As the school year begins, there is often a range of emotion. Excitement. Apprehension. Dread. For rising seniors, there is typically a lot of anticipation as well. For everyone, no matter what grade, there are certain steps to take to help maximize the opportunities and minimize the stress.
The primary goal is to lay a solid foundation academically and socially this year. We encourage teens to focus on being the best student they can be throughout the year, and assess what is working well and what might need to change.
This year should also afford the opportunity to find ways to be involved either at school or in the greater community. Students should think about what they enjoy doing and find ways to make that an extracurricular activity. Or try something out of the box by exploring something new and different.
Overall, this year is still too early to talk specifically about colleges, but it’s not too early to talk about ways to give attention to personal and academic success that will be valuable later in the process.
The focus is to continue to build on the work from the first year of high school. If there are areas of study that need more attention and focus, make an adjustment.
Evaluate extracurricular involvement (remember this means any activity outside of the classroom – not just clubs and other school-based activities) and again make any necessary changes. It is important that students start to feel a sense of purpose and feel vested in the activities they have selected.
During this year, it is not a bad idea to see a few different college campuses. Try to incorporate a range of schools (large, medium and small) in various settings from urban to rural. The goal is not to land on a particular match, but to expose students to a variety of characteristics to help them more fully develop their list during junior year.
This is the year the process really kicks into gear. There are two primary goals this year: work on standardized testing and build a college list.
Planning a reasonable schedule for standardized testing is important. Some students are more than ready to take an SAT or ACT in the fall of their junior year. Others may need more time to complete Algebra 2 or to work with a tutor to learn more about testing strategies. Consider the student’s schedule: is there a better month for them in terms of giving up a Saturday morning?
To develop the college list several factors should be considered, among the more important are the student’s interests, statistics (GPA and test scores), and parent’s parameters – yes, the student is the one going, but as parents, we often have a few criteria we feel are important in the decision. Once an initial list is formed, it is important to set aside time to research and visit when possible. Learning more about each school and what it has to offer is critical to finding the right fit and a huge part of the work we do with families.
This is the year of action when students must complete the work required to apply to each school on time. The first step is to establish a realistic timeline using the colleges’ deadlines as a guidepost.
It is important to plan early for all the writing and application work that is required for each college. As a senior, it is realistic to set aside a couple of hours each week to work on applications and essays.
It is also invaluable at this point to get help through in-person essay writing workshops or one-on-one support. We encourage our students to submit applications at least a week ahead of the college deadline to ensure there are no technical issues. From there it is important to follow up with each school to make sure all components of the application are on file (transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, and residency determination for example).
Seniors also must be diligent about checking their email. This is how colleges will communicate if there is something missing or if they have any need to follow up with a student.