Cutting through the confusion: how to get your child ready for college

The Means Report

There are so many questions when planning for college – both for students and for parents. What tests to take, when to start applying, and how to get financial aid. It can be a daunting process. That is why David Barron, the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services at Augusta University, took time to sit down with Brad Means and break through the confusion.

Brad Means: Getting you ready for higher education. And helping you choose the path that is right for you, or the young person in your life. And to help us continue that conversation, we welcome David Barron. David is the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services at Augusta University. David, thank you for what you do for college students, and thanks for being here.

David Barron: Well thank you.

Brad Means: And, when it comes to Enrollment Services, business is great right now, right?

David Barron: Oh yeah, we’re having a banner year at Augusta University with our freshmen enrollments. So, we’re excited about the incoming class.

Brad Means: Yeah, I was telling you, my daily exercise routine includes a walk through the Summerville Campus. And it appears to be bustling. So, as far as, you don’t have to give specific numbers if you don’t have them yet, but we’re breaking records, right, when it comes to enrollment.

David Barron: We are. Now, last year we were up double digit percentages. I like to say, we had a triple-double. A 10% increase or more in applications, acceptances and enrollment. This year, we’re gonna have another triple-double, but probably even of greater magnitude.

Brad Means: Why is this happening? Why the attention on AU from all over this country?

David Barron: Sure. Well, there’s a lot of different reasons. One, is we’ve changed our recruiting and management model probably three years ago, when I got here, to attract more students from out of area. And, to really bring them to campus. Another piece, our residence halls. We had new residence halls that were build, and we’re already filling those this year, as well. Cyber, cyber, cyber. You know, lots of opportunity with the cyber. We’re a, obviously our medical school’s a big draw. Our nursing programs, we have a lot of good programmatic changes in programs in our institution that’s a draw across the state of Georgia.

Brad Means: What about transportation? I see the Jaguar Express all over Augusta, Georgia.

David Barron: Yes.

Brad Means: How are transportation services going for you all?

David Barron: Great, they’re gonna be greatly expanded this year because of our new facility at the Georgia Cyber Center of course. And so, we have new fleet buses that are gonna be online to run those routes from the Christenberry Field House all the way to the Cyber Center, the medical school and to Summerville Campus.

Brad Means: Talk to parents of the high school students who are watching right now.

David Barron: Sure.

Brad Means: When it comes to how to prepare for college. It can be overwhelming to walk into a high school guidance office and try to make sure you’re checking the right boxes. What should kids be taking, or doing, to make sure they’re on the right path for college?

David Barron: Okay. Well, the first thing to realize is, the high school counselor is your friend. They’re there to help, and there’s lots of guidance that can be given. A key, we’re really blessed in the state of Georgia, in that we have a great dual enrollment program. So, kids right now, or I should say students, are actually can take classes while they’re at high school…

Brad Means: How old do you have to, or what year do you have to be?

David Barron: Depending on the institution, whether it be a two-year, a four-year institution in the Georgia system, some can start as early as freshman, sophomores, where Augusta University, it’s going to be juniors and seniors in high school that can take classes that count towards your high school degree, as well as give you college credit when you graduate. So we have students coming in with 30, 40-hours of college credit as they graduate from high school.

Brad Means: Should they take the ACT or the SAT?

David Barron: Depends on the person. The ACT and the SAT are a little bit different as far as their structure and composition. So, if you’re more mathematically inclined, probably the ACT. If you’re more English inclined, probably the SAT. But both, I would encourage you to do both, and see what you do a higher score on, would be a great opportunity.

Brad Means: And, should we take those, or one of those, as many times as we can?

David Barron: Well, I like to say, take them early and often.

Brad Means: Yeah.

David Barron: So, yes. The score matters. The score makes a different at our institution, but also a lot of institutions. Not only for admission, for placement and classes, but also for consideration for scholarships, and other monetary components as well.

Brad Means: What about the PSAT? Are you fan of that? Or, are you a fan of courses that prepare you for those exams?

David Barron: Yes. It’s good to take the prep courses for the exams. The PSAT is a good preparation, I think if you’re going on to get you acclimated toward that in-test environment. So, it’s not gonna hurt you to take the PSAT at all. And, also, there’s some qualifications for National Merit Finalists, and things that run off that PSAT. So, great opportunities.

Brad Means: What about financial aid? That also can be daunting for the newcomer. How do we navigate that with Augusta University?

David Barron: Well, the great thing about Georgia is, the HOPE and Zell. So, there’s some great state scholarships, as long as you maintain those high school GPAs, and do what you need to do in that realm, that really pay a lot of the tuition, you know, And, Zell would be 100%, but HOPE with a less 80 to 75% as far as that goes. So that’s a big contribution. Also, to be aware in your community. There’s a lot of community scholarships, whether it be through rotary, whether it be through the Four County Exchange, whether it be the Optimist Club, a lot of community organizations are involved in that. When I was a student, I did a essay for Four County Exchange and I got a scholarship for that as well. So there’s lots of different opportunities. You wanna check with local churches, Walmart for their employees, the businesses of where your parents work, there’s several many opportunities. As well as the web, there’s different applications like Fastweb that will offer opportunities for scholarships that you can apply. It’s a great opportunity, I would encourage you to use a different email address, ’cause you will get spam. But, there’s lots of opportunities for different types of scholarships from different donors. Left-handed folks, whatever it may be that you can apply for.

Brad Means: Sure, it’s out there.

David Barron: Yeah.

Brad Means: Alright, so tell me, it’s Fastweb? Because I was looking for a one-stop shop for all of the scholarships, or many of them that are out there that people don’t know about. Fastweb?

David Barron: Fast Web is a major one, I think that we can look for as a third-party scholarship. You should never pay for scholarship information. It should be free. Fastweb is free. And, if you’re paying for it, then that’s a scam.

Brad Means: Okay. What about the timetable, when it comes to getting ready for college? You talked about the courses that we should take, and the conversations we should have with our guidance counselors. When does it count? That seems to be

David Barron: Sure.

Brad Means: The big mystery. When do your grades in high school count?

David Barron: They count from freshman year. Because it’s gonna be accumulative GPA, not just your senior year. So, I have kids too, and I have the rising senior as well, this year.

Brad Means: Yeah.

David Barron: But, what you do in freshman year may come back and haunt you when you’re trying to get into college. So make sure you’re paying attention.

Brad Means: Yeah, but, that can’t be true. Can’t you say, in the office, in your office, Mr. Barron, listen, I’ve finished strong, please consider me.

David Barron: Unfortunately the USG has certain admission standards. So, depending on the type of University it is that you have to meet those criteria, so. Admissions will be based on what GPA and SAT, ACT score combinations.

Brad Means: How important is, are, extra-curricular activities when it comes to factoring in whether somebody gets in or not?

David Barron: Sure. A holistic admission approach, or for high-selective institution that’s gonna be a big part. There are some programs that are selective admission. We have a BS MD program, where you start as an undergraduate in BS, but you’re guaranteed to get into medical school as long as you meet these certain criterias. Very competitive. We get applicants from all over the US. And that holistic review is very important. What type of shadowing have they done? What extra-curricular activity? ‘Cause we get a lot of, what we call Perfect Peaches. People who have perfect ACT, SAT, and perfect GPA, so those other components are gonna make a big difference in who’s chosen towards those programs.

Brad Means: So, there’s a human component of the admissions process. It’s not just a number that a computer spits out.

David Barron: Right.

Brad Means: What about when it comes to the types of jobs that kids want, or want to be prepped for? What are the big ones out there today? I’m guessing cyber, certainly at AU.

David Barron: Cyber is gonna be a big piece of that. And that’s a growing population. We know there’s such a need for that, I think, in the industry. I think, we’ve done a great job in our area of educating our high school students. We’ve been involved, AU has been involved in developing curriculum for ninth through 12th grade students as far as the cyber curriculum. And that class will actually graduate, that started as freshman in high school, next year. So, to help create that cyber workforce, so that awareness is there, so we have a lot of folks that are going into cyber and those pieces. Healthcare is obviously a big draw. Whether it be nursing, whether it be Allied Health Services, whether it be a medical doctor, you know, all those are big draws, as well.

Brad Means: Are most of your graduates getting a paycheck pretty soon after they’re out?

David Barron: Oh yeah. Or are going onto higher ed, to the higher degree, to move on with their profession, such as medical school.

Brad Means: Last question. When should we start applying for college?

David Barron: Sure. Early acceptant dates are usually in November. So, really, you need to start looking in August to decide what colleges you’re going to look at. Make sure that you visit those colleges, to see if it’s a good fit. Just because it’s on paper doesn’t mean that you really wanna live there, and are gonna be successful there. You need to look at teacher-student ratio. Are the residence halls a place you wanna live? You know, there’s some different factors you need to take into account, so that it’s a place that you wanna stay for four years and graduate. So, be mindful of that, and apply by early action, usually by November.

Brad Means: Of your senior year.

David Barron: Yes.

Brad Means: Okay, sounds great. David Barron, thank you so much for what you do for our young people. And, for all the yes’ that you give each year.

David Barron: Oh yeah.

Brad Means: Make kid’s dreams come true. We appreciate that.

David Barron: We’re happy to provide the opportunity.

Brad Means: Thank you, David Barron,

David Barron: Thank you.

Brad Means: Augusta University, we appreciate what you do in Admission Services, and all the good folks at Augusta University. Jaguar Nation has never been stronger.

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Brad Means

The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.