Use college information to your advantage

March 10, 2011|Lisa Prejean

"Congratulations! Just by taking the PSAT you have already taken a first step toward college. What's next?"

Let me guess: A full mailbox?

For the past few months, three-fourths of our snail mail has been addressed to our 15-year-old. It's a little unnerving that colleges we've never heard of know our first-born by name.

I know, I know. It's all computer-generated, based on the information he provided when he took the test. Still, I don't remember being inundated with so many choices when I was in high school.

Other families tell me their teens also are receiving an abundance of mail, e-mails and texts from colleges.

Ah, the information age.

Colleges are going to great lengths to bring high-schoolers to campus. Weekend events, such as concerts, are heavily promoted. Summer institutes boast of great academic programs that will enable a student to get ahead.

In high school, I was just happy to be able to stay in a dorm. Times have changed, and that's OK.

Rather than become frustrated or overwhelmed, though, we should use this information to our advantage.

My son has started a binder containing information on colleges that seem appealing.

We've logged on to the College Board website,, and created an account.

Having an account enables a student to have a personalized online college and career planning kit.

Students can plug in majors and read about colleges that offer that course of study.

To help students prepare for the SAT, the College Board site customizes a study plan based on questions the student answered incorrectly on the PSAT.

When I took the college entrance exams, I received my scores and a basic overview of how I did in each category.

Today, however, students taking the PSAT have access to much more. They receive a chart noting the questions, the correct answer, their answer and the level of difficulty — whether the question was easy, medium or hard.

What a powerful tool for students and parents. We can actually review with our teens concepts that confused them on test day. Because the PSAT is a precursor to the SAT, this information could produce higher test scores. Higher test scores equal greater opportunities.

If that's what it takes to have colleges notice our kids, I'll gladly oblige — even if it means having a full mailbox.

At least it's not a bill for tuition ... yet.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles