By Pixie Sulser
All over the country high school seniors are making life-changing decisions as they complete and send off college applications.
As exciting as this can be, the entire process may also seem confusing and overwhelming. That is where the College and Career centers at Ramona High School and Montecito High School offer a guiding light to Ramona students by assisting with everything from finding the right college to completing the financial aid paperwork—and every step in between.
When the RHS center opened two and a half years ago during the last half of February, which is toward the very end of the federal financial aid period, center director Lisa Filice jumped right in “helping families who were a little behind and a bit panicked! We worked fast to get them on track. The center grew from there,” said Filice.
Students now have access to the center Monday through Thursday during fifth and sixth periods and after school until 5:30 p.m.
In its third year, the center is a fixture the RHS students rely on for up-to-date college, financial aid, and scholarship information. New this year are a host of college and career workshops offered during lunch and after school covering timely topics such as test taking strategies, requesting letters of recommendation, preparing to be a college athlete, and what to do after you have been accepted to a college.
Organized by guidance counselor Tocarra Best and Filice, the workshops are scheduled to provide information before it is needed. Although some sessions are grade specific, the majority are open to all students grades 9-12.
Another addition to the center, as well as to the overall college and career focus of the school, is a computer program
known as Naviance, described by Filice as a tool that “will forever change the way Ramona families get ready for college.” Filice explained that Naviance, suggested by Best after hearing it was an “amazing program,” makes college and career information instantly available to students and families.
The program, accessible from any computer, gives students access to college information directly from colleges from their freshman year forward. Career information such as wages, daily tasks, and skills needed to perform the jobs is available at the touch of a fingertip.
Students can access planning tools such as personality and career assessments, goal setting, resume building, and scholarship banks. Filice describes it as “a one-stop shop for college and career planning. No more searching and searching all over the Internet.”
The College and Career Center at Montecito High School, also established by Filice, is in its first year and is providing students access to the Naviance program as well as one-on-one assistance with college and career decisions.
“The Montecito staff is working hard to make sure each student realizes their potential and to find an avenue to reach their goals,” said Filice. “The College and Career Center is simply one more tool for the students.”
The Montecito center is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with the help of Katy Behnke, graduate of Ramona High School and Cal State San Marcos.
“Katie was our College and Career Center intern last year and is a huge asset at both the RHS center and the Montecito center,” said Filice. “When she isn’t working as a math teaching assistant at Ramona Community School, she is running one of the centers.”
Students and parents can access the Naviance from the district website under the drop down menu labeled “Services.” From there the portal “Family Connection” is used to reach the Naviance log-in page. Researched data may be saved, added to, and changed at any time.
Sending off the completed college applications is just the beginning. The next step is to file financial aid paperwork and research scholarship opportunities. Both career centers and the Naviance program can be an invaluable resource here, too.
At RHS, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Days for students and parents are scheduled for Feb. 19-22, 25-28, and March 1, 2013, to assist families in the process of completing financial aid forms. These forms are required by the majority of colleges whether a student is applying for financial aid or not.
Families wishing to make an appointment may call the RHS College and Career Center at 760-787-4046.