My oldest child is in the 4th grade, and it is amazing how many parents at his K-8 school want to have coffee with me to discuss college admissions, even for children who have not yet hit middle school. But if I’m being honest with myself, even I think about how my son’s decisions today impact who he will be when he applies to college. But then one of my wise colleagues will set me straight and help me to remember that he’s still too young to be planning for college.
On the flip side, I’ve met plenty of parents of 12th graders who are still kicking the can down the road, sort of waiting for the process to happen to them. So when is the right time to “start?”
At College Coach we believe in capitalizing on things you can control in the admissions process. One of them is creating the best possible roadmap as early as possible. As a parent you need to think through choices with your child while also managing unexpected challenges that pop up along the way. It is critical to think about how each decision will impact his college applications and to make sure he follows the path that results in the most opportunities possible.
Here are few areas that should be on your radar as soon as possible:
- Course Selection. In the decision making process the transcript is King! Making sure it represents sufficient challenge and success is the most important thing a student can do to ensure the greatest number of choices and possibilities.
- Extra-Curricular Activities, Summer Programs, and Part Time Jobs. Joining clubs, creating clubs or expanding upon interests in unique ways is real work requiring thoughtful planning. And if your plan includes both “commitment” and “long-term involvement,” you just might find yourself taking on a leadership role. When it all pays off, it will have been worth the effort!
- College Visits. Students don’t really know what “small, large, urban, or rural” mean until they’ve experienced them while visiting colleges. Developing a working vocabulary and campus preferences early in high school can help you make the most of limited time later by targeting schools likely to land on a final list of applications.
- Standardized Test Preparation Timing. Test prep is time consuming, so planning out a schedule in the 10th grade, taking into account all your extracurricular and summer commitments, can spare you some headaches and reduce stress in 11th grade when “official” testing usually begins.
- Scholarship Searches: It’s never too early to start researching scholarships, especially when the goal is to make note of important eligibility requirements. Starting early means the difference between making oneself eligible for a scholarship and discovering, too late, you could have been eligible had you only …
- Goal setting. Most people do better when they have a clear sense where their work can lead them. I am a big believer in writing things down — a set of short and long term goals that give me a sense of purpose. Mark Victor Hansen, “America’s Ambassador of Possibility,” sagely said: “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.”