another thing for students to do before the end of the year is start thinking about teachers that they would like to approach for their letters of recommendation. There are colleges that still require that and if they can have a feel for that before junior year and that’s one item off the checklist that they can put down to the bottom and say taken care of.
Paul M Bowers:Yes,indeed. It was an interesting experience about that as well, once Jesse started asking for these letters of references and they started to write them it really gave him a huge dose of confidence, to think that that teacher actually, you know, hey they like me.
Rita Waters:I think a lot of them really liked him, I mean, even though he talked a lot in class.
Paul M Bowers:Perhaps because of it! But I think that it does let students know that they can do this and that the teachers are on their side and they want to see them succeed and that there was a lot to it for Jesse when that happened.
Rita Waters:Yeah I think the key is for junior year if parents and students can understand it’s a great opportunity to get organized for the college applications that they’re going to start filling out. They can start filling out applications starting August 1st, if not sooner.
So if organization is there, they’ve got things lined up, and the college lists, or their limits on their college lists have been defined, they’re way ahead of the game before senior year starts.
Paul M Bowers:So, is this where they make their box?
Rita Waters:Yes. I have the blue crate brigade. I have a filing system we put in transcripts, awards, essay ideas, lists of activities, college letters. Yeah this is the blue crate brigade.
Paul M Bowers:Let me tell you about the blue crate. The blue crate would sit on the floor, behind the driver seat in the fifteen hundred-dollar Prius that I have Jesse driving and when he’s in the car it fits just fine. I would get in the car to drive it and I would try to move the seat back and it would hit the blue crate. I would have to get out of the car, go to the back door move the blue crate then I could move the seat all the way back. Now it obviously is important to Jesse but to me it was just the damn blue crate!
Rita Waters:And I tell some of the kids, I said you know the there are things in that crate that you’re going to want to keep, at least through your sophomore year in college in case for an internship or a job interview, or if you want to transfer or change majors. And then for the parents we also try to put financial aid information in there but my little brigade is, it’s a system that I’m known by.
Paul M Bowers:People, they walk around, I’ve seen them come in and out of your home with one of these. So, anything else for a junior? We’re going to do seniors too!
Rita Waters:Okay, my thing is to, yes concentrate on academics, find things that you’re passionate about now, if you’re into sports maybe you can volunteer as a student coach. Be yourself, I think the most important thing is go out do the best you can, be yourself there are colleges that will fit you.
Paul M Bowers:Excellent, well on that note Rita Waters thank you for joining us in the Our bird has flown dusty urban ham shack studio. The Our Bird Has Flown podcast is brought to you by national conflict resolution centre at NCRCOnlin.com and our friends at Green Fresh Florals, greenfreshflorals.com.Remember you can subscribe to our bird has flown podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify. You can even look on our website at ourbirdhasflown.com. Rita Waters thank you.
Rita Waters:You’re very welcome. Thank you.