By Kathryn Fruh
Starting with your student’s first year of high school, ease into learning about current college admissions by attending any and all presentations offered by your student’s school. Schedule an appointment with your student’s counselor to share useful insights about your child plus any issues that might impact their school achievement.
Get Your Child to Become a Familiar Face to Their Counselor
Encourage your child to make regular visits to the counseling center to learn about summer programs and volunteer opportunities in addition to getting to know the counselor well before the senior year. Help your child develop a relationship with the counselor who can be an ally in keeping you all informed about developmentally appropriate experiences that might enhance the student’s self-awareness, as well as interests.
Find Out the School’s Standardized Test Policies
Learn what the school’s policies are for the pre-ACT (PLAN) test and the PSAT (pre-SAT). Do all 10th graders take both the PLAN and PSAT? At some schools, the tests are part of the college prep program and the school district pays for the tests. At other schools, the tests are optional and are offered on a Saturday for a nominal fee.
Become Familiar With Application Requirements
Learn about general college application requirements for your instate schools. Do they require an essay? Recommendations? Have early application deadlines? Use an “Index grid” that gives a general idea of admissibility based on grades and test scores?
Start Visiting Colleges With Your Child as Early as 9th Grade
Try visiting college campuses while on vacation or visiting relatives. The point is for students to start establishing a “baseline” for how colleges differ — big/ small, liberal arts/universities, urban/rural — basic characteristics that can be defined and thus becomes a part of the student’s college knowledge. The emphasis needs to be on “exploration” and helping the student start to learn about identifying a their personal college match, as opposed to being influenced by name recognition or other’s rankings.
Have Open & Honest Conversations About College
Be clear about expectations and limitations. Perhaps there are strong feelings about distance from home or type of school. Financial issues may also impact college options. It would be appropriate to share this information with the school counselor during a Junior conference (after already having the discussion as a family) so that there are no misunderstandings as the college search process begins in earnest.
Kathryn Fruh is a post secondary counselor at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Co.