Wednesday, 03 May 2017

Preparing for College

The thought of college can cause a lot of anxiety for both parents and students. Most people think students have plenty of time to prepare for college and then the time comes!

It’s a good idea for students to start planning for college before their senior year. Ideally, students should begin their preparations by the midpoint of their junior year. Not only will this give the student an advantage, but it might even lower the inevitable stress level that is in the air during everyone’s senior year.

Junior Year

Community Service

If a student is not already involved in community service activities through school clubs or church, they should start now. This, along with grades, is one of the first things recognized by colleges and scholarship funders. Clubs such as National Honor Society and Peer Assistant Leadership (PAL) are highly respected.

Build a Resume

Most students have a resume by their junior year, but if not, now is the time to create one. A resume will provide dates and experiences that are requested on college and scholarship applications. Students without work experience can show off their community activities and volunteer experience.

The resume should also be updated on a regular basis.  Note that there are a few scholarships that are offered to juniors.

Take the Right Classes

Often times, students think they will attend a community college after high school and only take classes necessary for admission. Universities usually require different classes for incoming freshman than community colleges, such as foreign language classes.

It is a good idea for students to take those classes while in high school in case they change their minds or a new opportunity presents itself. Those classes are free in high school but come with a hefty price tag later.

Life Skills

Schools teach academics, not life skills such as handling finances, grocery shopping, cooking and doing laundry. Don’t wait until it’s too late, teens should learn these skills and practice them well before graduation.  

Senior Year

College Entrance Exams

Many seniors skip college entrance exams unless they are sure they will be attending college. As mentioned above, some students change their minds or receive an unexpected opportunity such as a scholarship, so taking the exams are encouraged.

Career and Guidance Center

Students should get to know the person in their school’s career center or guidance center very well. This person can be a tremendous help when it comes to lists of applications and deadlines, scholarships, etc. They can even help students fill out all of the necessary applications. This is their job, and they have a lot of information that is valuable to seniors.

During the their senior year, students should check in with the career center often to see if there is anything new such as scholarships. Students and parents should attend all meetings which provide information about colleges, how to complete applications, entrance exams, FAFSA, etc.

Students should be encouraged to apply for any scholarship they might qualify for. This will take a lot of commitment and initiative on their part, but could really pay off in the long run. Most scholarships ask for writing samples, so it’s very important to write a very good sample as a template and revise it to fit each particular application.

Don’t Procrastinate

Finally, remember that procrastination is the enemy. Start early to avoid being inundated by all of the last minute tasks that will come up. Most of these tasks will be foreign to seniors and are usually overwhelming, so asking others for help should be encouraged.

There are a lot of things that need to be done and plans that need to be made during the senior year. There are also a lot of memories to be made. Seniors shouldn’t miss out on the fun to be had with their friends this year. Hopefully, they will make the most of their last year of high school by attending prom, athletic events or whatever brings them joy.

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