Back to school: Getting into college takes time, money

Although the school year is just getting started, many high school students with their eyes on college must run a dizzying gauntlet of courses, college research, entrance exams and applications to get into their choice of universities.

There are “a lot of pieces that go into the process” of gaining entrance to college, said Sarah Zeigler, the associate director of Palo Alto-based Admissions Academy, a college-preparatory company that typically charges $1,000 per semester for its services.

College hopefuls need to research options; participate in extracurricular activities that will impress admissions counselors; take on challenging academics that usually comes with demanding homework; study for entrance exams; possibly conduct college visits; and fill out applications.

Debbie Gee-Wong, president of the Lowell High School PTSA, spent more than $1,500 on tutoring and test-prep courses for her son after watching a graduation at the competitive public high school.

“There are a lot of bright kids out there,” Gee-Wong said. “My son’s a very good student, but it never hurts to have some enhancements.”

To move up into higher education, students frequently take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which many colleges require in order to apply for admission.

Parents and students looking for a competitive edge often pay thousands of dollars to get ahead in classes and on exams, said Roger Shore, a regional franchisee with the Sylvan Learning Center.

“It absolutely has to do with getting into colleges in California,” he said. “They have a formula based on grade-point average and test scores.”

Test-preparation courses can cost $895 to $999 for one of the name-brand companies — more for individualized tutoring.

“You can take a class; you can work one-on-one with a tutor,” Zeigler said. “Or if you’re self-disciplined, you can prep yourself.

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