- Encourage your teen to finalize summer and fall plans to focus on leadership and initiative. They need to be busy this summer as colleges expect new seniors to be engaged. They should spend at least 20 to 30 hours per week taking classes, working, volunteering, doing internships, and more. They should be planning to take leadership roles this fall in and out of school and really push the initiative factor.
- Make sure your teen’s year end grades are correct and that their fall schedules push their academic paths further. They should not be abandoning content areas, unless they have an absolute weakness in one area, but then they need to pick another class. Colleges expect seniors to have full academic schedules and to push the rigor higher, not lower.
- Help your teen choose teachers for recommendations. They need to choose ideally teachers from junior year or teachers they will have twice. They need to use teachers from different core content areas—English, SS, Science, Math, and Foreign Language. During these tough economic times, many schools are letting teachers go and there are regular transitions, so make sure your teen gets in touch with teachers now about next year.
- Help your kids make a resume. The resumes should focus on leadership and initiative. Categories: Education, Activities, Work, Service, and more. Resumes should always start with most recent and work their way to the past. Your seniors should use power verbs to begin each entry. Musicians and artists need to make separate resumes for their art.
- Do all you can to help your teen prepare for fall standardized tests. There are three ACT and three SAT dates they can take next fall. I always recommend kids take the tests at least once in the fall as developmentally their brains are developing more critical thinking skills (although you may not witness it in other ways). Did you know there is Score Choice—so your teens can take the tests as many times as necessary? If your teen is applying to top colleges, they should take two to three Subject Tests. If your kid is not a great test taker, here is a list of colleges that do not require the tests.
- Now you’ve seen junior year grades and spring test scores, refine your senior’s college list that includes a nice range of colleges to which your senior can actually get admitted. Naviance and The Fiske Guide are great resources to guide you and your teen’s exploration of colleges. The College Access and Opportunity Guide is great for first generation and under-represented students.
- Encourage your teen to start writing their major essays their college applications. Tufts, Connecticut College, and Johns Hopkins all share essays that real admitted students wrote. Students should only write stories that are unique and interesting to read. They should plan to use essays more than once. Their essays should always be as specific and powerful as possible.
- Remind your senior to begin completing the Common Application on August 1 when it goes online (USC is now on it). You can’t fill it out for them but you can provide parent’s educational information and other pertinent family data. Teens should follow the yellow dots- they are mandatory to fill in. Other parts are optional. Teens should only fill those sections in if they strengthen the application.
- Keep a master list of passwords. In the next year, your teen will have a multitude of user names and passwords for applications, standardized tests, financial aid, and scholarships. The majority of colleges communicate via their own networks so these user names and passwords are critical to keep.
- Plan college visits. While summer visits are often convenient, fall visits are ideal as the campuses are in action. Look at your teen’s fall schedule and arrange for some visits, interviews, and overnight visits for kids applying Early Decision. Let your teen visit classes, attend sporting events, and really experience the campuses.
Dr. Joseph is a college access and admissions expert. A tenured professor at a local university, she believes that all students should have the option of a college education and does everything she can to help students, communities, and schools empower their students to make it to and through college. Visit her website, getmetocollege.org
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