Letters to the Editor

Plan ahead for college admissions | Federal Way letters

Are you planning a college education for your children?

I ask that question to every parent I meet. The Federal Way School Board was made aware of the fact that Washington state is not very successful in the production of college graduates at a recent meeting. In fact we are tied for 48th in the nation.

When I ask most parents about college planning, I find that they assume that this is a process that they can defer until at least their student’s junior year of high school. This often leads to some poor choices, one of the reasons for lack of success in college, or just plain outright rejection of the student’s application at the college of their choice.

The newspapers have been full of articles about the increased competitiveness for admission to the University of Washington, and this trend is likely to continue. Students with nearly perfect GPAs, mostly from high schools that UW does not believe are rigorous, have been denied admission to the “U.” The university has established a rating system for each high school that sends more than five students to the “U” each year based upon how well these students do at the “U.”

What about other colleges? There is good news and bad news. The good news, not well understood by many, is that many of the finest colleges and universities in the nation aspire to have a “geographic diversity” in their student bodies, and the Pacific Northwest is the most difficult part of the country from which to attract enrollees. This makes for some unusually attractive incentives for those students who have cultivated a relationship with these institutions.

In fact, some of these schools are making offers to well qualified students before they even begin their senior year. At least two highly competitive colleges are even offering admission to those who have finished their sophomore year of high school.

The bad news is that many parents, and students, are not aware of the admission requirements, ever increasing, that competitive colleges are demanding. SAT subject tests, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge, or demonstrated success in Advanced Placement exams are examples of this. I know of several colleges today that will expect SAT subject test results with the student’s application.  That means that the students will have taken these exams in their junior year!

When should college planning begin? There are many families in the Northwest who are starting this in the eighth grade. I ask students, “Who knows you at what college?” Clearly if you are not known you cannot be the recipient of any special attention. Getting known by those who can affect your future takes time. High school seniors are often too late.

“Adults have all the cookies” certainly applies in this endeavor. There are colleges in this country that have some unique opportunities including ones that do not charge tuition to any student.  It does take some effort, but the rewards are significant, if you start early.

Those who become known to a college by their application may not be getting the consideration that others who have “done their homework” may be getting.

“Getting a quality education is not a spectator sport.”

Charlie Hoff, Federal Way

Note: Hoff is a former Federal Way School Board member who hosts a monthly college admissions seminar. Contact: c.r.hoff@clearwire.net.


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