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University selection 101:Deadlines looming for college-bound seniors
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GAINESVILLE — Crunch time is here for college-bound high school seniors.

Many major colleges have early January application deadlines, so it’s decision central in many area households.

"Basically my whole life right now is getting all my college stuff together," said Leland Taylor, a North Hall High School senior favoring Duke University in Durham, N.C., and Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Gainesville High School counselor Kay Holleman said she encourages students to get their application in by Thanksgiving.

Deadlines "are the last time you could get in (to a college)," she said, "but you want your application in as soon as possible."

"The readers are not tired and they’ve got everything" they need for an admission decision, Holleman said.

Kathy Oxford, counselor at North Hall High School, agrees with a strong early push.

"Several schools have had real housing crunches, so I like (students) to get the applications in as soon as possible, so kids get a first shot at housing," she said.

For sure, "seniors should be done with their college applications by the end of December," said Leigh Cumiskey, counselor at East Hall High School. "Letters of recommendation and essays need to be proofed prior to submission as well."

Close to 11,000 applicants for "early-action" admission to the University of Georgia will receive decision letters by mail next week, but many of them probably already know their fate.

Beginning Friday night, the applicants could access a password-protected Web site.

Zach Thellman, a Gainesville High School senior, was one of those applying early. He also plans to apply to Georgia Tech before that school’s Jan. 15 deadline.

"Those are best two colleges in Georgia and both are not too far away," said the 17-year-old, considering a pre-medicine or pharmacy major.

Cumiskey said that all East Hall seniors are required to meet with their counselor by December to ensure graduation requirements are being completed and discuss postsecondary plans.

"Now is the time seniors should be applying for scholarships as well," said Judy Lambeth, counselor at
Chestatee High School in northwest Hall.

She said Chestatee has just updated the counselor portion of the school Web site to provide a scholarship listing for students.

"We update this just about every week," Lambeth said.

In late January or early February, students and parents can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for many types of financial aid.

"College financial aid offices will also be a good source for scholarships and other types of aid," Lambeth said.

For in-state colleges, students and families typically rely on the HOPE scholarship to pay for tuition and some book fees.

The whole process is a challenging one, said Amanda Bishop, a North Hall senior with her eye on such colleges as the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega and Young Harris College in the North Georgia mountains.

"You’re stressed about having to, first of all, graduate from high school and then if you’re going to be accepted (at a college) and if you’re not accepted, what other colleges can you apply for," she said.

The pressure is not there as much for some students — especially those attending a smaller college such as Gainesville State in Oakwood — with application deadlines later in the year.

But Gainesville State officials still say that students shouldn’t let the July 1 deadline slip up on them.

Adriana Casas, 17, of Gainesville High said she plans to apply to the college, as well as Lanier Technical College, also in Oakwood, over the winter break.

She said she is looking at those colleges partially because of their closeness to home. "I have spent my whole life constantly moving," Casas said. "I didn’t want to go too far (to college)."

Dominique Woods, 17, also of Gainesville High, is looking at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. She also is considering Georgia State University but would consider WCU a thrilling opportunity.

"I like to travel and do new things, so I’m ready for it," Woods said.

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