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College and Career Prep

College and Career Prep

Noelle Essig from the College and Career Center at West Bloomfield High School has the following tips and advice to share with students and families as they start to plan for life after high school and the various forms that journey can take.

The college/career selection process is a time when many parents experience feel anxiety when helping their child determine a course of study or career path. This nervousness is completely natural. The topic of college/career preparation is enough to send anyone spiraling. Just know that the high school is staffed with helpful and insightful staff members who are there to make the process simpler for all parties involved.

The following topics and tricks were prepared in list form to help in understanding the resources and tools available to all West Bloomfield students:

  1. Breathe and balance - We cannot stress this enough… please breathe and know that you are not alone. Our counseling team is here to help and we care about our students. We ask that you remember the importance of “balance” as you help your child select their courses and activities each year. Please be more concerned about student’s mental health, sleep, and appropriate academic schedule, than doing things because you think they might “look good” on a college application. Colleges are more concerned with students pursuing their passions in their curricular and extracurricular pursuits. It is those “in depth” experiences in which your child will learn, grow, and develop leadership and communication skills.

  2. Stay informed - The counseling department works hard to provide families with important information in a timely manner. They also try to avoid overloading families with excessive emails. The counseling team also uses the following tools to help share information:

    • WBHS Counselor Connection - This newsletter is sent every other week and provides valuable information from our counseling department. We send this out to high school students and parents’ email addresses. It is also posted on the counseling webpage and posted to social media.

    • Twitter -  The department has an active Twitter page and we encourage you to check it out on a regular basis. This is how colleges are communicating with us and we “retweet” their information. You can find us at @WBHSCounseling.

    • WBHS Counseling Website - Our counseling website has the answers to many of the questions you may have.

    • Google Classroom - This is a tool for 10-12-graders to receive information and connect with the counseling department in an additional format.

  3. Career Exploration - As I talk with students about their career plans, too often I find that students have worked hard in school but really haven’t taken advantage of exploring their career interests. In the past, the approach may have been to get to college and then figure things out. While some of that is still true, due to the rising cost of tuition and other expenses, it is becoming more and more important for students to take advantage of the career exploration opportunities at WBHS. When compared to neighboring high schools. West Bloomfield High School offers the most extensive course curriculum for students to select from. We encourage students to dabble in a variety of subjects to explore their career interests. Most high schools in Michigan have students taking six classes each semester. Because of our block scheduling, we are able to offer seven classes to your child. This is the perfect way for students to explore different electives! Take advantage of this FREE opportunity! Students may of course always change their path during their time in college but by investing in the opportunities available to them in high school, they can have a bit more direction once they arrive on campus.

  4. Finances - College has become exceedingly expensive. A common piece of advice for parents with  young children is to start saving money TODAY as if their child was starting college TOMORROW. Any money saved today will greatly benefit your student in the future.

    • Honesty - Please start having honest discussions with your child about the cost of their education and how much you can assist them with. It is important for students to have a realistic idea of financial assistance they can expect from their families. Most students do not have any idea when this topic is brought up in our offices and it can have a huge impact on their college application and selection process.

    • Net Price Calculators - Each college has a tool called a net price calculator (NPC). You can find it easily by doing a Google search for the name of the college with net price calculator. Here you will be asked to enter in some basic financial information and your child’s academic stats. It will then give you an estimate of your child’s cost of attendance at that college.

    • Scholarships - the best place to find scholarships is with the college itself. Consider applying to colleges where your child’s stats are above the average of admitted students. Smaller schools such as CMU, GVSU, Wayne State and Oakland University give substantial merit aid to students for their grades in high school. If your child is applying to highly selective colleges, know that most of the aid there is linked to having financial need. 

    • Keep an open mind - please be cautious of your words…remember that your child’s “safety school” might be another child’s “dream school.” What defines a “good” college?  To every person it is something different. Be careful of your words. It is important to remember that we are so fortunate in the state of Michigan to have amazing choices for all students.

    • Debt - If you read any news articles, you know that the student loan crisis is real. When students come into the career center, they many times have no understanding of how loans work and the implications of compounding interest. Many times we will pull up this link and show them how interest works. Be open minded about going to a college that will give generous merit scholarships. If your child doesn’t qualify for much in terms of aid, consider having your child attend a local college where they can commute from home or consider a carefully navigated plan at a community college.

    • Compare all offers - In reality, just because one college might have a higher “sticker price,” it doesn’t mean that in the end it will cost more. We have seen situations where the private college is cheaper than the public college. You need to carefully compare the financial aid package of each college before making a decision.

  5. Standardized Tests - Most colleges still require that a student submit an ACT or SAT score when applying for admission. This is changing however, as more and more schools are becoming “test optional.” In April, all juniors will take the SAT at WBHS. It is a requirement for graduation in the State of Michigan. We encourage students to do some test preparation so that they are comfortable with the format of the test. Khan Academy offers free test prep for students and can be extremely helpful. 

  6.  Consider the Trades - In the next 5 years, the state of Michigan will desperately be seeking qualified tradespeople to fill the gap of their retiring staff. Many trades start paying right away along with a pension and health benefits. The salaries of many of these positions may exceed some of the salaries than those with a four year bachelor’s degree will earn. Be open minded and willing to consider this as an option. Learn more here: 

  7. Counseling and Career Center Events - We hold a number of events here at WBHS to support students. Below is an example of how we provide assistance:

    • Financial Aid Night & Workshops - We host a financial aid official from an area university to discuss the FAFSA & answer parent questions in May of your student’s junior year. In October, we have hands on workshops where families can sit and fill out the FAFSA and obtain help as needed.

    • Junior Parent Night - Admissions representatives join our counselors to discuss the college application process with parents.

    • Junior Counselor Meetings - Following Junior Parent Night, students meet with their counselors and receive information on college, trades, and planning for life after WBHS.

    • Brown Bag Lunch Series - Juniors will receive information to help them determine their testing schedule, possible majors or careers, discuss the college list, trade school, or career plans. Offered second semester junior year.

    • Senior Seminars - Each fall we cover the basics of the college application process, sending transcripts, using Common App, applying for scholarships, and more.

    • Highly Selective Junior Seminars - These spring seminars prepare students who intend to apply to the University of Michigan, Ivies, or other highly selective institutions.

    • Common App Boot Camp - These workshops are held each August/September and are staffed with counselors, teachers, and administrators. Students attend presentations and get individual help on applications, the college list, and essays.

    • Essay Writing Workshops - These workshops are designed to help students select a topic, draft, and edit college essays.

    • Appointments & Walk In Help Hours - Juniors and seniors can meet with Mrs. Essig to discuss colleges and careers and seek help for last minute application questions.

    • Military Lunch Tables - Students can meet representatives from every branch of the military and connect with recruiters.

    • On-Site Admissions Day - At this optional event, seniors receive immediate admission decisions from many Michigan area colleges and universities.

    • College Admission Presentations - Each fall we connect juniors and seniors with admissions representatives from around the country in our College and Career Center.

This is obviously a lot to think about and digest, if you or your student ever have any questions, please feel free to contact the Career and Counseling Center at West Bloomfield High School. 

*This parent blog entry was composed by Noelle Essig, College and Career Counselor at West Bloomfield High School. She has 10 years of experience as a high school counselor and worked previously as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Central Michigan University. Her experience from the “other side of the desk” has been extremely valuable in her role at the high school.