Parents, Students, Counselors: Applying For College Takes Planning

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The school year hasn't even begun yet, and already some seniors aren't just thinking about their last year in high school, they're thinking about where they will go to college. Parents and students say with recent stepped-up requirements to get a higher education degree, you have to plan ahead for the application process.

A Mom of twins who will be seniors at Washington High School this year says there's no time to get senioritis with college applications due soon.

"It's an overwhelming experience, and i guess because Jeff has to get on board so quickly, Emily's been on board as well," said Elizabeth Bennett.

Jeff Bennett is hoping for an acceptance letter from West Point Academy, but his goals weren't always so lofty.

"I realized probably 3/4 of the way through my sophomore year that my grades reflected upon my future and to have a decent future and a good future I'd have to be successful in school," said Jeff Bennett.

"As freshmen, we tell them this is what you need to start doing to get here. By the time you're in the 11th grade, sometimes it's too late," said Jennifer Beach, a guidance counselor at Washington High School.

Jeff's twin sister Emily is applying to E.C.U., N.C. State and U.N.C. Wilmington. N.C. State says it averages 21,000 applicant, five times the 4,200 that they typically accept. To get in you need an average weighted GPA of 4.4, and SAT score of 1260.

U.N.C. Wilmington says it expects 13,000 applicants for only 2,000 spots. Applicants generally need a GPA of 3.73 to 4.33, and SAT scores of 1130 to 1250.

"The colleges are more competitive and they're looking for a lot of different things now. We try to keep the students up to date on that," said Beach.

The National Center of Education Statistics says over the past 30-plus years the number of high school graduates attending college increased by more than 20 percent- with 70-percent of all high school grads now going to college. Those colleges, have raised the bar.

At East Carolina University- 55% of applicants are accepted, with average SAT scores of 1030-1080, with an average GPA of more than 3.0.

"I think the worst thing a high school student can do is actually display a drop-off in grades. If they started off great in 9th grade and their grade point average was good and each year it consistently dropped, that's not a good thing, that's a red flag to us," said Jacqueline Duca, Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions at E.C.U.

Jeff Bennett realizes how fortunate he was to focus on the future when he did, because it's easier for some students than others.

"God's given me a gift, and I need to utilize it. I need to work hard and utilize it in school, so that's when I really started putting forth effort."

The SAT scores and GPA's are not set-in-stone requirements. Other factors including AP courses, sports and other activities also play a role.

For E.C.U., N.C. State and U.N.C. Wilmington, students can start applying September 1st. U.N.C.-Chapel Hill's application opens in early September as well. Appalachian State's went up on their website August 1st. They say the deadline for early admission is November 15th.