What benefits are there in joining?

Sheri: The students' grades will set them apart, and colleges will recognize this. Almost all college applicants are members of an honor society of some type. This looks good on paper and validates their hard work. It also helps with the scholarship process. The first students admitted are also first in line for scholarship money. You need to get through the process quickly for equal access to scholarships. All that most colleges want to see is a one- or two-page résumé. You have to prove yourself in that amount of space. The more credentials you have, the better you look. Parents find out about Mu Eta Sigma and are so glad for this opportunity for their children.

What are some other things that will help a student during the college admissions process?

Susan: Admissions counselors are looking for the student who takes initiative and has incorporated leadership skills in his or her extracurricular activities. Service in a soup kitchen is good, but did the student do anything to organize that activity? Showing this leadership skill on paper will be a real asset to any student. That is part of the reason we incorporated community service into the membership requirements of Mu Eta Sigma.

Sheri: It should be your student who initiates the application process and contact with the appropriate people at the college or university. You should be there to guide your children if they have questions, but they need to begin taking control of this process. My oldest daughter took the time to make an appointment with the assistant dean of the college to which she was interested in gaining admittance. The personal interview made a big impression on the assistant dean, and that appointment has continued to be fruitful throughout her freshman year, as she has now been recognized by her college as a distinguished student. Also, whenever the college or university makes contact with your student, make sure your student is prompt in responding back to them. Your student may need to respond via Internet, phone call, or through written correspondence, but do it promptly.

What if you cannot actually get to the college for a visit?

Susan: Most of the university admissions counselors I spoke with said they had regional models that allowed students to speak and meet with someone in the region in which they lived, even if the university was geographically distant from the student.

Do you have any hints to make a college visit more successful?

Sheri: For an interview on campus or with the regional representative, be sure to bring a personal student résumé—and bring multiple copies. Often during the interview process, the dean or assistant dean may take a copy of the résumé, then make a phone call and ask if your student can visit someone else within that academic college. Be ready for multiple visits, and be ready to hand out multiple copies of your résumé. When visiting with a campus representative, let your student do all the talking, and make sure he or she is prepared with questions to ask the campus representative. This is your student's chance to shine. When the academic college can put a face with the student transcript and résumé, it is very helpful.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, when a student is able to talk with a campus representative, always follow that personal contact up with a promptly written thank-you note. In this day and age, that seems a lost art. Your student's thoughtfulness will stand out.

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Leslie: These are great suggestions for discovering ways your high school students can be recognized for their achievements and talents. I have a few final thoughts to sum up: Help your student develop a passion for something, whether it is a service organization, drama, music, business, etc. Encourage your young people to take leadership roles in their areas of interest. Their résumés need to include specifics about what they have accomplished. The college application process can be overwhelming, but it does not have to be. There are people out there who have gone before us, and there are things you can do to help your child's application stand out from the rest.