College Preparation Information

Going to college is one of American’s most cherished rites of passage.  Getting into a college that's right for you can be an exciting process that involves the entire family.  Because there are so many excellent and varied choices in the United States for higher education, each student may find a number of colleges that offer the right individual fit.  The best way to take full advantage of this wonderful national resource is by preparation and planning.  With preparation and planning, college can be possible for all Magnet Students.  Finances shouldn't be a limiting factor at the start of any exploration into higher education.  There are many resources to help you pay for college expenses.
There are many people who can help you make decisions regarding college.  Ms. Montez and Ms. Steinert can provide valuable information and guidance in making your selection, the application process and finding financial assistance.  Parents play an important role in this process as well.  They can be of invaluable help with advice, logistical assistance, and encouragement.  Parents should remember that the college admission process is an excellent opportunity for the student to begin the important transition to adulthood.  Be there for your child, but let them feel they are in control of their destiny. The news letters below are designed to help our students and their parents begin preparing for college. 
We have provided worksheets that are designed to help you plan for college, keep track of your information, select colleges that interest you, and to help you get ready to apply.  You should plan to spend several hours each month researching colleges, preparing for tests, searching for scholarships and keeping track of your activities.  You should also visit as many colleges as you can. There are dozens of colleges, universities and technical schools within a 3 hour drive of our community. 
The Preparing for College Check List will help you remember the steps that need to be taken to be accepted into a college or university.
The College 4-Year Plan Tasks sheet will help you set goals for completing the tasks necessary to refine your colleges choices, select a major, decide which career best suits you, prepare for tests, and get involved in activities that will make you a more competitive candidate for your university of choice. Many of these activities will also give you experience that will help you get a job.  
The Tracking my Activities log will give you a handy place to keep track of all of your extra curricular activities throughout high school. This will make it easier to complete your college applications, scholarship applications and resumes. Keeping careful records will help you remember all that you have done.  
The Individualized Graduation Plan Tracking will help you keep track of your grades, your college preparation course requirements and your goals. 
GPA Calculator - This spreadsheet is intended to help students estimate LAUSD their grade point average. It is not an official document. It is not intended to calculate the Weighted University of California GPA, NCAA GPA or Financial Aide GPA. Those use a different formula. The official LAUSD GPA calculation includes all courses that were taken in grades 9 through 12 - even if they were repeated.  
Use your Naviance account that was provided by LAUSD. Everything you need for college and career is in one place. Naviance will allow you to create a personalized plan so you can make the right decisions throughout your academic journey. Naviance will help you
  • Understand your unique strengths
  • Connect your interests to careers
  • Set goals
  • Develop self-knowledge and personal motivation
  • Understand college possibilities
  • Explore high school specific college admissions stats
  • Match to best-fit colleges
  • Identify ideal college majors
  • provide test preparation for ACT, ACT 
  • Track your community service experience
Seniors will need to list the colleges they are applying to in Naviance. This tutorial will help you through that process.  Naviance-Enter Colleges and Request Transcripts Tutorial
Several documents that we have created to help you prepare for college are listed below.  You should also look at the links for College Board,, and Fastweb to help you with your college search and scholarship information. The FAFSA, and Cal Grants links can help seniors with their financial aid. If you are really not sure where you want to attend, check out the Search feature at College Board Big Future. It will help you find colleges that match your needs. Click on "Begin Exploring" and start answering questions. There are many other features on this website.
If you are not sure what you want to study in college, check out the College Board Explore Careers Page. It has several tools to help you look at different majors and careers.  Explore college majors at College Majors 101 It has a list of 150+ majors for you to explore and find your passion. 

College Application Worksheet - Filling out this worksheet with the required information will make the process go more smoothly. You may need to get some of this information from your parents. We are not asking about your school records here because we will provide that for you.
The deadline is November 30.  See the document called the the CSU Application Guide for step by step directions.  Use this Sample CSU App to guide entering your course names.  Here is another guide that has lots of info, and more graphics. Cal State Apply Guide Here is a more specific guide on the coursework section. Cal State Coursework Entry Guide  See the Cal State Apply Applicant Help Center for help on virtually every portion of the CSU Application! 
The deadline is November 30.  Here is the UC Application Guide.
Apply for many private, and some out-of-state public universities through the Common Application. Be sure to double check with your university to see which particular forms they require. Check with your counselor and teacher recommenders prior to listing them on your application. You will need to make sure you have their accurate email address and inform them of your deadlines.  The Common Application has many resources that can help you in at Common App Ready.   Here is the link to the Common Application Guide. Here is the link to a Common Application Tutorial
Consider applying to a university that is part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. WICHE's student exchange programs offer a broad range of higher education options for 40,500 students each year at undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels.

Students who are residents of WICHE states are eligible to request a reduced tuition rate of 150% of resident tuition at participating two- and four-year college programs outside of their home state. The WUE reduced tuition rate is not automatically awarded to all eligible candidates. Many institutions limit the number of new WUE awards each academic year, so apply early!  WICHE members include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the US Pacific Territories. If you are interested, you can see a list of WICHE participating colleges.
You can start in community college and transfer to a university. You can also take a few classes through community college while enrolled in most universities. It is a great way to get a few general education classes out of the way at a lower cost. Just make sure the courses you select are transferable to your institution! can help you check to see which courses satisfy which requirements at your UC or CSU campus. 
The University of California, and most private schools, require personal statements. There are several resources that can be of help to you. There is a document below called "Personal Statement Guide." It has a lot of information and some samples. HOWEVER, the prompts for the UC system have changed since we compiled that resource. Please refer to the new prompts on your application.
The UC website resources for you. Click this for a video OVERVIEW of the Personal Insight Questions. This website, 21 Tips for UC Personal Insight Questions and Essays, has more useful tips. 
The prompts for the Common Application can be found here. Common App Essay Prompts.  Here are a couple of websites with samples of good essays.  Samples of College Essays that Worked and Top 41 Successful Common App Essays Obviously, you should not plagiarize these essays. However, they will give you an idea about different writing styles that work. 
Get started EARLY!  Your English teachers will be working with you on your statements as a class assignment. Please make use of their advice!  Have friends and other adults read your essay. Take their advice into consideration but be sure that the essay still reflects YOU. There is no one best way to approach these because they need to bring your own personality to life.  Make sure your essay is free of grammatical and spelling errors but do not try to include every big word you have ever read. The admissions officers will not be impressed that you can make things sound complicated.
Send your SAT and/or ACT test scores prior to the deadlines or you will not be accepted! 
You receive four score reports every time you register for the SAT. These four score reports must be used at the time of registration or up to nine days after the test date. We highly recommend that you take advantage of these score reports, as additional reports are subject to a fee of $12.00. This is the website to send your SAT Score report.

You receive four score reports every time you register for the ACT. You can have your ACT scores sent to other colleges and scholarship agencies after you test in addition to the ones you selected when you registered or tested. Additional reports are $12.00.  Requests are processed AFTER your tests have been scored and all scores for your test option—ACT or ACT with writing—are ready. This is the website to send your ACT Score Report.

SAVE MONEY!!!  If you send your scores to ANY University of California campus to which you will apply, ALL campuses will receive them. The same is true for the California State University System. Send scores to one CSU Campus and all of them will have access. There is no need to send a separate score report to each.
Universities us a combination of factors to determine eligibility. The two most important components are grades and scores on college admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT. Each system has their own formula. Here are links to the CSU and UC Index.
You will click buttons indicating that you are a California resident, and that you took the SAT after 2016. Then enter your CSU GPA. It will tell you the minimum SAT and ACT scores needed to be eligible for admission to a California State University. 
This index is in the form of a graphic with sliders. You will enter your UC Capped GPA and then each of your test scores. It will tell you at the top of the graphic whether you are eligible in the State-wide context (top 9%.)
The Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program was first implemented in 2001 to extend UC eligibility to students with high G.P.A.s at schools that historically had sent few graduates to the University. ELC is one of three paths to UC eligibility: local eligibility, statewide eligibility and eligibility by examination alone. ELC is a moot point for many students from the Sylmar Charter High STM Magnet because they would have been accepted to a UC anyway. They only time it helps those students would be if they ONLY applied to schools where they were not accepted such as UCLA and Berkeley. Then, they would be offered a place in another UC that had space available in their major.
ELC status is determined by UC after students submit their applications. Using the self-reported academic record, the application will check to see if an applicant has met or exceeded the benchmark 9 percent GPA for his or her school and whether the student has completed the minimum course requirements.
ELC students are guaranteed a place at one of the UC campuses, though not necessarily at their campus of choice. The ELC program does not guarantee admission to any particular UC campus. Typically, 25-30% of the seniors at the Sylmar Charter High STM Magnet will still be admitted to one or more UC campus - with or without the ELC designation. ELC students are often invited to fill under-enrolled positions at a number of UC campuses. There are very few ELC offers to UCLA or Berkeley though, and certainly not for popular majors like engineering, business or pre-med at those two schools.
Everyone can, and should, apply for student aid. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You should apply even if you think you will not be eligible because your parents make too much money. The FAFSA is often required to receive scholarships and work study programs at many universities. So, just do it. Apply at Notice, it is not .com! Don’t make that mistake. It will cost you $$.

There is a link for a FAFSA worksheet below.  This will help you gather information needed to complete the FAFSA.  There is also a link to a comprehensive guide to completing the FAFSA.  Additionally, you should check out or Scholarships and Financial Aid tab for much more information.

Many colleges and universities require English and Math placement tests that must be completed prior to registering for classes.  We are not talking about the SAT or ACT here!  Most community colleges require them as well. You should carefully read the instructions on the web sites of the universities. Many colleges and universities offer exemptions to the tests.  The exemptions for California public universities are posted below.  The California State University system no longer requires a placement test. They use multiple measures to determine English and Math placement including GPA, courses taken and other test scores.  

This web site explains the CSU English and Math Placement system.

This is the web site to apply for the UC Analytical Writing Placement Exam.

You are exempt from taking the UC Analytical Writing placement Exam if you have achieved one of the following:
  • Score 680 or higher on the Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT
  • Score 30 or higher on ACT English Language Arts
  • Score 3 or higher on the College Board Advanced Placement Exam in English (Language or Literature)
  • Complete with a grade of C or better a UC-transferable community college course in English composition (worth 4 quarter or 3 semester units) prior to attending a UC campus. 

    You can find sample essays and prompts here:

    Here is the web site for the Los Angeles Community College District (Mission) placement test information:
The LAUSD Grade Point Average is a somewhat complex calculation.  Please click on the spreadsheet document called GPA below to access a tool that will help you calculate your official GPA. This is NOT the University of California GPA, NCAA GPA or Financial Aide GPA. Those use a different calculation.

  • Participate in extracurricular activities such as athletics, clubs and community groups.
  • Do volunteer work. 
  • Join the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) if you are eligible.
  • Plan to take the PSAT in the fall of your Junior Year or sooner. It will be offered at Sylmar High on October 12 and will be free for all 9th, 10th and 11th grade students.
  • The SAT will be offered on March 22, 2023 at Sylmar High. See the College Board to sign up for various Saturdays throughout the year. 
  • Plan to take some Advanced Placement courses if you would like to be accepted by a selective university.
  • Keep track of your activities and awards you have received. 
  • Prepare for the SAT or ACT by reading websites and manuals with testing tips and sample questions.  You can find these online, in bookstores and libraries.  You should also consider attending workshops on how to prepare for the entrance exams. These may be offered by local colleges and universities, by private firms or here at Sylmar High.
  • Take the SAT in the spring of your Junior year and again in the fall of your senior year.
  • Review your class schedule with Ms. Montez to make certain that you are taking college preparatory courses.  If you started in the Magnet Program in the ninth grade, you will have taken the appropriate courses.
  • Maintain a good grade point average.
  • If possible, visit college campuses.  Meet with a representative of the Office of Admissions whenever possible.
  • Attend college fairs and presentations by representatives of colleges and universities. Listen to the PA announcements for information about college representatives visiting Sylmar High.
Senior Year
  • Check with the College Counselor for information about scholarships awarded by local community groups.
  • See the magnet web page on scholarships and financial aid
  • Early in the fall of your senior year, make a final list of schools to which you will definitely apply for admission.
  • During the fall, you should check the website of colleges for applications, financial aid information, deadlines, scholarship applications, and up-to-date materials about your proposed college major. 
  • As you receive these materials, create a separate file for each college or university. Each file should include a checklist of all the admissions items required by each school: transcripts, application fees, test scores, letters of recommendation, essays, student aid applications, etc. As you submit each item, check it off the list.
  • Read all materials very carefully. Pay particular attention to all deadlines. Mark them down on your personal calendar or agenda.
  • Apply early! Generally during the months of October or November you can apply under "early action", "early decision" or "priority consideration" plans.
  • Remind your parents to prepare their income tax statements as early as possible. Their tax information will be linked to your financial aid application.
  • Between November and February, complete your Free Application For Student Assistance (FAFSA) in order to be considered for financial aid. In September, complete your CSS/Financial Aid Profile for selected private schools. You can obtain these forms on the college website. You should complete it at least four weeks before your college application is due.
  • During the following months, compare the letters of acceptance and financial aid offered from colleges and universities before deciding on which school to attend.
  • Submit your Statement of Intent to Register and deposit as soon as possible, particularly if you plan to live in a residence hall on campus.
  • Notify all of the colleges and universities to which you were admitted, but will not be attending, to inform them about where you will be going after graduation from high school.
  • Participate in orientation programs for incoming freshmen offered by your college or university.

Narrowing the field of college choices is an important early step in the admission process.  Stay focused on what you want in a college and you'll minimize the influence of all the hype you'll be bombarded with.  You should try to visit some of the colleges that interest you.  Sylmar Charter High School sponsors tours of many local colleges.  Listen to the announcements for details.  If you can not travel to those schools, you should try to visit them on-line.  Some of the resources are NAVIANCE, College Board,, UNIGO.COM and  Links to those resources are listed near the top of this page. Many colleges offer virtual tours on the internet.   

It is time to start thinking about the many options available to you.  Consider the following questions when choosing a college.  How far away would you like to go?  Do you prefer a large university or small college?  Does the college offer a major that interests you?  Do you want to live on campus?  How much will it cost?  California public universities are less expensive than private institutions.  Don't let cost considerations overrule a college or university that meets your requirements.  Most students will qualify for some kind of financial aid.  Student Loans are another option.
  • Self-Evaluation: How are your courses, grades, and scores?  The better they are, the more choices you will have.  Do a critical evaluation of your record to determine the level of admission competition appropriate for you.
  • Location: Where do you want to go to college?  Do you want to be close to home, or as far away as possible?  Check with your parents on this.
  • Size: Large university or small college?  Both types have pluses and minuses.  Which type suits you?
  • Setting: Urban or rural?  Do you prefer the bright lights of the big city or the pastoral sights of the country?
  • Major: If you have a specific major in mind, such as engineering or architecture, you should choose institutions that offer such programs.  Most other majors can be readily pursued at almost any institution unless they tend to be overcrowded, such as business tracks on some campuses.  Being undecided is okay and won't hurt your chances for admission.
  • Cost: The difference in cost between public and private institutions is a factor worth considering.  Your eligibility for financial aid and the likelihood of winning scholarships may affect cost considerations.  However, don't let cost considerations overrule a college or university that meets your requirements.  Financial aid is available depending upon your family's eligibility, but cost and the financial position of your family are topics to discuss with your parents.
  • Social atmosphere: What type of social environment do you want?  Are you interested primarily in a residential campus?  Are you interested in the general political climate of the campus?  Do you want a school where fraternities and sororities are available?  Don’t believe everything others will tell you.  For example, some one might say, “Don’t go to UC San Diego, that is a party school.”  Often their information is out of date and might never have been true in the first place.  The might not be well informed (their cousin’s, friend’s room mate went there.)  One can find party people and nerds on every college campus. 
  • Academic atmosphere: Do you prefer an intense, challenging academic environment, or would you prefer something less stressful, with more emphasis on extracurricular life?  Your first priority wherever you choose to go to college will be your studies, but levels of academic intensity vary, and a school that is too intense may be wrong for you.
  • Sports: Are you an ardent athlete?  Do you love to be around big-time sports?  Or would you like a campus that offers opportunities for intercollegiate play in a less competitive setting?  Many campuses offer strong club and intramural sports programs in addition to the intercollegiate variety.
  • Prestige: Are you dreaming of an institution with instant name recognition?  Remember, just because a college or university name has high visibility, it isn't necessarily the right school for you.  Go beyond the glitz and glamour and consider the factors that will contribute to your total college experience.

College admission offices consider the following factors when they evaluate your application:
  • Course selection
  • Grades
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendations
  • Extracurricular activities and personal qualities
Approximately 75 percent of the evaluation of your application will be based on your academic record, courses, grades, and scores.  Recommendations, activities, and essays are less important but can make a difference, particularly at highly competitive private institutions.  Some institutions, particularly public universities, will prescribe the courses you should take (the University of California A-G pattern is a good example).  In general, all admission officers are impressed by applicants who have taken a demanding course of study.  In the area of extracurricular activities, college admission offices are more impressed by quality than quantity in activities.  The Magnet School course of studies meets all college entrance requirements.  College costs have been on the rise for decades.  Most students qualify for some kind of financial aid - from public and private sources - to help them pay for college.     
Here is a calculator that will help you know whether you might be accepted to a University of California School. It is a useful estimating tool but their are other factors involved. We know of students who have been accepted who appear that they wouldn't using this tool. We also know of many who have not been accepted to their university of choice even though they are in the to 9%.  UC Eligibility Index Calculator
Here is a chart for the Eligibility Index for the California State University (CSU) System.  This chart will be revised for the class of 2017 and require slightly higher SAT scores.  Please see the "College Prep Info for Seniors" document below for the newest chart.

Relax.  You do not need to know exactly which college, or which major, you would like right now.  There is plenty of time to research all of your options.  Use this time to explore all of your interests in different colleges and major subjects.  Expect to change your mind several times before you settle on a choice.  Earning the highest grades possible will give you the most options your senior year.  The door to college is never closed.  Students who have not passed required courses with a “C” or better can start at a community college and then transfer to a four-year university.
The LAUSD Grade Point Average is a somewhat complex calculation.  Please click on the spreadsheet document called GPA below to access a tool that will help you calculate your official GPA. This is NOT the University of California GPA, NCAA GPA or Financial Aide GPA. Those use a different calculations. 
The UC and CSU systems do not require letters of recommendation for most programs. Private schools and scholarships generally do. When obtaining letters of recommendation, it is wise to choose your recommenders carefully.  People who know and like you are always best.
  • Strive for a balance between science/math teachers and history/English teachers.
  • Give the person writing the recommendation a brief resume of your academic and extracurricular accomplishments  Click here for a Brag Sheet which will serve that purpose.  You can type into the form. The boxes will expand to hold your answers. Email it to your recommender (or print it.)  
  • Give them a stamped, addressed envelope if it needs to be mailed.  
  • Email them a link to the online sites for your recommendation, if needed. 
  • Give them plenty of time.  Two weeks is good, but not more than three weeks - they may forget, or their dog may eat your recommendation form. The Common Application is pretty involved. You don't want to tell your recommender last minute because that will affect the quality of your recommendation. 
  • Ms. Steinert can prepare your necessary transcripts.  You will need to fill out a request form and have your parent sign it. Do not wait until the day they are due to request your transcripts.
  • Be sure to thank them for their help.

  1. Deadlines - the CSU and UC applications are due November 1.  They MEAN it!  No excuses are     accepted.  No “My grandma died, the dog ate my computer, my brain was full.”
  2. Stay organized!  Get an accordion folder.  Put file folders in for every school you plan to apply to.  Place copies or print outs of everything you send or receive in the folder.  Make a “To Do” list with deadlines for each school.  Stay on top of these!
  3. Check your application portals often.  This is how colleges will communicate with you.  There is no “Fat letter, skinny letter” any more.  They will send you other things you need to complete WITH deadlines.  Students often ignore these and end up getting unaccepted to their college because they missed a deadline.
  4. Read directions carefully!  Do not just click through things quickly.  Do not guess.  Read all of the materials they send!  Your future depends on this.
  5. Do not trust the advice of other students, teachers, family members or people named “They” about your application.  Make sure you check for yourself.  Unless these people have very recent experience with that school, they probably do not know the current situation.
  6. Personal statements are needed for the UC schools and many private schools.  Private schools use their own prompts so check on those websites.
  7. Recommendations are NOT needed for UC or CSU schools except for some special programs. They will contact you if they need it.  Most private schools require recommendations.  Please check with their application website to see who they require a write the recommendation.  Give your teachers at least 2 weeks to do it.  Give them a Brag Sheet and a copy of your transcript.  (Download it from our website. Type in your answers and then print it for your teacher - or email it if they prefer.)
  8. Transcripts are not required by the UC schools until after you graduate.  Some Cal States, and most private schools, require one before graduation.  Check your portal.  Ms. Steinert or Ms. Montez will probably be required to submit the transcript as part of their counselor recommendation for private schools.  You will need to mail one for CSU schools that require them.  Ms. Montez and Ms. Steinert can print them for you.
  9. The fee waiver section on the CSU and UC application can only be done once!  Make sure all of the information is correct before you push submit.
  10. Sending SAT scores - It is free to send scores to four schools IF you designate the schools when you apply for the test OR up to nine days after the test.  Otherwise, it costs $11.25 for each school. All CSU schools will receive your scores if you send them to one campus.  All UC schools will receive your scores IF you allow sharing between campuses when your are completing your application.  You need to send scores by the deadline for each school.  This is usually mid December.  You WILL BE DENIED if you do not meet the deadline.  Look up the deadline.  Do not guess!  Please don’t lag it!
  11. Ms. Steinert and Ms. Montez are willing to look over your application before you submit.  Plan ahead to leave time to do that. We can not look at every application from 115 magnet students on November 30.