What Should I be Doing Right Now? (Spring)
When it comes to college preparation, there is always something you could be doing, and usually something you should be doing, whether you are a parent or a student, and regardless of your age (students).
Middle School/Junior High students – If you’re reading this, you should be commended for your forethought and maturity. Do all the things I list below for Freshmen and Sophomores to do, but do them now. You’ll end up ahead of most of your peers. Also, visit www.collegeprep101.com, click on “College Planning Checklist”, then on “Middle School/Junior High College Prep”. Read it. Share it with your friends. Buy my College Prep 101 book (available on the web site, on Amazon.com and elsewhere).
Freshmen and Sophomores – Focus on school! Not only on getting good grades, but also on learning all you can. Colleges look at your grades from all four years of high school, so don’t goof off. How much you learn will be shown in your standardized test scores and later, your college grades. Talk to your high school counselor about your goals, about college, and how to prepare. Visit www.collegeprep101.com, and download the checklist for your year in school (Juniors and Seniors too). Prepare for and take the PLAN and/or PSAT Sophomore year (as recommended by your counselor), and start on test-prep for the ACT and/or SAT. Volunteer and get active in extracurriculars. Think about what you’d like to do with your life. Talk to adults you respect about their careers and how they got there. Plan for AP classes and CLEP tests for next year, if appropriate. Visit college campuses when you can. Start saving for college – yes you!
Juniors – Take the ACT and/or SAT if you haven’t already. Plan to take them again. Start visiting college campuses in earnest and putting together your list of possible schools. Find out where you stand in relation to the admission and scholarship requirements of the schools you are considering. Work with your counselor to make a plan to address any shortcomings or improve your standing with scholarship requirements. Talk to your family about college finances, and how/if money will impact your school choice. Resist the temptation to build a ‘blow off’ Senior schedule. Job-shadow in career areas you’re interested in. Plan for next year’s AP courses, and any CLEP tests you should take as a result of your Spring course schedule. Get a job even if you don’t have to.
Seniors – If you haven’t done everything I already mentioned – GET MOVING! IT’S DECISION TIME! You should be making your final decision about now, or at least have it narrowed down to a couple of schools. You should have already applied for admission, been accepted, submitted your scholarship application and be working toward filling out the FAFSA. You should be in the process of securing a housing assignment and setting a date to enroll. Call or e-mail and get answers to any lingering questions. Re-take tests if you can still improve your scholarship standing. Think seriously about majors (It IS okay to be undecided!). Talk finances again with your family, this time more specific – What is available, when? Who pays for what? Credit card, or not? Do you have to work, and how much? Bank account at home or at school? Earn lots of money this summer!
Regardless how old your student is, you should be saving for their college – payroll deduction, IRA, recycling aluminum cans, 529 plan, CD’s, coins from the laundry and sofa, whatever! Talk to them about the importance of education and college, and about careers and the education required for those careers. When they’re in high school, you should support and encourage them to do all the things I suggest earlier in this column (and drive them to do them, if necessary). Ask lots of open-ended questions about their goals, their likes and dislikes, and what they are thinking about college. Ask them what their friends are doing and thinking in this regard. Not so you’ll know what they’re doing, as much as for avenues of conversation with your student about the subject. Make them do most (if not all) of the work, and to the extent possible, allow them to make the decision as to which school to attend.
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