It’s time for March Madness. There’s no doubt that there will be astonishing highs and unprecedented lows. Unexpected underdogs will emerge victorious and surprises will be plentiful.
Although the nation is familiar with the frenzy over basketball this time of year, the March Madness that I am referring to has nothing to do with basketball. In fact, I am talking about high school seniors during the college admissions process.
There are three reasons that this time of year is particularly maddening for high school seniors:
1. Seniors are receiving news about college acceptance – During this time of year, high school seniors all over the country are receiving admissions decisions from their intended schools. Some students who have not thoughtfully applied to college are rethinking their choices.
2. Students are starting to deal with the financial reality of college costs – After filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in the early part of the year, students are starting to receive detailed information about the amount and type of aid for which they are eligible. Some students are underwhelmed by the award letter that they have received.
3. Despite senioritis setting in, 12th graders have to struggle with the fact that grades are still important – Several times in my career, I have been approached by universities inquiring about a senior’s third quarter grades, to the great dismay of these students.
For many seniors, it’s too late. However, in order for underclassmen to avoid the unfortunate fate of March Madness, take these three steps:
1. Apply to a variety of different schools – Make sure that applications are sent to not only reach schools, but also to schools for which you fit the academic profile.
2. Use the winter of senior year to apply for scholarships – Don’t wait until you receive an unfavorable Student Aid Report (SAR) before college finances are seriously considered.
3. Pay close attention to course selection and academic performance during senior year – Don’t fall prey to the long-held myth that 12th grade is of little importance in the college admission process. Actions and decisions during the final year of high school can have lasting effects on a student’s college aspirations.
If underclassmen follow all of the advice above, they are destined to be champions in the college admissions process.
Are you REALLY ready to tackle the college admissions process? Are you well-versed in college prep?
The topic for today helps parents get into the college prep mindset. From the moment that our kids are born, most parents begin to think about college (How are we going to pay for it, will my child get into a “good school”, what can I do help my kid’s chances to succeed?). I have developed a list of 17 things that you can do in 2017 to prepare your child for college. This list is a bit unconventional because it doesn’t backload all of the tasks and relegate them to 11th and 12th grade. In fact, this list presents items or tasks that can be done as early as kindergarten. In fact, stand by no matter how old your child is because I will start at kindergarten and go all the way up to 12th grade with actionable college prep tasks.
Read to your student – Studies show that cultivating literacy begins, actually, way before kindergarten. In order to make sure that your child is a life-long learner, read to him or her on a regular basis.
Talk to your child about college – In some homes, this is easy, especially where parents attended institutions of higher learning. If college is not part of the natural landscape of your home, make an effort to talk about the very basics like, what college is and how one gets to go to college.
Visit a college campus with your child – This can be as informal as a college sports game or a trip to the local college bookstore.
Set up a daily homework routine – Get your child used to the skills and behaviors that will serve them well as they prepare for as well as attend college.
Help your child set up an organizational system – Many parents of high school students are very frustrated because of the lack of organization displayed by their kids. Getting and staying organized can be almost as important as natural brilliance when preparing for college.
Make academic excellence the expectation – Some parents are willing to let mediocrity go in younger grades, opting to wait until the classes “count” to urge excellence. This may be a big mistake. In the younger grades, students are developing their “academic esteem”. Students who enter high school thinking that “B”s or “C”s are okay when they are capable of “A”s have a hard time making the shift when the high stakes of high school are in play. Keep this as a key college prep strategy.
Increase academic rigor through an extra-curricular activity – Join an activity that flexes the mind muscle. Critical thinking is a very important skill to develop early and clubs such as the math team and Odyssey of the Mind can help students get used to solving academic problems.
Enroll in your child in at least one honors level or advanced level course – This is the time that families can figure out which subjects are areas of strength and/or challenge for a student. Middle school honors-level courses allow students to have the opportunity to safety to test out a rigorous curriculum without the threat of a possible misstep appearing on a transcript.
Plan all of your student’s courses for high school – This outline will help with an overall college prep strategy. Planning classes should not be a year-to-year proposition.
Help your child choose a new extra-curricular activity – Colleges do not want to see students load up on clubs and/or activities their junior and senior year of high school. They can see through that hollow strategy. The best approach is to choose a small number of activities that the student is truly interested in and plan to increase responsibility in this particular activity. For example, you may want to start off as an active member of a group. Then you may decide that you want to run for office your junior or senior year.
Develop a college admissions testing strategy – This is the time to decide which college admissions tests you will take, how many times will you take them and when this testing should occur.
Request college letters of recommendation – The end of the junior year is typically the best time to request letters of recommendation; teachers of 11th graders are the last group of instructors to see applicants before they apply to college. 12thgrade teachers will only have known the students for a few months when they are applying to schools.
Develop a college list – Students should not wait until the last minute to start researching colleges and universities. Your student should have a solid list of 4 -5 schools in which s/he is interested by junior year.
Prepare the FAFSA – Even if you think that you will not qualify for aid, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid because some college will require it in order for your child to be considered for merit-based institutional awards. The FAFSA released each year in October and and requires tax information from the previous year, so this is not the time to procrastinate on your taxes. In fact, the FAFSA has to be renewed each year, so get prepared to be on time with your taxes for the next several years.
Apply for at least one scholarship per week – The early part of the spring is peak season for completing scholarship applications. Often students wait until they have received a disappointing financial aid offer in April or May before they get serious about aggressively searching for scholarships. Unfortunately, this is often too late.
Grades 7 – 12 –
Book a College Strategy Session – Work with someone to figure out how close or how far your family is from being ready for college. I have several options that will help your family get on the right track.
Download the College Bound Parenting app (Available in iTunes and in the Google Play Store.) – If you have a child in middle school and/or high school, the College Bound Parenting mobile app is a must!
College Bound Parenting App Features
College Prep Reminders and Push Notifications
Receive push notifications of important deadlines of scholarship applications, test dates and college applications. Also receive monthly notifications of college planning to do task. (Users must enable “push notifications” when they download app to use this feature).
College Planning Checklist
Stay up to speed on all the things your child should be doing to prepare for college. From studying for the PSAT exams to applying for scholarships and summer programs.
Hosted by Sia Knight, The College Savvy Coach
The College Bound Parenting Podcast Series is like a having a professional college planning coach in the palm of your hands. Podcast are produced every month for each grade level and designed to coach parents from A to Z in the college planning process.
Chat with members of the College Bound Parenting community about the college planning process.
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What steps do you plan to take to prepare your child for college?