Whether you are the parent of an incoming 9th grader or that proud parent of a student starting his or her senior year of high school, for the duration of your child’s high school career, college is one of the predominant focuses for both you and your son or daughter.
While the majority of the college preparation is done at the end of junior year (SAT test, registration for AP courses) and the beginning of senior year (College Essays, Applications, Final Visits, Acceptance Letters), there are general, college preparation tasks that should be the focus of all four years of high school.
If you undertake these tasks throughout the duration of high school, by the time those deadlines hit in December of 12th grade, you will be relaxing with the assurance that your child will achieve his or her college dreams.
Monitor That Schedule!
We all know that schools will look for the basics: four years of English and Math, three to four years of History and Science. It’s in the realm of electives that things can get tricky.
Does your child plan to study math, science, engineering or medicine? Then you may not want to sign off on three or four years of art or music in high school; a semester would suffice. Instead, look for extra math classes, science electives or even business or computer classes to round out the transcript.
Is your child on a creative track? Then don’t force extra science or AP Calculus; encourage them to take Dance, Theatre, or other fine arts classes along with their academic subjects.
The transcript is a testament to the academic areas in which your child excels and it does, to an extent, reflect on what their strong subject areas will be during college. Make sure it is approved not just by your child, but by you as well.
The last thing you want to do in the fall of 12th grade is to constantly be taking your child out of school to visit a college campus. Even one day out during that pivotal semester may be one day too many, especially considering the course load most seniors carry.
Save those senior year “college days” for on campus interviews. Do your visits beforehand; starting in the summer of 9th grade. Are you headed on a family vacation? See what college towns and campuses you can visit on the way to and from the vacation destination!
Unlike high schools, colleges are open all summer and a campus tour can be arranged. You can also get the feel of the town or city that the college or university is located in and get a sense of the climate and culture of the campus as well.
Plan to visit three to four colleges every summer and by the time senior year comes, you may have seen 16 different potential colleges! Take pictures when you visit; it will help you keep the visits fresh in your mind for the following years.
Focus on Test Prep!
Those book stores and online book retailers have Test Prep books featured for a reason. Purchase at least one for each of the three years leading up to 12th grade and give your own nightly “homework.” Having your child complete a page or two each night may seem like torture, both to your child and to you when you have to reinforce the practice, but it will truly pay off in the end.
There is no better example of “practice makes perfect” then the use of test prep books to prepare for the SAT and ACT tests. The more you review, the more you are ready. It will be the cause of more than a few heated “talks”, I know, but in the end, when those scores come senior year, it will all be worth it!
Keeping your child’s ability to express him or herself in writing is also a great way to prepare for college essay writing. Encourage your child to keep a journal, even if they only write two to three sentences a day. When searching for college essay topics, they may come across just the inspiration they need in looking back on the past!
As you can see, these simple techniques will help both you and your child become ready for all that is to come! Good luck!