What you should be doing now
- Take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Not only does doing well in these classes boost your GPA, but they look impressive on your résumé. Furthermore, these classes can be exceptional preparation for SAT II subject tests.
- If advanced placement classes are not an option, then at least complete the basic mathematics classes by Junior year. Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II mastery are a must. Pre-calculus/Math Analysis is highly recommended. The understanding of these mathematics courses is typically directly proportional to the level of success a student will experience in these areas on the SAT and ACT.
- Start studying and reviewing material for the SAT and ACT. This may include preparation courses, vocabulary flashcards, or a review of basic math.
- Register for the SAT and/or ACT by second semester of your Junior year. This gives you plenty of time to retake any tests with ample time to review further.
- Start building up your “Brag Sheet,” AKA your academic and extracurricular activity résumé. You should strive to increase your number of volunteer hours and community service.
If you haven’t been involved in any community service – START NOW!!
- Improve your talents – if you are an athlete or an academic star, try especially hard to receive recognition, rewards, or medals for these talents.
Start looking for scholarships that you might qualify for. There are dozens of unique opportunities out there for athletes and students with special talents or skills. Community service, religious organizations and charities often give out terrific scholarships to students that demonstrate leadership in particular fields.
- BE NICE TO YOUR TEACHERS!! We cannot express the importance of building and maintaining an excellent relationship with teachers. Not only are they valuable sources of the critically important letters of recommendations, but they are also invaluable editors of essays and last minute tutors when you need to review a subject for an ACT, SAT, AP test, or SAT II subject test.
- Go on a vacation with your family. Though we often hear that California students want to leave California for areas like New England and the Midwest, we recommend that you visit these places during all times of the year – Christmas, Spring and Summer breaks and vacations. College campuses usually offer tours throughout the year, but check before you go, and don’t be afraid to tour a campus on your own – wandering without a guide can be an eye-opening experience.
- Get a summer internship in a field that you may be interested in. This doesn’t have to be your career of choice, but it does show colleges that you are mature enough to be considering entering the work force.
- Continue to enroll in AP courses.
- Retake any SAT, ACT, or SAT II by December of your Senior year. If you wait until December, you must pay for the expediting of the scores so that they can count on your applications.
- Start thinking about your essay ideas very early on in your Senior year. A favorite English teacher from the past or present can be an excellent resource.
- Choose the people that will write your letter of recommendation. Ask them nicely, give them plenty of time, and ALWAYS send a thank you letter once they have completed your letter. This is appropriate business etiquette that you can start implementing now.
- Narrow down the list of colleges to which you are going to apply, and finish applications by winter break.
Stay focused. We know the strength of senioritis, but your Senior grades are crucial – don’t let 3 years of hard work go down the drain in one semester.
- Double check that all of the colleges you applied to received all of your complete application. Most students must send a variety of things for their application, such as letters of recommendation, updated test scores, and transcripts. Since all of this is usually sent separately, you must double check with each school. Remember that the average school receives thousands of applications, and no school is perfect – things get lost and misplaced.
- Get prepared for interviews. The shyest of students may need extra help, while the extroverted may need to learn to tone down their personality without losing themselves. Whatever you do – don’t go into an interview unprepared. Most colleges are amping up the quality and difficulty of their interviews, and many students are completely taken off guard by the rigor of these experiences.
- When your student is in their Junior year, you must start getting your finances in order. You also need to have realistic expectations of your student’s abilities. Simultaneously, your student should have realistic expectations of how much your family can afford for college.
- While many colleges may offer great financial aid award packages, certain cities are considerably more expensive for housing, transportation, and food. When added all together, these extras may exceed a family’s budget.
- Encourage and motivate your student in their classes, activities, and talents. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.
- Plan family vacations to visit schools.
- Get your taxes done early!
- If there is tension in a family due to a divorce or separation, put it aside for the benefit of your child. A divorce or separation by no means exempts one parent from participating in the college application and planning process. In fact, BOTH parents’ educational, professional, and financial information will almost always be required.
- Don’t delay filling out the FAFSA and other institutional financial forms.
- Stay on top of your student regarding deadlines and registration dates.
- Get involved – helping your student research schools can be fun and educational at the same time.
- Learn as much as you can from friends, family, and neighbors. If this is your first child to go to college, this application process can be daunting. The more you know, the better prepared you will be!