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Helpful Tips and Information

Make learning fun for your children. DLO has the best tutors in the Corpus Christi, Texas area. Preparing Your Child for Academic Success
How to Choose a College
Tips for Filling out the Application
How to Write a Winning College Application Essay
Goal Setting for College


Preparing Your Child for Academic Success

  • Elementary School Child
    • Try to make learning fun for your child.
    • If your child is not thriving in school, find out why and try to remedy the situation.
    • Identify any learning differences and try to address them.
    • Take exciting, adventurous family outings and vacations with your child.
    • Give your child the opportunity to spend time with extended family.
    • Make time for your child every day.
    • Encourage your child to read – everything.
    • Encourage your child to verbalize his/her feelings and experiences.
    • Encourage your child to participate in and enjoy church, community, and social activities, sports, and/or other special interest activities.
    • Introduce your child to community service projects so that he/she will understand how important it is to help others, to “give back to the community.”
    • Be a consistent, moderate disciplinarian, helping your child to develop good lifelong habits.
    • Present a united front with your husband (and/or father of the child) when making decisions about your child’s welfare so that your child will not learn to play one parent against the other.

  • Middle School Child
    • Continue to attempt to accomplish the objectives above, but give your adolescent child more freedom and more opportunities to develop independence and a sense of responsibility.
    • Help your child to identify special talents and to set improvement and/or participation goals in these areas.
    • Continue to bolster your child’s self-esteem by helping your child achieve success in school and/or other activities.
    • Rather than nagging your adolescent child, write down lists of chores and have him/her check them off as they are completed.
    • Allow your child some freedom to make mistakes and learn from them; don’t cover for your child.
    • Try to keep your child busy with positive, constructive activities so that he/she will not have time to indulge in negative, destructive activities.

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How to Choose a College

How do you know which college is right for you? Your decision will be influenced heavily by some factors over which you have no control, such as your parent's income and the grades you've already earned. It will also be influenced by other factors that are entirely personal. You may change your mind many times. Two questions you might want to ask yourself are (1) Do I want to go to school here for four years, and (2) Do I want to live here for four years?

Often by visiting a college, you can decide whether you want to go there or not. If you are still uncertain, here are twenty-three factors for choosing a college (in no specific order):

  • cost
  • living arrangements
  • school size
  • course offerings
  • location
  • distance from home
  • where your friends go
  • weather and climate
  • library size
  • trendiness (hot schools)
  • student/faculty ratio
  • faculty credentials
  • what your parents think
  • college view books or internet site (ads)
  • where your boyfriend or girlfriend goes
  • what your college counselor thinks
  • SAT/ACT and other Test Score averages
  • sports teams available
  • reputation of special academic departments (engineering, fashion design, journalism, etc.)
  • physical plant
  • availability of up-to-date technology (computers, etc.)
  • availability of school and community cultural, educational, and sports events
  • availability of school and community financial opportunities

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Tips for Filling out the Application

Online applications are acceptable at most schools. You will have to read the instructions for colleges that require additional essays or written applications. In general, here are some tips for applications:

  • If you send in a written application, you should type unless they specifically ask you to write all or a part of it. You should use no unusual font style. You should be consistent in your style and watch your spelling.
  • If you send a picture, you should send one that makes you look bright, lively, and healthy. A clear, focused, head-and-shoulders color snapshot is better than a formal yearbook shot, and a glamour shot is inappropriate.
  • A college likes to know it is your first choice. You can show the college that it is your first choice by your enthusiasm, your knowledge about the school, and how you value particular strengths of the college.
  • If the college asks for alumni relatives, don’t leave anybody out.
  • Recommendations are important. Pick teachers and/or others who are reliable, good writers, and who know and like you and are aware of your wonderful qualities. Waive your rights before giving them their forms. Give the recommenders plenty of time and make it easy for them. Include the application deadline and a stamped, addressed envelope. Send a thank-you note a week or two before the deadline to act as a reminder.

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How to Write a Winning College Application Essay

You can distinguish yourself from the applicant pool for college entrance and/or scholarship opportunities by writing an original essay. You can become more aware of what a winning essay looks like by reading other winning essays, you can practice, and you can have a good writer read your essays. Be aware of who your audience is. At most universities, admissions officers who read these essays are overworked. After working all day, they may bring home 30 essays to read and rate at night. Your first job is prevent them from falling asleep. Any broad generalizations should be automatically crossed out of your essay. Someone else may have used that phrase before, and it will elicit merely a yawn from a reader. Here are some sleepers:

  • The trip broadened my horizons (or opened up windows of opportunity).
  • I think world peace is the most important issue facing us today.
  • By playing sports (or studying piano, etc), I have learned noble value A, lofty cliche B, and great lesson C.
  • I have the discipline, determination, and diversity of interests to succeed at first choice college.
  • I have met challenge A and B and have conquered my fears (or have grown by meeting the challenge).

Whatever you do, communicate in a fresh way to allow admissions officers to see who you really are. Write only something you could write and that you want to write. Use significant details. Don’t just set out to impress; write to entertain – to give pleasure to your audience. You don’t have to be funny, unless you usually are funny, but your essay should hint that you have a sense of humor. Your essay should also show the way you deal with the world every day. You can prepare to write your essay by keeping a notebook of ideas, observations, reactions, and conversations. A good way to begin or end or shape an essay is to tell a story, an anecdote. Sometimes the story can run throughout the essay and shape the whole piece. You can bring an essay to life by using sensory detail, showing the reader instead of telling the reader, and by using unusual metaphors. (“The red bulb glowed in the dark room like Rudolph.”) An essay full of “to be” verbs stands still; one which uses active verbs is more interesting. (Instead of writing, “She had red hair and blue eyes”, you could write “Bright red hair curled around her face almost hiding her blue eyes.”

Be sure to revise your essay. Your essay should not boast or whine or be too pretentious. You should avoid extra words. Who, which, that, what, there are, and it is are often unnecessary. Remember, this essay is short, so you should make every word count. That does not mean using lots of thesaurus words. Good words are accurate and lively. Try to write about something that does not repeat other information found in your application.

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Goal Setting for College


  • GRADES (best indicator of how you will do in college)
  • EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES (school/church/community/sports/work/summer activities) Colleges are more impressed with quality than quantity.


  • Take as many heavy academic and honors courses as you can manage. Do your best to keep your class rank high.
  • If you plan to go to a highly competitive college, investigate the required courses for these colleges and make sure you plan your high school course selection accordingly. Some colleges require three to four years of foreign language, four years of math, etc. Do not wait until your Junior or Senior year to decide you want to attend a highly selective college that requires courses you do not have time to fit into your schedule.
  • Become active in your school/church/community. Develop your special interest. Be good at what you like to do.
  • Spend your summer wisely. Colleges are impressed by students who pursue special interests (a fascinating job, a worthwhile and intensive volunteer experience, a special summer school, an unusual travel opportunity, special sports training, etc.)
  • Read, read, read, anything and everything.


  • Take the advice to FRESHMEN above. You need to be developing an impressive resume of good grades, heavy academic and honors courses, and high class rank. In addition, if you have not found a special interest or talent, explore different school/church/community/sports activities. If you are already involved in one or more activities, continue to look for more opportunities for growth and leadership in those areas.
  • Begin visiting colleges and talking with students from various colleges.


  • You will be taking the PSAT in the fall. Consider taking an SAT/PSAT PREP COURSE either the summer before or the fall of your Junior year, especially if you are a good test-taker and might have the possibility of becoming a National Merit Scholar. You will want to take the SAT and/or ACT Test for the first time by the Spring of your Junior year so that you will have a second chance to improve your score your Senior year.
  • If your dream college accepts the ACT Test as well as the SAT Test, investigate which test is best for you to take, and prepare for that one.
  • If your dream college requires you to take Achievement Tests, plan accordingly. If there is an Achievement Test in a subject you have already completed (like biology or a language) by your Junior year, sign up for it and take it while the subject-matter is fresh in your mind.
  • Do not miss the deadlines for signing up for these TESTS. Check the internet often at www.sat.org and/or www.act.org or check with your counselor.
  • Research college opportunities. You can find out about colleges on their websites, and most colleges have online applications. You can save time by using Common Applications that many colleges accept. You need to get all your information together beginning the second semester of your Junior year and before the end of the summer before your Senior year.
  • Remember that all correspondence to colleges must be neat; it probably will end up in your admissions folder.
  • Do not call Admissions Offices unless absolutely necessary. Most college websites have all the information you need to know; you must search and read carefully for the information you want.
  • Continue to visit colleges and talk with college students to get information that may not appear on a website.
  • Begin to work on a high school resume; having one will make filling out various college applications easier.
  • If you plan to go to a very competitive school which requires application essays for entrance, begin keeping a diary; it will help you with ideas for these essays.
  • Keep your grades high, choose heavy academic and honors courses, and participate in your chosen leadership roles.
  • Some Ivy League colleges require that you schedule your visit and interview a year in advance. If you are considering one of these colleges, you may want to contact them at the end of your Junior year or the summer before your Senior year.


  • You should have all applications and information from your chosen colleges by now. Make a calendar of all deadlines for the colleges and plan your time accordingly.
  • Before you fill out an online application, print out the application and work on it until you are satisfied that you have answered all questions completely. Then use your completed copy to help you fill out the online application. You can keep your copy of what you sent to the school in a folder in case you need to answer further questions. You can also use your copy to help you with applications to other schools. Most schools accept online applications and do not want hard copies. Some want hard copies. Be sure to find out what your school wants.
  • Get your applications in early. Early in the process, Admissions Officers tend to be more forgiving of borderline applications, and scholarship monies are not as tight.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to fill out your applications. A good admissions essay can be your ticket out of a faceless applicant pool and into your first choice college.
  • Work hard on any special essays for scholarships. Most applicants are equally qualified for these financial awards, and winners are often chosen by their essays.
  • Give your recommenders plenty of time to fill out recommendations. Make it easy for them: waive your rights on the recommendation, enclose it and a brief resume of your academic and extracurricular achievements in a stamped, addressed envelope, and enclose a short thank you note giving them the application deadline. Send another thank you note a week or two before the deadline to act as a reminder. If your college accepts online recommendations, waive your rights again, email the information to the recommender, and make sure your recommender knows who should receive the completed form and when it is due. Again, an emailed note of thanks will serve as a reminder to your recommender that the recommendation is due.
  • Prepare to take your final SAT and/or ACT Tests before Christmas.
  • Do not forget to sign up for Achievement Tests in addition to SAT if your dream college requires them. Check the schedules carefully to avoid scheduling problems or late sign-up fees.
  • Continue to take full loads of heavy academic and honors courses your Senior year; competitive colleges are not impressed by "slackers."
  • If you are planning a fall visit with interview, call now.
  • In your interview, make a good impression by dressing appropriately. Do your homework: research the school so you can ask intelligent questions about the school relating to your academic and other interests.
  • Often by visiting a college, you can decide whether you want to go there or not.

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