Now’s a Great Time for a College Prep Check-up. Here’s a Spring List for Rising 9th-12th Graders.
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
Thank goodness we are entering the home-stretch of the 2020-2021 school year! But before parents and students check-out for the summer, it’s important to know what should be done in the coming months to stay on top of college prep.
Rising 9th Graders
- Parent and Student – Schedule a meeting with your new high school counselor. Discuss academic goals, any learning differences, and course selection for 9th grade. Make sure students will get the support and courses they need through 12th grade.
- Parents, now is a good time to talk with a financial advisor that is familiar with college financial aid and paying for college. They may have suggestions on saving money for college and managing assets and income to maximize financial aid.
- Determine if there are any placement tests required or offered for courses such as higher-level math, foreign languages, fine or performance arts, etc. If a student is willing and capable of doing higher-level coursework, it’s possible they will get to honors/AP courses more quickly. That can translate into a higher GPA when it comes time for applications.
- Determine if there are any try-outs for fall sports/activities that the student would like to participate in.
- Encourage the student to continue some academic pursuits over the summer. Schools will often have summer math packets or summer reading.
Rising 10th Graders
- Plan out a tentative high school course plan through 12th grade. Make sure your 10th-grade courses will satisfy pre-requisites for classes you want in 11th/12th grade.
- Continue to encourage reading. Students that perform best on standardized tests in reading are avid readers.
- If a student has a talent in the visual or performing arts, now is the time to start finding opportunities to further develop these skills and create “works” that can one day be used to apply for scholarships and college programs. Look for camps, intensives, courses, etc. to hone their skills over the summer.
- If a student has an academic weakness, figure out how it will be addressed for the next school year. Is it possible to retake a class over the summer to strengthen their skill and improve their GPA? Will a student be further challenged in an academic area and need tutoring either over the summer or the next academic school year?
- Has the student developed any extracurricular interests in or out of school in 9th grade? Now is the time for the student to evaluate clubs, activities, sports, etc. in which they want to dedicate their time for the next three years of high school. Colleges like to see commitment, consistent engagement, and ultimately leadership. If students take a scattered approach to their clubs and activities, it’s harder to get to a leadership position.
Rising 11th Graders
- Has the student been away from home for an extended period of time? This is the summer that it might be a good time to have the student participate in a multi-week activity away from home to help them start becoming more independent.
- If the family is taking a trip and happen to be near a college campus, it’s not too early to schedule a visit with the admissions office or just take an hour or two to walk around campus and the surrounding area. The goal is to develop an understanding of the location and size of a college they might want to attend.
- Re-evaluate the plan for 11th and 12th-grade courses. Is the student taking the most challenging courses that they have access to and will do well in? If the student has a planned major or track in college (e.g. pre-med, architecture, etc.), do the planned classes prepare the student for college-level classes and support the student’s ability to apply to their desired colleges/major? For instance, a student that is interested in architecture may have to submit a portfolio of their design work with their college application. Courses in drafting and design will help the development of that portfolio and reassure college admission officers that the student is clear about their academic goals.
- Find opportunities for the student to engage in their community, and continue to pursue summer programs for academics, talent, or new areas of interest. Some students may be able to find summer jobs.
Rising 12th graders
- Finish the year strong! The student’s grades during 11th grade are the most important.
- Make sure the students planned 12th-grade courses continue to be comparatively rigorous.
- Students should have an initial discussion with each teacher, counselor, employer, etc. that they would like to be a recommender for college applications, and politely ask if they would be willing to write a great college recommendation. This initial conversation should happen before the student leaves school for the year. Students should write an email to each recommender over the summer and include a “brag sheet” about their interests, accomplishments, etc. to help the recommender write the letter. (The teachers and counselors probably have access to your academic record). You can even provide teachers with suggested content for the letter such as a time when you went above and beyond in the classroom or school.
- Identity potential colleges and do in-person or virtual visits as time and budget permits.
- Find opportunities to assume at least one leadership position in the school or community for the senior year. It doesn’t have to be the president of a club. It may be something like a team leader, an assistant manager at a store, or a section editor for the school newspaper.
- Start on components of the college application early in the summer. Students applying early should finalize their college list, understand the requirements and deadlines for each college, schedule interviews when available, and start on the main personal statement essay. Using the summer to get the bulk of the application work and supplemental materials developed will help reduce stress during senior year. The Common Application opens on August 1st each year.
Preparation and planning will enable students to put their best foot forward on their college applications!
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