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UNDATED – For young children, “back to school” might mean a new backpack, a return to the school sleep schedule and reuniting with friends after the summer break.
For high school-age teens planning on attending college, it’s a bit more complicated.
Now more than ever, teens need to be thinking about college – if they plan to go – and how to get there, and we don’t mean driving or flying.
There’s more to getting into a college of choice than just paying the tuition and other expenses. There are a myriad number of tests, applications and if needed, scholarship applications.
Maria Morris, mother of three soon-to-be college kids, says the journey to higher education should begin in earnest the sophomore year of high school.
“A gentle prodding, sometimes not so gentle,” is what Morris recommends parents start with their teens as the 10th Grade begins.
She recommends attending college fairs and taking the PSAT in the fall. Also, it’s a good time to step up to some challenging high school classes to pad the scholastic resume as well as keeping grades up.
And, it’s a good time to start think about which college might be the best choice three years from this Fall.
By the Junior year, students should continue to focus on challenging classes and keeping their grades up. They should also take the PSAT in October as another practice round.
And keep going to those college fairs, especially if the student is still unsure of what school or subject appeals to them.
In the spring of the Junior year, students should take the SAT/ACT, both AP exams and update their scholastic resume. It’s also a good time to start a list of what teachers to ask for written recommendations.
Lastly, during the Junior year, it’s a good time to visit some college preview days at campuses if possible.
In the summer before the Senior year starts, Morris recommends students make a list of six to eight schools to apply to and start tracking deadlines for applications.
Every student knows that Senior year is crunch time. But if parents and students have worked together to complete the applications, visits, tests and other pre-collegiate tasks, Senior year can be low- stress and more fun for everyone involved.
But there are still some things to do. Morris says students and parents need to make meeting application deadlines a priority and to get recommendation requests into teachers early before they get swamped and have to rush through them.
It’s also the last chance to retake any tests that the student thinks could be improved upon. Finally, review applications and send them in well ahead of the deadline, and seek out confirmation they were received so there are no surprises.
Then, start watching the mail (or email) box.