Having just experienced it firsthand with my 18 year-old son, who will attending the University of Colorado, Boulder, I can tell you that the admissions process for college these days is, in a word that I can use in the paper, crazy. I'm not just talking about the ultimate exhilaration of being admitted into a school or the heartbreak of being passed over.

I'm referring to the amazingly high pressure and the unrealistic expectations that some universities (University of California, are you listening?) currently impose.

It wasn't too long ago when having a 4.0, good entrance test scores and being active in student government, athletics, extracurricular and community activities would have meant a lock on entrance into most of the top schools. But since the advent of Advanced Placement classes and the 5.0 GPA scale, combined with trimmed budgets for universities and the growing affection for said universities to admit more out-of-state students (e.g. more tuition) into each freshman class, gaining admission is now even more of an intense, frustrating and fulfilling endeavor.

That's why I applaud programs like the University of Fallon at Dublin, which is preparing its seventh-graders for the process of getting into college. Seventh grade is too early, some of you might say? Au contraire, my friends.


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"The process for getting into college is getting more and more competitive, and a solid GPA with a solid SAT score with some extracurricular doesn't even guarantee you get into a UC or a state school," says Adam Gelb, a seventh-grade core teacher at Fallon, and the person who started the college prep program there.

All 270 of Fallon's seventh-graders recently went through the program, which includes putting together a resume, writing a personal statement and participating in a one-on-one "entrance interview" to the University of Fallon at Dublin (aka Dublin High). Thanks to 30 Fallon staff members who were willing to give up their lunches, along with a number of invited members of the community who volunteered their time to help out, all 270 kids were interviewed over a two-day period during the lunch hour.

Gelb says the interview process was especially challenging for some students who, because they increasingly rely on texting and computers to communicate with people, have public speaking skills that are "quickly deteriorating."

"At first, the thought of an interview was terrifyingly scary, but it gave me the opportunity to bring my personal statement to an actual conversation," wrote Joseph Constantino in his review of the program.

Having a well-rounded (classroom and extracurricular) resume is vital. As are some less obvious things, like penmanship and spelling. Gelb says college application reviewers and top schools do pay attention to spelling and grammar and may put candidates in the "decline" pile because of the small errors.

After three years of success, Gelb has been sharing his concept with teachers in Arizona and Hawaii and hopes that Wells Middle School in Dublin will join in, as the program tracks well with Dublin High's "common core" standards for writing, reading and speaking.

"Common core asks that we create thinkers, and so does the college project," says Gelb.

And the students seem to appreciate the practical, as opposed to theoretical, nature of the program, too.

"Most projects don't talk about the future or prepare us for when we get older. This one did," says seventh-grader Tavien Phan.

Movies Under the Stars: Three family movies are on tap for this summer's "Picnic Flix" -- formerly known as Movies Under the Stars.

Here's the lineup for your calendars: On July 12, the movie is the animated film "Madagascar 3." On Aug. 2, it will be "Angels in the Outfield." And on Aug. 23, the picnic flick will be "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3."

All the movies are free and begin at dusk. Make sure you bring wind-fighting blankets and low-to-the-ground beach chairs. And, even though there's a Chihuahua in one of the films, you need to leave the real versions at home.

Contact Alan Elias at elias2000@sbcglobal.net.