2016

Happy New Year! We’re just seven days into 2016 and we hope that means many of your resolutions are still alive. Whether you’re going to the gym more, eating healthier, or resolving not to look at your phone while you drive (good one!), January 1 is a great time to think about what you want to improve in your life. For high school juniors and their families, the application work looming in the fall threatens to interrupt all kinds of progress. We’ve got some resolutions for students (and parents!) to help keep you on the right path over the next twelve months.

Students

1)  I resolve to do well in AP US History not just because it will look good in college admissions, but because it’s a fascinating class.
This is great advice no matter the class, and no matter the activity. If you throw yourself into your work, you’ll be much more satisfied than if you feel like you’re going through the motions.

2)  I resolve to sign up for a scholarship search tool or contact my guidance office for a list of local private scholarships, identify five that fit me, and begin planning when to apply.

3)  I resolve to study for the SAT or ACT!
These tests are important, and you’re missing an opportunity to improve your score if you just show up and take the test cold. Develop a study plan and stick to it! At the very least, download one of the many free study apps to your smart phone.

4)  I will stop buying fancy coffee drinks at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and instead put that money into a college savings account!
You could save $4 or $5 a day if you hold off on that Frappe and put the money in a piggy bank. After a few months, you’ll have paid for books in your first year (and you’ll be doing your teeth a favor, too).

5)  I will contribute more to class discussions or stay after class to discuss a cool concept.
These are the stories that make it into rec letters, and that’s no accident. You certainly can’t tell your teacher what to write about you, but you can show them what to write about you. So, go above and beyond what’s asked of you. Learn a little more.

6)  I will get to know my guidance counselor; they can be a huge help to me in this college process!
Say hi in the hallways, keep them informed, make appointments to check in. It’ll save you a lot of stress and reflect well on you (don’t forget: they write a letter about you, too!).

7)  I intend to visit one big, one small, one urban, and one rural college before crossing any one type off my list.
You can’t know what you want until you try it. Get out there and visit different types of schools, not just the ones you think you might like. You’ll always get something out of a college visit, even if you hate the campus.

8)  I resolve not to make my college choice based on who wins the National Championship in basketball/football/baseball/hockey this year.
Guess what? There’s a new national champion every year, and it’s pretty hard to repeat. Make your decision on the things you’ll experience, not the things your (future) classmates experienced the year before.

Parents

1)  I resolve to limit conversations about my child’s plan for college admissions to designated times.
Juniors and their parents can set up college-talk dates to catch up on the process.  Every [other] Saturday morning, take the family to a café and talk about college stuff. Make action steps for the next meeting and determine any questions that need to be asked of counselors or experts before the next one. Then, take college conversations off the table until next time. This allows kids to feel free from parental sneak attacks, and gives parents the comfort that progress is being made.

2)  I will not listen to the mother down the road who is freaking out about college and, thus, freaking me out about college.
Don’t get caught up in the arms race. Follow your child’s process, stay organized, and you’ll be fine.

3)  I will let my kid be a kid.
Help your child enjoy games, homecoming, the prom, summer video games, beach time, the outdoors, and reading. Not everything ends up on the application and the real memorable moments happen between our appointments, when we’re allowed to be ourselves.

4)  I will remember that this is my child’s college experience, not mine, and that I will look for colleges that best fit my child.
You can help. You can get excited. You can dream about going back to school. But when Orientation Week ends and you drive back home, your child is the one meeting new friends, taking classes, and beginning their process of self-discovery. Help them find the place where they can make the most of their opportunities.



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Written by Ian Fisher
Ian Fisher is an experienced educational consultant, part of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Ian received his master’s in policy, organization, and leadership studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining College Coach, Ian worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College.