Back to school: High school graduates share survival tips with new students

Special to her magazineAugust 1, 2012 

Octavia Lewis-Rand graduated from Columbus High School at 1:30 p.m. May 23rd. She remembers exactly! Lewis-Rand, 18, will be a freshman at King College in Bristol, Tenn., where she plans to major in biology and go to medical school.

Lewis-Rand was fortunate to get academic and athletic scholarships to college. She was a starting center fielder on Columbus High's softball team.

In a recent interview, Lewis-Rand explained her strategy for looking at and getting into college. "I looked at academics first," she said. She had to make sure prospective schools had good biology departments, then she could think about the athletic side.

In the case of King College, it had both. "On the athletic side, they won their conference," Lewis-Rand said, adding, "I decided King College had to be the best of both worlds."

She took her SAT for the first time during her sophomore year of high school and repeated it her junior year, as well as taking the ACT. She recommends taking the tests early to give oneself a chance at improving scores.

Because her mom is a school counselor, Lewis-Rand felt especially well informed about all the scholarships that are available. At a school assembly, she learned there was a scholarship "just for writing left-handed." Because her father is retired military, she was eligible for the GI bill for full tuition for 36 months, Lewis-Rand said.

When applying for college, "I wasn't really nervous, I was anxious," Lewis-Rand said. "I knew I've got to grow up one day; it's time to move on."

She applied to other schools as well, and made her final decision in March of her senior year. She also toured other schools.

King College was "not too far, not too close," and the money, softball and education were there for her.

She's debating whether to be a trauma surgeon or general surgeon.

Haley Parker, 18, is another Columbus High graduate who plans to go to college this fall. She will be attending the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

She took the SAT two or three times, once at the end of her sophomore year and the others during her junior year.

"I started looking at colleges a lot this year," Parker said, although she was gathering ideas during her junior year. She also did college tours her senior year.

"I really liked it because of the size of the school (West Georgia) and because they had the major I wanted -- speech pathology," Parker said.

She also looked at Kennesaw State and Columbus State, but decided West Georgia had the ideal class sizes and was "not too far, but far enough" from home.

"I'm excited and a little bit nervous," Parker said about going to college. "At the same time, I knew if I didn't go off to college, I would regret it."

Parker has met people, and people have found her on Facebook, so she feels like she knows a few people who will be at West Georgia with her.

"God keeps putting things in order to show me I'm going to the right school," she said.

Her advice to the college-bound seniors now is to start looking at schools early, to get the tours and applications out of the way.

"Try to decide early," she said. "Make sure you know where you want to go."

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