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Preparing students for college

Catholic high schools work hand-in-hand to do their part

As the school year begins, college-bound seniors are busy preparing to take entrance exams and apply for financial aid, writing essays and completing admissions applications.

Advising them and helping them meet deadlines are guidance counselors, including Georgina Morse of Mercy High School in Omaha, Doug Moore of Archbishop Bergan Catholic School in Fremont and Julie McNamara of Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue.

Both personal assistance and technology resources help students locate and apply to schools meeting their requirements and obtain financial aid.

At Bergan High, Moore meets individually with seniors to learn their future plans. If they include college, he discusses the college selection process, financial aid and scholarship applications, campus visits and career development.

He also meets with parents to explain the financial aid process.

"Since college is not getting any cheaper, I want to make sure students and parents are well-informed to make good decisions," Moore said.

But college planning isn’t just a priority for seniors.

Moore also meets with juniors in January and February, and holds a student/parent meeting in February, to help them begin their planning process.

Former Bergan student McKenzie Nelson, a freshman at Creighton University in Omaha, said she already knew the major and schools she was considering, and Moore was very supportive, regularly sending updates on scholarships and helping her obtain transferable community college credits.

For University of Nebraska in Lincoln freshman Grant Grzywa, personal help from then-guidance counselor Liz Schow at Gross Catholic also was helpful.

"She was very knowledgeable and would do anything in her power to get you information on scholarships and get in contact with people for you," he said. "I was in her office probably 85 percent of my free periods working on scholarship applications."

Grzywa also completed several admission applications using an online resource, commonapp.org, which accesses more than 700 colleges and universities, and the Activities Resume feature at educationquest.com to compile academic and extracurricular accomplishments.

Mercy High School also uses technology to help students get an early start.

Using Naviance, a computer-based college and career readiness guidance program, freshmen explore career options and start building their resumes, Morse said

Sophomores continue researching possible careers, and by junior and senior years, their college search intensifies, Morse said.

No matter the techniques, Julie McNamara, new guidance counselor at Gross Catholic, said it’s important that each student and family be treated individually.

"We consider students’ interests, talents and gifts to help them identify a path that will lead to a successful, joy-filled life," she said.

She also recommended attending college fairs, such as the Catholic College Fair, coordinated by the College of Saint Mary, Sept. 18-20, when several Catholic high schools in Omaha, Bellevue, Fremont and Elkhorn host admissions counselors from 20 colleges and universities.

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