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Advice for Montgomery County Parents and Students on College Preparation • Summer 2009

Take the Keys ontgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) recently published Seven Keys to College Readiness, a booklet that highlights the seven areas that will increase the likelihood of students being ready for college and earning a degree. The “keys” are more demanding than the state requirements for earning a high school diploma. This is intentional because MCPS is committed to helping every student leave high school prepared for college and career success. The booklet is an invaluable resource for students and parents and guardians alike. Take some time to share this information with your student. The booklet is available online at A Note from…

MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jerry D. Weast and Montgomery College President Dr. Brian K. Johnson Parents and students, we hope you enjoy reading this issue of PrepTalk. We are working together to help students prepare for and succeed in college and the workforce.

The Inside Scoop…

SuccessTalk Discover the value of supporting your teen’s college dreams. See page 2 for more.

Look for these segments throughout this newsletter to find helpful information for getting ready for college. From taking tests, planning academic schedules, and improving study skills, to paying for college and planning for key deadlines— you’ll find it all here.

MoneyTalk Find out why it’s beneficial to apply early for financial aid. See page 5 for more.

TickTalk Plan to attend the fall national college fair. See page 6 for more.

TestTalk Learn how the SAT® and ACT tests are different. See page 3 for more.



A service of the Montgomery College–Montgomery County Public Schools Partnership

Hear some thoughts from an MC student who attended an MCPS high school. See page 6.

Supporting Your Teen’s College Dreams t may not always be easy to talk with your teen. But it’s important that you support your teen throughout the college planning process. Help him or her organize the process, meet deadlines, and talk with the right people. Here are a few tips to consider:
 Listen Be receptive to and listen when your teen wants to discuss career and/or college plans. Encourage Encourage him/her to capture their ideas on paper. One idea is to create a scrapbook of career and college plans. Be Aware Be aware of various deadlines for applications to colleges and financial TM

A newsletter for Montgomery County parents and high school students on preparing for college. Produced in partnership by Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College. Please direct queries to: Lisa Carvallo at 240-567-4141;; TTY, 301-294-9672; Montgomery College, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville, MD 20850, or Genevieve Floyd at 301-279-8529;; TTY, 301-517-8155; Montgomery County Public Schools, 850 Hungerford Dr., Rockville, MD 20850 Research, writing, editing, design, production, and printing by the Montgomery College and Montgomery County Public Schools communications staffs: Brett Eaton, Director of Communications—MC Kate Harrison, Assistant Director of   Public Information—MCPS Donna D’Ascenzo, Designer—MC Jill Fitzgerald, Senior Editor—MC Tina Kramer, Writer—MC John Marshall, Supervisor, Electronic   Graphics and Publishing Services—MCPS

aid. Put them on a calendar that both you and your teen can look at. Explore Have your teen explore career and college options and collect as much information as possible. Step In Suggest that your teen meet with a counselor at least once a year, beginning in the 10th grade, to learn more about college and career planning. Be Supportive Be supportive of your teen, and meet with his/her counselor if you sense that he/she needs additional help. Connect to Career Encourage your teen by helping him/ her see the connection between college and career. Emphasize the

importance of selecting a major that helps prepare him/her for a career. Research If your teen is undecided about a career direction, do not try to fix it. Let him/her look into all the possibilities. Source:

SuccessTalk Start SSL Hours Summer is the best time to fulfill your Student Service Learning (SSL) hours. You can earn SSL hours by participating in servicelearning activities. Students in the class of 2011 and beyond must earn 75 SSL hours to graduate. Source:

Recommended Program of Study for College As students plan their high school classes, their focus should be on meeting graduation requirements, as well as college admission requirements. The following courses are highly recommended for college-bound students.


Four years required for a Maryland high school diploma. Focus on: • Critical reading, listening, viewing • Purposeful writing and discussion • Appreciation of literature •Effective use of language • Research skills


Four years required, including algebra and geometry. College-bound students also should take: • Advanced algebra • Trigonometry • Calculus


Three years required. Recommend three years of lab sciences:


• Biology • Chemistry • Physics Social Studies

Three years required. • American history • World history • National, state, local government

Foreign Language

Minimum three years recommended.

Additional Requirements

Minimum one year required in each of the following course areas: • Arts and Music • Technology Education • Physical Education Minimum one semester required in: • Health Education

Q&A: How Are the SAT® and the ACT Tests Different? What are the tests?

What is the test structure?

SAT : A reasoning test assessing SAT®: Ten sections–three critical reading, three math, three general ability. writing, one experimental ACT: An achievement test based ACT: Four sections–English, readlargely on what students ing, math, science reasoning learn in their classes. ®

How do questions appear? SAT®: By order of difficulty ACT: With no order of difficulty

What does the test cover?

SAT®: Math–basic geometry/ Algebra II Science–only in reading passages Reading–vocabulary, reading comprehension, sentence completions Writing–grammar, usage, word choice, and essay ACT: Math–basic geometry/ Algebra II/trigonometry Science–charts, experiments Reading–prose fiction, social science, humanities, and science English–grammar, writing optional

TestTalk What is an Accuplacer®? The purpose of the Accuplacer® tests is to provide you with useful information about your academic skills in math, English, and reading. The results of the assessment, in conjunction with your

How is the test scored?

SAT®: 200–800 per section, for a combined score of 2,400 ACT: 1–36 for each subject, averaged together for a composite score

Is there a penalty for wrong answers?

SAT®: Yes. A fraction of a point is subtracted for incorrect guesses. ACT: No. The test is scored based on questions answered correctly.

Are scores sent to colleges?

SAT®: No. Students choose which scores they send. Scores will not be released without student consent. ACT: No. Students can choose which colleges receive scores and which scores colleges see. Sources:;

TickTalk Mark Your Test Dates SAT® and Subject Tests and registration dates and ACT test and registration dates are available at your high school career center or online. Visit www.collegeboard. com for SAT® information and www. for ACT information. Source: and

TestTalk What is the PSAT/NMSQT®? The PSAT/NMSQT® stands for Preliminary SAT®/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It’s a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT Reasoning Test™. It also gives you a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship programs. The test is typically taken by sophomores and juniors. The PSAT/NMSQT® measures critical reading skills, math problemsolving skills, writing skills.

academic background, goals, and interests, are used by academic advisors and counselors to determine your course selection at a community college or university. You can not “pass” or “fail” the placement tests, but it is very important that you do your very best on these tests so that you will have an accurate measure of your skills.





TickTalk Mark Your PSAT Date MCPS will offer the PSAT® free of charge to 9th, 10th, and 11th graders on October 24, 2009.

Impress Future Colleges and Employers


pend time in clubs and charities now, and impress future colleges and employers. Neither high school nor middle school is just about the classes you take.

watching television, or playing video games when the school day ends— ”slacker” doesn’t look good on a resume. So get up and get moving. Discover what your school and your neighborhood have to offer.

Follow your interests. If your school doesn’t have a club that fits what you’re interested in, find a faculty member who’ll sponsor a group or start one yourself! Good memories of middle school include

Keep track of all your activities throughout middle school and high school. Organize them and put them all down on paper to create your extracurricular activities resume. You can submit your resume when you apply to college and/ or for scholarships. In today’s world, participation and community involvement are valuable because they say a lot about who you are. Make them part of your regular schedule.

Read. Read. Read. Reading is a critical skill that can make an impact on your learning for years to come. Develop a daily reading plan. As you plan each day, be sure to include time for reading. Although you may feel that you don’t have much time to spare, 15 or 30 minutes a day can make a difference. Every little bit helps! Consistent reading time can increase your reading skills, reading speed, and vocabulary. These abilities are valuable not only with academics, but also with future college entrance tests, such as the ACT and the SAT®.


Source: that your interests extend beyond sitting on the couch and watching television... activities as well as academics. Look for activities in school and out that you can enjoy participating in. Contribute to your community by volunteering. Your assistance will help others and make you feel good, too. Organizations constantly in need of volunteers include: churches, synagogues, area food banks, children’s shelters, hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, museums, and your community library. Extracurricular activities are important to your future. How you use your “free” time—the time when you’re not in class—is important to high schools, colleges, universities, and even employers. Choose activities you enjoy and that match your interests. Your goal is to show that your interests extend beyond sitting on the couch and

Read to Succeed

Spring/Summer College Planner: A Checklist Freshmen and Sophomores Look for a great summer opportunity—job, internship, or volunteer position. Check with your counselor and search online for summer school programs offered to high school students at colleges. Start a summer reading list. Plan to visit college campuses to get a feel for your options. Start with colleges near you. Start a calendar with important dates and deadlines.

Juniors Get ready for the SAT®. Start visiting local colleges. Get a feel for what works for you.


Develop a list of 15–20 colleges that interest you. Plan ahead for the summer and senior year. Enrich yourself by volunteering or getting an interesting job or internship. Keep your momentum up this summer. Visit colleges. Take campus tours; set up interviews with admissions counselors. Request applications from colleges to which you’ll apply. Check important deadlines.

Seniors Compare financial aid awards from different colleges. Visit your final college before accepting. Source:

Be the Early Bird Who Gets the... Cash t may seem early, but now is a good time to start thinking about paying for college next year. Yes, next year! The earlier you apply, the better your family’s chance to cash in on the $95 billion the federal government has set aside to help students pay for higher education. This is especially important today; as the economy gets worse, more people need more aid. Below is more information about the three financial aid forms every family should fill out:

school year is June 30, 2010, but you can send it in to secure aid now!

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Filling out this form is the first step. It determines how much money you’ll get from the federal government. The deadline for the 2009–2010

There’s plenty of money out there to help pay for college. You just have to get your hands on it—and soon! For more information about financial aid, visit

College or University Aid Your student’s school will also require a financial aid form, which includes much of the same information as the FAFSA. To get a copy and find out when it’s due, check the college or university Web site. State Aid States have grant programs that give students money in addition to what they get from the federal government.


Q & A: What Are the Various Types of Aid? inancial aid is money that helps you pay for college. It is added to the amount that you and your family can afford to pay to cover the cost of your college. Merit-based financial aid is aid given to students who have special talents, skills, or abilities. Need-based financial aid is given to students who show they have financial need. Most financial aid is need-based. Grants and Scholarships Grants and scholarships are gifts that you don’t have to pay back. Grants are usually given because the student has financial need, while scholarships are usually

given to recognize the student’s academic achievement, athletic ability or other talent. Loans Loans must be repaid, usually with interest, after you graduate or stop going to school. Employment Employment, usually called workstudy, lets you work and earn money to help pay for school. These jobs are usually on-campus. Most students receive a combination of these types of aid in a financial aid package put together by their college financial aid office. Source: w

MoneyTalk Forecast Your Future Aid FAFSA4caster will help you get an early start on the financial aid process by providing you with an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. Source:

TickTalk FAFSAs Due FAFSA on the Web applications for the 2008–2009 school year must be submitted by midnight Central Daylight time, June 30, 2009. Corrections on the Web forms must be submitted by midnight Central Daylight Time, September 15, 2009. Source:

MoneyTalk Make a Deal Although some universities and colleges don’t like to make deals, you can, in some cases, negotiate your financial aid award. If a student is gifted in an area that is important to the school, the school might take a second look at the award. Also, students whose families experienced a drastic reduction in their income (e.g., high medical bills, job loss) may ask the financial aid office to re-calculate their financial need. Source:


Get In-State Rates for Out-of-State Schools f college students’ prospective majors are not offered at a Maryland public college or university, they may be eligible for in-state tuition rates at more than 150 southern public colleges that participate in the Academic Common Market (ACM). The ACM is a tuition savings agreement among the 16 member states of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB): Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina (graduate programs with restrictions), Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Public colleges in SREB states that elect to participate in the ACM select the programs of study they will offer. TM

his publication provides information on what students should know to ensure their success beyond high school. We hope you’ll find it useful and that you’ll share your feedback. Available in alternative format by contacting the MCPS Department of Communications, 301279-3391 or TTY, 301-279-3125. For additional information about the Montgomery College– Montgomery County Public Schools Partnership or PrepTalk, call Genevieve Floyd of MCPS at 301-294-0261 or Lisa Carvallo of MC at 240-567-4141. Montgomery County Public Schools Montgomery College Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Institutions  6/09

ACM students from Maryland have enrolled in baccalaureate programs in acting, architectural engineering, aerospace, apparel and textile engineering technology, broadcast meteorology, equine science, filmmaking, fire and safety engineering technology, forest resource management, hearing and speech sciences, naval architecture, radiological sciences, and other majors not offered in Maryland. The Academic Common Market provides a significant benefit. The savings help students attend higher

The savings help students attend higher education institutions to pursue their career dreams... education institutions to pursue their career dreams and allow them to attain education goals they might have not been able to afford. Students and parents with questions about the application process are encouraged to contact MHEC at 410260-4543 or 800-974-0203, ext. 4543 (toll-free outside of the 410 area). Source:


TickTalk Fall National College Fair Save the date for Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 9 a.m.–1:30 p.m. and 6–8 p.m., at the Washington Convention Center. Source:

SuccessTalk Virtual Visits A virtual campus tour can help cut the costs of actually visiting colleges and help winnow the preliminary list of potential choices. At, you’ll find tours aggregated from hundreds of schools’ Web sites. At, you can view panoramic snapshots of key campus locations at 1,200 colleges. For short takes with slick production values, including some narration and interviews, check out the YOUniversityTV Web site (http://youniversitytv .com). Want the skinny on late-night eateries, prospects for the football team, or the best dorms? Choose from submissions, uploaded mostly by students, at the Unigo site (www.unigo. com) or Source: Anne Kates Smith, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Washington Post

How is college different from high school?

Miss an issue?

“Because I have to pay for my college classes, I’m much more concerned about my academic performance.” Anuj Sherwood High School Graduate


Visit the MCPS Web address: www.montgomeryschoolsmd. org/departments/publishingservices/PDF/preptalk/ for back issues of PrepTalk.

PrepTalk - Summer 2009  

Advice for Montgomery County Parents and Students on College Preparation

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