Junior year is the homestretch. The critical decisions that are made this year could have a major impact on the next five years of your life –and long beyond. This is the year students start narrowing lists of colleges and career paths. This is the last full year of grades that college admissions officers will review.
Parents need to continue making this college admissions journey fun and positive. For many students, the college admissions process can feel so overwhelming, they become frozen, missing deadlines and forgetting important details. With the right strategy stress can be minimized – it isn’t realistic to believe it will be eliminated. Approach this as a bonding discovery process for all involved. Parents: Let your child know that you’re proud of your child and you’re there to give your support.
Here are some other International College Counselors tips for parents:
• Review your student’s schedule with him or her at the beginning of the school year. The goal is to have your child enroll in challenging classes that will help them prepare for college. If your student is aiming for the more competitive schools he or she must take college-prep classes, including advanced-placement. Care must be taken not to overload on classes or extracurricular activities as junior year courses and grades are critical. A college bound student should be aiming slightly above his or her comfort level. A student needs to show the college admissions team that he or she pushes him or herself.
• Make sure your student meets with a college counselor to discuss college plans and review his or her transcript and experience.
• Help your student keep a calendar. Work with him or her to update it regularly with any important dates and deadlines.
• Make sure your student stakes the PSAT/NMSQT again, which is given in October. If your student does well on the exam, he or she can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship
• As quickly as possible, plan the junior year testing schedule. A student can take either the SAT or up to three SAT Subject Tests on one test day, or the ACT. Your student should take the SAT and the ACT tests before the end of their junior year. We always recommend that the student try BOTH the SAT and the ACT. The colleges accept them equally, and students often have a natural inclination towards one test.
• Invest in SAT and/or ACT test review material. Juniors should begin preparing for these tests as soon as possible so that the process isn’t rushed. SAT/ACT test prep can include an online course or traditional class, and practice tests. Make sure your student spends time studying the material for the test. Neither of these tests can be crammed for in one night.
• Encourage your child to remain involved with extracurricular activities. This year is very important. Colleges want to see that a student sticks with something. Encourage your child to assume a leadership role in an extracurricular activity. If your child’s forte is sports or music, consider getting involved in regional, state or national competitions. Colleges aren’t looking for quantity in activities, but quality. And advancement.
College selection/ Application preparation
• Encourage your student to get to know the junior year teachers – and leave a positive impression on them. This is preparation for the all important college recommendations.
• Start narrowing down colleges and universities. Information can be gathered in books and on websites. Try to talk to alumni or current students. In the spring, your student should meet with his or her college counselor to draft a college list. Before the start of your student’s senior year, the goal is to develop a list of 15-20 colleges of interest.
• Talk about career choice(s). These may have a big impact on the list of potential colleges to be considered. The idea here is not to have a student commit to a career path, but to try and narrow down the career possibilities.
• Go on college campus tours with your student. Make sure you take a look at the whole range: public, private, large and small. Consider taking a college road tour over Spring Break. Schedule interviews with admissions counselors at the colleges your student is most interested in.
• Attend any college fairs that come to your area, as well as presentations by traveling college admissions officers.
• Keep talking about financing college if you haven’t already. Talking about money helps students understand how much college really costs, and how they can help defray the costs through applying to private scholarships and getting good grades. Talking about money will also start introducing them to the adult concepts like financial aid and loans. Generally, if you treat your child like an adult now, chances are they will behave more like an adult later.
• Hop on the internet and research scholarships. Then help your student apply to them. Meeting deadlines is a must. Make sure everything is proofread.
• Help your student find a summer opportunity. This could include an internship, job or college program. Whatever it is, start early. You want to beat the competition. Many other students are going to be looking for opportunities, too. Do some networking on your student’s behalf. If your student is interested in medicine, see who is in your network that you might be able to call. The same goes for if your student wants to be a graphic designer or a lawyer.
• Help your student search online for summer school programs for high school students at colleges, if this is the route they choose.
All year round
• Encourage your child to read. It’s the best way to prepare for the SAT and all standardized exams. If they don’t have a favorite author? Take them to the local library to explore popular options within their age group.
Most importantly: Be there for your child. Be present in his or her life. Listen to his or her hopes, fears and goals. Working together can make these dreams more real and much more possible.