The Art of Applying to College: How to Prepare Your Child For Successful College Admission

Finding the right college for your child is a process that begins before your child enters high school. Below are questions, with brief answers, that you should have in mind as you consider your child’s education. After the questions, you will find a quick guide to preparing your child with 21st Century skills. Please reach out to me at Raising Black Scholars if I can answer any questions for you.

1.When should my child and I start thinking about college prep? If your child is interested in STEM, they need to be in Algebra I, preferably by 7th grade, 8th grade at the latest.  Even if your child is not interested in STEM, 8th grade students should be on the path to write at a high level and on a college prep/honors/AP path.

2. What classes must my child take? It is best to have at least Calculus by senior year, AB Calculus if possible, BC Calculus is better.  AP Classes are becoming necessary for college admission: if offered at your child’s school, they should take them. Your child should take Chemistry and Physics if possible; 4 years of a foreign language; if your child wants to attend the UC schools in California (i.e. Berkeley and UCLA) they will need 1 art class.

3.  Testing: PSAT, National Merit, AP vs IB vs Dual Enrollment, SAT vs ACT, SAT II Subject Tests, College Placement Exams 

4.  Financial Aid: FAFSA, CSS, grants, loans, merit; “Ivy” tuition assistance for those making under $60,000 and $125,000, 529 college savings programs

5.  Affirmative Action, Sports & Legacy

6. Types of Schools: State Schools, Honors Programs, Private, Ivy, Public Ivy, HBCUs for liberal Arts vs STEM, 3-2 programs, Overseas (Canada and the United Kingdom)

7. Finding a School: College visits, demonstrated interest, college fairs

8. Timing: Early Decision, Early Action, Rolling Admission, Regular Admission, Instant Decision, College Fair Admission & Scholarship Offers, Fall Fly In programs

9.  Should my Child Take a Gap Year?

10. May I have a copy of the Naviance reports for the school for the past 5 years?



Reading – All children must be able to read chapter books by 3rd grade. Many children are able to do this by the end of kindergarten. Enroll in Honors classes in Middle School, AP or IB Classes in High School

Writing – 5 Paragraph Essay, Long Form Essays, Research Papers, Thank You Notes, Resumes, Cover Letters. Enroll in Honors classes in Middle School, AP or IB Classes in High School

Public Speaking – School Presentations, Oratorical Contests, Debate, Drama, High School, College and Job Interviews, Job Presentations, Grammar

Vocabulary – Read books, news, history, nonfiction, dictionaries, encyclopedia; flashcards

Self-Advocacy – Teachers, University Professors, TA’s, Advisors, Employers, Peers

Foreign Language Study – Spanish, Chinese and French are the most useful

Problem Solving and Analytic Thinking

Math in a Minute – all children must memorize + – x / up to 12 by 3rd grade

Math Progression to get into college
7th grade – Algebra I
8th grade – Geometry
9th grade – Algebra II
10th grade – Trigonometry
11th grade – Calculus
12th grade – AP Calculus (AB or BC)

Science Progression to get into college
Biology, Chemistry, Physics
These 3 classes are usually offered in 9th, 10th & 11th grade then they are offered again at the AP level, starting in 10th or 11th grade. Take the AP level if possible

Computer Science, Coding, Information Technology, Security Clearances, the Scientific Method, Philosophy, Chess

Academic group projects
School Newspaper
Public Service – Many schools now are looking for “kindness”

Student groups
Sports Teams

Art – Museums, especially the free museums in the DC region
Theater and Dance
Creative Writing
Architecture – The National Building Museum, The Smithsonian

Financial Literacy

All children must be able to divide their money into savings, philanthropy, discretionary spending. They must be able to calculate tips (percentages). They must know how to save in 401(k) plans, IRAs (traditional and Roth). They must be able to balance a checkbook, negotiate a salary, and understand a mortgage. They must understand debt and it’s uses and pitfalls. They must understand the value of various college offers and weather to incur student debt.

Helpful Websites

Getting Into College Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
MIT’s “What To Do In High School”

Summer Enrichment Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
College Prep Program at APL
Black Girls Code
Girls Code

A Look at Black Student Success
Identifying Top- and Bottom-Performing Institutions

A Look at Black Student SuccessIdentifying Top- and Bottom-Performing Institutions

All About the Historically Black Engineering Schools

Free Test Prep

15 Quick Tips for a Better ACT Score

This free tool, College Abacus, allows students and researchers to easily compare hundreds of schools’ net price calculator results.

Is Your Pre K – 12th Grade Child On Track?

Don’t let Application Fees Keep You From Applying To College

Don’t let Application Fees Keep You From Applying To College.

Helpful Articles

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Do not let your children opt out of or be left out of AP and Honors classes.

A parent’s guide to AP classes

Honoring Giftedness in the Black Community

Honoring Giftedness in the Black Community

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Computer engineers, whose work underpins every aspect of modern life, are in great demand.

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How to Con Black Law Students: A Case Study

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This student got into 11 medical schools—here are her top 4 tips for staying focused

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Recruitment Fairs – Making a First Impression!

As Advanced Placement Tests Gain Popularity, Some Colleges Push Back

MONEY’s Best Colleges MONEY determined which of the country’s roughly 1,500 four-year college and universities deliver the most value – that is, a great education, at an affordable price, that helps students launch promising careers.

Raising Caring, Empathetic and Happy Children: Strategies for Parents and Educators

The Parents Council of Washington welcomes Richard Weissbourd, Director, Human Development and Psychology Program and Co-Director, Making Caring a Common Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

 Raising Caring, Empathetic and Happy Children: Strategies for Parents and Educators

Raising Caring, Empathetic and Happy Children: Strategies for Parents and Educators

October 19, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

6:30pm: Light Fare

7:00pm: Program

8:30pm: Book Signing

Sidwell Friends School
3825 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC, DC 20016

How I Learned to Take the SAT Like a Rich Kid

“I was happy to be around so many fellow nerds. Still, they approached studying for the SAT with a near-professional intensity that was alien to me.

I realized that they didn’t just want to score exceptionally well on the SAT. They were gunning for a score on the Preliminary SAT exams that would put them in the top percentile of students in the United States and make them National Merit Scholars in the fall.
It was disconcerting. The majority of low- and middle-income 11th graders I know in Michigan didn’t even sit for the preliminary exams. Most took the SAT cold. Few were privy to the upper-middle-class secret I discovered that summer: To get into elite colleges, one must train for standardized tests with the intensity of an athlete.”

Instant Decision Day-College Admission on the Spot!

Several Colleges and Universities around the country now offer Same-Day college admission programs. These programs are known as Instant Decision Days and are offered to incoming freshmen as well as transfer students from Community Colleges.

Typically a student makes an on campus appointment for an interview with an admissions officer, as well as a tour and a class visit. Students are usually required to bring their latest high school transcripts, recommendations and sometimes an admissions essay. At the end of the visit the student is told whether or not they have been admitted.

In addition to on campus visit Instant Decision Days, many colleges host Instant Decision Days at college fairs, individual high schools, community centers and churches. Often colleges waive the application fee for students who participate in these days. Many Schools that host these days are listed below. This is not a complete list. Check with the colleges that interest you to see if they offer this Admissions option.



University of New Haven


School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Unity College


Morgan State University

New Jersey

Bloomfield College

Caldwell University

Centenary College

Felician University

Georgian Court University

Kean University

New Jersey City University

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Ramapo College

Rider University

Rutgers University-Camden

Seton Hall University

Saint Peter’s University

Stockton University

New York

Bard College

Dominican College

LIU Brooklyn

Mercy College

Purchase College

St. Francis College

SUNY Cobleskill

Touro College


Hiram College


Arcadia University

Cabrini University

Delaware Valley University

East Stroudsburg University

Gwynedd Mercy University

Keystone College

La Roche College

Neumann University

Thomas Jefferson University

Wilkes University


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Concordia University Texas


Johnson State College

Lyndon State College

Southern Vermont College


Longwood University

Virginia Tech



University Of Arizona


University of West Florida

Georgia State University


Purdue University-Northwest


University of Baltimore

Morgan State University

Stevenson University

New Jersey

Caldwell University

Centenary College

Fairleigh-Dickinson University

Kean University

Monmouth University

Rowan University

Saint Peter’s University

Stockton University

New York

Bard College

St. John’s University


Cabrini University

Delaware Valley University

Drexel University

Gwynedd Mercy University

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Keystone College

Kutztown University

La Salle University

Millersville University

Neumann University

Temple University


Champlain College

Johnson State College


Virginia Tech

HIGH SCHOOL JUNIORS/RISING SENIORS: Start your college application process NOW.

1. Ask for recommendation letters from 2 teachers before school ends this year.

2. Order 2-3 sealed copies of your transcript to apply for summer 2017 college recruitment and Fall Fly In programs.

3. Create a spreadsheet and calendar with all of the dates and tasks ahead of you from now until enrollment in Fall 2017. There are many good templates online.

4. Schedule your SAT, ACT and SAT II tests.

5. Start your college application essays now. Complete your essays before Labor Day 2017. The Common Application prompt is now live.

6. Clean up your social media. Admissions offices will google you.

7. Make your college list using the following books: The Fiske Guide, The Hidden Ivies, A Review of 50 Public University Honors Programs, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, Colleges That Change Lives, The Alumni Factor: A Revolution in College Rankings, and 50 Colleges That Create Futures.

8. Refine your college list using online college rankings including: US News, Forbes, Money’s Best Colleges, Washington Monthly College Rankings, Brookings Institution Rankings Based on Graduate’s Salaries, the Economist, The Alumni Factor, The 50 Best Colleges for African-Americans, and the College Scorecard Federal Government Ranking Website

9. Search online for rankings that measure issues important to you: college major, single sex colleges, HBCUs, location, climate, school size, athletics, etc.

10. Update your resume.

11. Start visiting schools over the summer.

Black Children Are Gifted. Treat Them That Way.

Why Talented Black and Hispanic Students Can Go Undiscovered

According to the New York Times “Black third graders are half as likely as whites to be included in programs for the gifted, and the deficit is nearly as large for Hispanics…New evidence indicates that schools have contributed to these disparities by underestimating the potential of black and Hispanic children. But, when one large school district in Florida altered how it screened children, the number of black and Hispanic children identified as gifted doubled.”

“Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in the country…In 2005, in an effort to reduce disparity, the County introduced a universal screening program, requiring that all second graders take a short nonverbal test, with high scorers referred for I.Q. testing. Under the previous system, the district had relied on teachers and parents to make those referrals…The share of Hispanic children identified as gifted tripled, to 6 percent from 2 percent. For black children, the share rose to 3 percent from 1 percent. For whites, the increase was more muted, to 8 percent from 6 percent.”

Parenting Plays Key Role as African American Boys Move from Preschool to Kindergarten

Previous research has demonstrated that many African American boys actually transition into kindergarten prepared to learn and excel.
“In the early years, African American children, including boys, produce narratives of higher quality and have greater narrative comprehension than their peers—and, once we account for family income, African American boys outperform other boys.
“African American boys from homes where mothers frequently engaged in literacy activities and intentional teaching—and other activities like playing games and taking the child on errands—were likely to be in the high achieving groups.”
Iruka’s study also showed that parent-child interactions influence whether a high-achieving African American boy stays on course.
“It’s important to note that the early achievers who declined academically and socially were more likely to be from homes in which the parents were inattentive,” she said. “The group of boys with detached parents showed a significant decrease in their reading and math scores and an increase in aggression during the preschool-to-kindergarten transition.”

Why Minority Valedictorians Fail Calculus, Findings Of The Berkeley Program

By Alex Alaniz
MS Mathematics; BS, PhD Physics – Former LANL Nuclear Stockpile physicist – Former quant

“A singular underlying issue was identified distinguishing the way Asians approach first year calculus versus other minorities. Chinese students in first year calculus classes gather at a home to cook dinner and pore over homework assignments, old department tests, fix each other’s mistakes, eliminate misconceptions, and mentor themselves. Black valedictorians, used to working hard and being self-sufficient, quickly fell behind because once they missed a concept, they could no longer keep up with the onslaught of new, vertically integrated material.
Given this observation, participatory group study time was implemented for all class members taking after the Chinese model. The result of which, in a nutshell, was parity in success for all students in all demographics.”

How to Prepare For College for Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors

While not everyone wants to go to MIT, their website on how to prepare for MIT offers an excellent road map for any student who wants to go to any college. READ THEIR ADVICE. You will see what classes to take, learn about useful summer enrichment opportunities and get an honest take on what Admissions Officers are looking for. Click on the link to learn more.

What To Do In High School
When we admit a class of students to MIT, it’s as if we’re choosing a 1,000-person team to climb a very interesting, fairly rugged mountain – together. We obviously want people who have the training, stamina and passion for the climb. At the same time, we want each to add something useful or intriguing to the team, from a wonderful temperament or sense of humor to compelling personal experiences, to a wide range of individual gifts, talents, interests and achievements. We are emphatically not looking for a batch of identical perfect climbers; we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other.
Preparing yourself for MIT, then, means doing two things:
1. making sure you’re ready to do the work, and
2. making the time to really explore things that interest you, both inside and outside of school.