Since we came back to school in August, I have become aware that there is a lot of anxiety in the junior class. I decided to go visit the juniors in their English classes and address the myths that have been traveling among the students regarding college and their future. Below are the myths and the counter to each.
Myth #1 – I am a junior in high school and I’m supposed to know what I want to do for the rest of my life. If not, there is something wrong with me.
Most teenagers do not know what they want to do for a career and you do not have to decide at this time. There are many ways to explore what to become during high school and after high school either while in college or working. Many people will change careers and do different things over their lifetimes.
Myth #2 – It is important to go to a “good” college.
It is reassuring to know that most colleges are good colleges. Certainly all of the University of California schools and all of the California State University campuses are excellent universities as well as most of the out-of-state and private schools. There are many places that a school’s ranking can be checked to get an idea of how they stand up to other schools.
Often when someone says that they want to go to a good school they mean one of the top schools that is highly ranked. If you want to go to a top university, then you are going have to be a competitive candidate and that means top grades and test scores with focused activities, dedicated community service and outstanding leadership. In other words, you will have to be impressive to get into an impressive school.
Myth # 2.5 – Everyone knows that UC (fill in the blank) isn’t one of the good UC’s and Cal State (Local Campus) isn’t that great either.
Whoa, wait a minute. All UC’s belong to the University of California and all of their campuses are consistently in the top 100 ranked national universities. We need to respect all of the University of California system schools because they deserve it. They are all excellent universities with a broad range of majors and notable special programs and majors that others don’t have.
Have you heard the phrase “Even a prophet is without honor in his own country?” That means that people often don’t appreciate what is close to home even if it is very good. There are five out of 23 Cal State Universities that are impacted in every major because they are so much in demand. (The five schools are Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, San Jose State, Long Beach State, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.) A high school student has a better chance of being accepted to their “local area” Cal State than students from out of the local area because those students must have a higher combination of GPA and test scores in order to get in.
Myth # 3 – UC’s are better than Cal-States.
More accurately, UC’s are different than Cal States. UC’s are more research based institutions and award doctoral degrees in addition to bachelors and masters degrees. Cal States offer bachelors, masters and very few doctorates. Many of the degrees offered at Cal States lead directly to employment and may not need a graduate degree to follow. Many future doctors and attorneys get their undergraduate degree at a Cal State campus.
Myth # 4 – Everyone knows that community college is like high school with ashtrays.
Going to community college might feel like high school if you are seeing lots of people you know from your high school hanging out in the quad. And if you go by the area where smoking is allowed, you will see people smoking (you will at 4 year schools, too.)
Please don’t disregard or disrespect community college professors and classes, however. The professors at community colleges are degreed professionals who care about their subject. Many are quite demanding and if you are competitive you might consider the Honors program. Community college Honors programs usually have smaller Honors classes, chosen professors for those classes, extra seminars, designation of completion on the diploma and a guaranteed transfer to participating universities.
California has many community colleges to choose from that offer a great freshman and sophomore year before transferring as well as specialized certificates and majors. The UC and CSU schools top mandate is to accept students who are transfers from community colleges. Sometimes the best and most cost effective plan is to start at a community college.
Myth #5 – I am behind already because I haven’t taken the SAT or the ACT.
Those that have already taken an SAT or ACT are actually ahead of the game which is great. However, if you haven’t taken it you are right where you should be. The best time to take the SAT or ACT is spring of junior year because you will have time in the fall of senior year to repeat the test if you want to better your score. There are many ways to study for the SAT or ACT that are anywhere from free to quite expensive.
Myth #6 – Junior year grades are the most important for getting into college.
The 10th and 11th grade a-g course GPA is what all of the UC’s and CSU’s use for admission with the exception of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Many private schools as well as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo use the 9th through 11th grade GPA. Minimum GPA for UC admission is 3.0 but you can get into UC based on test scores alone. The Cal States use an eligibility index which uses GPA and SAT/ACT score. A student is minimally eligible for Cal State with any test score if the high school GPA is 3.0 or higher. Some schools will rank the junior year grades higher than the rest if they value an upward trend. If your GPA is below 3.0, you need to work on it.
Myth #7 – I don’t think I can go to college because it is so expensive and my parents didn’t save enough for me to go to college.
Scholarships and/or starting at lower priced education like community colleges or a CSU school can make college possible.
Myth #8 – If I don’t do these things, I won’t have a good life.
You need to be true to yourself and do what is best for you. There are many paths to a good life. Some high school graduates may choose to join the military or work before or instead of going to college. Getting to know yourself, what you like doing and what you are good at, is one of the jobs of adolescence. There are professions that require a college degree or degrees and those that don’t. Some people like to go to school and some can barely stand it. What is most important in high school is not to discover your exact future career as much as learning the skills to find information about careers and what to do to prepare for various careers as well as developing the so called “soft skills” of work ethic, time management, ability to work on a team, communication, social graces, friendliness, and dependability.