STERLING – The best paths to college are amazon.com and the local public library, an author told high school students Monday.
Christine VanDeVelde, a Newman Central Catholic High School Class of 1971 grad, co-wrote “College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step By Step,” published last year by Three Rivers Press.
VanDeVelde returned to Newman to talk to about 45 juniors about the keys to getting into college.
Reading is crucial for college-bound students, she said. Cracking books improves scores on standardized tests, and it is the biggest factor in whether students succeed in college. The choice of reading material is irrelevant, she said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s graphic novels or Dostoevksy.”
Students have to figure out who they are and what they want, and they have to make sure colleges know who they are, she said. Applicants should make sure the colleges know their backstory, including learning differences, and students should just be themselves, she said.
“What a college most wants to know is who you are, and you don’t have to fake it to make it.”
At some colleges, faculty members have a lot of influence in the admissions process, and they might want very specific qualities in students, she said.
Biology professors might want students who sincerely want to study biology without using it as a stepping stone to medical school, and math professors might want students with conceptual creativity. Political science professors might want students who will give them a run for their money in conversations, she said.
VanDeVelde challenged the students to apply to at least one college outside of a 500-mile radius. Newman students are geographically desirable to such colleges, she said.
“You’ll be exposed to a group of students who come from different realities,” she said. “That’s as educational as anything else.”
VanDeVelde suggested students apply to six to eight schools, and advised that they follow directions during the application process: Admission is in the details, she said. Each college or university has its own unique rules and deadlines, and students must meet deadlines for sending in documents.
She also urged students to apply for financial aid. This year, the federal government has $150 billion in financial aid for students, she told them.
“The single biggest mistake families make is failing to apply for financial aid,” she said.
Private colleges that seem too expensive might offer scholarships and grants, she said.
Applicants should submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, she said, even if they think their family has too much income to qualify. Many scholarships, even those not based on financial need, require a FAFSA application, she said.
Of the 77 students graduating from Newman this year, 95 percent will go to a 2- or 4-year college, counselor Debbi Kelly said. The rest will go into the military or a foreign exchange program, she said.
VanDeVelde will speak today to Sterling High School students.
To buy 'College Admission'
Sterling native Christine VanDeVelde co-wrote "College Admission: From Application to Acceptance," with Robin Mamlet, former dean of Stanford University.
It's availabe on amazon.com or from Book World in Northland Mall, 2900 E. Lincolnway, Sterling.
Go to collegeadmissionbook.com for more information.