'Keys to Doghouse' talk scheduled in Albany

ALBANY -- Although getting admitted into the University of Georgia isn't impossible, for many students and parents these days it may seem like it.

To help overcome such a perception, the Albany chapter of the UGA Alumni Association will present an information session titled "Keys to the Doghouse" at 6 p.m. Thursday at Deerfield-Windsor School's gym.

University of Georgia Admissions Counselor D. Carey Clinton Jr. will lead the hour-long presentation. He plans to cover what high school curriculum is key for UGA entrance, what seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students can do, whether Advanced Placement courses are worth the effort, the application process and its myths, as well as comparing the significance of grade-point average to SAT and ACT test scores.

"Because it is getting more and more competitive, we want the students to be knowledgeable about what they have to plan for, as well as the parents," Clinton said. "For some, the University of Georgia is where they always wanted to go and they might have three alumni (connections), but in this day and age students with parents as alumni don't have a leg up. For some of them, they might not know the competitiveness of each individual class, and the competitiveness of each individual class changes based on the applications in the class."

Clinton said that for the University of Georgia's fall freshman class, the school received 17,911 applications, a record high. Of those, 9,592 were admitted and 4,927 decided to enroll in the 34,000-student school. For comparison, in 1999 13,000 prospective students applied and 63 percent of those students were admitted.

Although all students and parents are welcome to attend the free Albany information session -- which has had more than 300 people already register -- the event is being focused toward students in seventh and eighth grade.

"Typically, these are geared for ninth- to 12th-grade students, but we do some of these things for younger students since for a lot of them college isn't on their radar," Clinton said. "The sooner we get them in a mind-set to start thinking about college (the better). Because of the competitiveness, they need to think of the rigor of their curriculum and GPA.

"You need a high GPA to get in (here). The SAT and ACT scores follow that. During our regular decision timeline, we ask for extracurricular activities, jobs, leadership activities and athletics. We talk about the others first because that's an early decision based strictly on academics."

Vic Sullivan, the first UGA Alumni Association president from Southwest Georgia in about 30 years, helped bring the "Keys to the Doghouse" event to Albany, along with retired Deerfield Headmaster W.T. Henry. Sullivan said Southwest Georgia has more than 1,000 UGA graduates, and the association has 30,000 annual members. He said there are more than 257,000 University of Georgia graduates worldwide.

"A side benefit of being president of the alumni organization is to help Southwest Georgia. Otherwise they won't come, and we're trying to do something about it," Sullivan said of trying to get more Albany-area students in the school. "The University of Georgia is extremely difficult to get into and is one of the top schools in America. The fact you can go to a school like UGA for free through the HOPE Scholarship with the current economic situation has made it even more popular."

Sullivan graduated from the University of Georgia in 1980 with a finance degree. With a son who graduated from the school in May and a daughter now a junior at the school, Sullivan said he knows the process of getting into Georgia all too well. He said parents and students should start thinking about college in the eighth grade.

"Sixth grade is the key grade because your teacher makes a decision (on a student's future school) path," he said. "If they think you're a marginal student, you don't get into AP classes and UGA. Most UGA students have (taken) three AP classes (in high school). It's ninth grade where your grades start counting, but it's the years before that that get you started. It's the study habits that they develop early (that make the difference)."

Sullivan said he sent letters to Southwest Georgia public school superintendents and private school headmasters about the "Keys to the Doghouse" event the last week in September. Of the 34 schools he sent information to, only three responded initially. He later sent e-mails to every school counselor in the area and response has started to build.

"People are interested in it," said DeeDee Willcox, a public speaking teacher at Deerfield and a '94 UGA grad. "It's for seventh (grade) all the way through. I've had parents saying they are taking their children to it whether they want to go or not. Curriculum starts early and starts in seventh or eighth grade. For anyone interested in going to college, I would recommend it. It can only make things better."

Flyers about the "Keys to the Doghouse" event have been displayed throughout the Lee County High School Ninth-Grade Campus.

"We believe it is extremely important for students to start to realize at the ninth-grade level the importance of their academic achievements," Principal Jamie Horne said. "This goes hand-in-hand with their future choices after high school. Whether a student chooses the work force, military, technical school, junior college, or a four-year college or university, the transcript that will be a central part of their entrance into any field begins at the ninth-grade level.

"We encourage any of our students who are considering UGA or any other four-year college to go to events of this nature as freshmen so they can gain a better understanding of the complete collegiate admission process. Upon review of the primary entrance requirement for these colleges, the major determining factor for admissions is the ninth- through 12th-grade academic GPA. We strongly encourage our students to take this seriously because it could have an impact on their educational future."

Sullivan said more than 30 Westover Comprehensive High School students have already signed up for "Keys to the Doghouse."

"It's so important for the kids to know that if they want to get into a major school like the University of Georgia, they must start thinking about it their eighth-grade year because if you wait until your junior year, the selection process has already been made. You've already been left behind," Westover Principal William Chunn said. "If you're coming out of middle school, you better be prepared because everything you do in the ninth grade goes into whether you're going to get into a major institution."

Monroe Comprehensive High counselor Ronette Brown said she personally delivered the "Keys to the Doghouse" flyer to some students interested in UGA, as well as to English teachers at the school.

"One of the scarier things for some of our students is that some of them don't think they can get in because it's so competitive, so they won't even try," said Brown, a 17-year school counselor. "But we're trying to get some of the students going to Georgia now to come back and tell our students that it's not impossible. It's not easy, but not impossible."

Brown said that two Monroe Class of 2009 graduates were accepted by the University of Georgia, and that one of those students is taking classes at the 224-year-old school.

Helping students and parents learn what it takes to gain admittance into a school like UGA is one of the reasons Sherwood Christian Academy high school Principal Luke Bowers is also promoting the event.

"We definitely do our best to keep our parents/students up to date on college information," he said. "We meet with each student/parent and give them important information including scholarship opportunities, college entrance requirements, SAT/ACT info, four-year high school plans, and other items that they will need to know about getting accepted into a great college.

"Times have changed. Just as it seems that football players are getting bigger and more effort goes into making the team, we realize that college entrance is more competitive and it takes a complete package to get in the college of your dreams."