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Patriot Perspective: Don't wait until your senior year to prepare for post-secondary

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This year Pequot Lakes High School has implemented a grades 9-12 program called Ramp Up to Readiness. This program is aimed at preparing all students for post-secondary success.

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A number of students graduate annually unprepared for life after high school because they waited until their senior year to form a plan. It’s important as students begin to enter high school that they have properly prepared for their future.

As students enter grades 7-12 they will have the opportunity to explore different career fields by selecting from a variety of elective classes that introduce them to art, business, engineering, psychology, child development, the trades and various other topics.

Students should look to enhance their academic portfolio by taking courses in social studies, English, science and math that challenge them as learners. Parents can assist students with this process by taking an active role in their student’s academic registration process at high school.

Students should begin to consider colleges in which they may be interested. Comparing academic programming in their career field of interest within specific colleges may help a particular college stand out.

Part of the Ramp Up program is to assist students in looking at career interests, reviewing post-secondary programming and looking at resources to ensure post-secondary success. Students should become familiar with college entrance requirements and take that into consideration when planning their high school academic schedule.

Students may want to start collecting college material and take the time to tour campuses. Additionally, taking advantage of visiting with college representatives who visit the high school, and attending college fairs can help introduce students to various colleges and what they have to offer as well.

That being said, students do not have to know exactly what they wish to major in when they go to college. Oftentimes students change their minds several times during their college career as they are exposed to different fields of study and may find an interest that they had not previously considered.

Students have the opportunity to explore various career avenues by participating in the MCIS career planning program offered as a component of Ramp Up to Readiness at Pequot Lakes High School.

Additionally, students participate in Career Interest Inventories in both ninth and 10th grades through the Explore and PLAN tests. These inventories test students’ ability levels in core areas of study, and also provide a direct correlation to potential scores on the ACT College Entrance Exam.

Ramp Up uses these assessments and career interest inventories to explore opportunities for all students in grades 9-12 at Pequot Lakes High School.

Juniors should consider taking the ACT/SAT exams during the spring of their junior year and possibly again the fall of their senior year, depending on their satisfaction with their score results. Students can sign up to take the ACT exam by logging on to www.actstudent.org and www.collegeboard.com for the SAT test.

The school code for Pequot Lakes High School is 241-970; students will need this number when signing up for the exam. It is important to know whether the college to which the student is applying requires the ACT versus the SAT entrance exam. For most colleges, it is the ACT; for others, it may be the SAT.

Students who are unable to pay the assessment fee due to economic circumstances may qualify for an application fee waiver available in your school’s guidance office. Students with special education needs who are currently on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) may qualify for additional testing time for the ACT/SAT and should consult with their case manager at school to obtain the necessary paperwork to facilitate this process.

Funding college may at first appear to be a foreboding experience. Students can prepare by beginning to search for scholarships through several free websites, including www.fastweb.com, www.finaid.org or www.meritaid.com.

Additionally, a link has been set up from the Pequot Lakes School website to local scholarship opportunities. Students should log on to the school website at www.pequotlakes.k12.mn.us, then click on “High School” and then “Counselor’s Corner.”

Deadlines are noted within the published information, and scholarship opportunities are updated as we receive them in the guidance office.

Seniors who plan to attend college in the fall of 2014 will need to apply for federal financial aid at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

There will be a free parent information night to help guide parents and students alike through the financial aid process. This will take place in the Gathering Room at Pequot Lakes High School from 5-6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27.

School counselors from Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus will be on hand to assist Central Lakes College with the presentation. Parents and students are encouraged to bring their questions regarding the financial aid process.

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