It’s Admissions time! Is your family thinking about college?

Clare College
Photo Credit: Paul Stainthorp

In order to enter the workforce and earn higher than minimum wage, job applicants must have more than a high school diploma. Luckily, families today have a lot of options.

Step One: Lay down the groundwork

Whether your child is a freshman or senior they are going to need to start thinking about college. Sitting down to look at your academic plan through high school is a step that many families miss, or start too late. Parents, teenagers and possibly school advisers should sit down at the beginning of high school to pick which honors classes the student wants to strive for and how extra-curriculars can affect academic plans.

Starting a sport or interest outside of school as a freshman or sophomore can boost applications come senior time and will give students a more well-rounded high school experience.

Testing also begins junior year. Taking the PSAT and starting to study vocabulary is crucial for high SAT verbal scores. Laying the groundwork by having ambitious, but realistic academic goals, a well rounded list of after-school activities and starting test prep early is essential to having a great college application.

You must be sure to start to organize all of your testing papers, college brochures and notes on schools you might visit.

Step Two: Think Interests

Before you start to book college tours, order applications and buy your favorite school sweatshirt, think about you or your child’s interests. If they like to write, find schools with a strong creative writing department. If students are still largely undecided, then look into other activities. If sports are an important part of you or your child’s life make sure that schools you are looking at have a strong intramural sports program.

Don’t rule out technical and career-training schools! There are some great schools that offer classes in specific areas–computer graphics, culinary arts, massage therapy and social work.

Step Three: Take the Step

Once you have made a list of schools that fit your interests, its time to make some campus visits, order applications and start contacting alumni. Try to limit your list to about 10 schools. You want to have 50% of the schools on your list be ‘safety’ schools, or schools you are sure to get into, 30% should be ‘maybe’ schools, where you have a 50/50 chance of getting in and 20% should be ‘reach’ schools—the schools that are difficult to get into.

Begin looking at applications and make a big calendar with all important deadlines—don’t forget to file financial aid and scholarship forms and put them on your calendar.

Step Four: Worth the Wait?…and saying goodbye.

Once the applications are in, its time to wait. The three or four month waiting process is a great time for teens and parents to discuss issues like personal finance or budgeting, as well as teaching kids how to do laundry and cook some basic meals.

The summer before you go to college is a great to start writing down items you know you need to buy or bring to school, the earlier you start the list, the less things you will forget.

Once the decisions come back, understand that the college process can be a difficult one. Even if you do not feel like you have gotten into the school of your choice, nothing is set in stone and you can always transfer later. If you start the process early, you will have a strong application and get into the school that is perfect for you. Good luck!

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Tags: AP’s, College, High School, SAT, School, Testing

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