College preparation does NOT begin during your student’s senior year. It starts in middle school with a discussion about college and decisions related to high school course selection and gets off to a running start their first day of high school. While you might be astonished and astounded by this statement, the truth is if you take it to heart, your student will enter senior year prepared and at the top of the college applicant pool.
Following are five steps to take once your student enters high school to prepare for their senior year and the college admissions process. These steps will help you and your student have less stress and be less likely to panic due to lack of preparation when that all-important college application time comes along.
Step 1 (Course Selection)
The courses your student chooses in high school will greatly affect the admission committee’s impression of them. Encourage your student to choose a challenging curriculum (AP Honors) heavily sprinkled with math and science. Colleges want to know that the student they are considering is capable of maintaining academic excellence and your student can show them that by their course selection and completion during the first three years of high school.
Step 2 (The GPA)
Admissions officers have stated recently that the GPA is the most important factor in their decision to admit. If your student starts high school with a strong GPA, it will be much easier to maintain it over the next few years. The freshman GPA sets the standard for the future. Starting off the high school career with a low GPA will mean your student will have to play catch up the next few years. Academics are the most important focus of any high school career and the GPA should be a student’s number one priority.
Step 3 (The Extracurriculars)
Pay attention to quality, not quantity. Find one thing your student is passionate about and encourage them to focus on that one activity. College admissions officers look for commitment and consistency in extracurricular activities. It won’t impress them if you student spends 4 hours a year volunteering for a food drive. Organizing and coordinating a food drive each year in high school would be a much wiser alternative. Start early and stay focused throughout high school.
Step 4 (Cultivate Recommendations)
Senior year is NOT the time to start looking for recommendations. Encourage your student to cultivate relationships with their high school counselor, an English teacher and science and/or math teacher early in high school. Get to know them and let them get to know you. When senior year comes along, they will have three years of information and experience to write about when you ask them for a recommendation.
Step 5 (Search for Scholarships)
Don’t wait until senior year to search for scholarships. Begin the process during freshman year noting deadlines and requirements. If a scholarship is set aside for seniors, make note of the application requirements and look at the past winners to learn why they were chosen. Many scholarships do not have age requirements; these are open to students of all ages. Use scholarship search engines, Twitter and Facebook, read your local paper and watch the news for announcements of all types of scholarships. As a parent, you can help your student with the search process and also help them with the organization of scholarship guidelines and their components.
If you encourage your student to follow these five steps, they should enter their senior year of high school prepared and ready to choose the right-fit college with confidence. They will have a plan in place to apply for scholarships and will offer the colleges an impressive candidate for admission. They will be ready for the final step of the college admissions process: applying.
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