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The College Prep Checklist: February

High school in February can sometimes get a little “ho-hum” for a student. It has been a while since a holiday, and Spring Break seems like an eternity away. It is between sports seasons at some schools, and it otherwise may seem like there’s not much happening. That means this is a time where it is easy to lose focus, if your college-bound kid doesn’t keep the goal in mind. So this checklist should give College Prep Parents ideas for coaching your kids to make the most of the time, while they’re waiting around for Spring.

College Prep for Freshmen and Sophomores

  • Compete: If your school has academic competitions, get involved. If it is too late for this year, find out the events available and start prepping for next year.
  • Serve: Service projects are always needed. This is a good time to grab some friends, make a plan, and make a difference.
  • Review daily: If you are not at least briefly reviewing each class at the end of the day that you have it, you are missing out on one of the easiest ways to improve your grade. Review the day’s lesson whether you have “homework” assigned or not. (This will be a great habit for college, too.)
  • Review daily, Part 2: Get in the habit of thinking through the ACT and SAT questions of the day. Check them out online. Getting extremely familiar with those types of questions puts you ahead in the game. (Bonus: It looks like Kaplan offers their own versions of SAT and ACT Questions of the Day too.)
  • Compete, Part 2: Searching the internet for writing competitions for college scholarships can have surprising results. Some contests for essays, poems, short stories, and plays are open to students of all ages – you can start finding money for college now. (And the process of polishing and presenting your writing won’t hurt either, since you’ll have admissions essays to write soon.)

College Prep for Juniors

Besides all the activities listed for the freshmen and sophomores, encourage your student in these:

  • Look ahead to AP exams: If you are going to take any AP exams in May, begin now to check out the testing tips on the College Board website and the prep materials you get from your teacher. Having an idea about the format of the test and what it covers can give you a mental boost as you learn the subject over the next three months.
  • Consider your classes and extracurriculars carefully: You have this spring to decide the classes and activities for your senior year. Choose wisely, because it’s your last shot.
  • Prepare for leadership: If you aspire to leadership in clubs, student government, etc., now is the time to seek advice and make plans to run, apply, or otherwise seek that opportunity.
  • Make this semester’s grades count: The grades that you make this semester will be the most recent and prominent grades that a college will consider when you apply this summer or in the fall. When admissions folks look at a transcript, what you have done lately really stands out.
  • Look for your summer job: February is not too early to make summer plans, especially if it involves looking for a job. A student inquiring during the winter about a job for the upcoming summer shows more initiative than the Spring Break job-seeking crowd.
  • Schedule college admissions encounters: Check out the websites of colleges of interest for possible spring receptions in your area and “junior visit” days on their campus. (These will be great chances to hone your question-asking skills.)

College Prep for Seniors

The last February that your son or daughter spends in high school is routine for some seniors and urgent for others. After checking off the reminders for the other three grades, coach them in these ways:

  • Organize your deadlines: Keep a written calendar, dry erase board, bulletin board, or some other method to list all deadlines and due dates for college applications, scholarship and housing applications, and anything else concerning the colleges where you are applying. Consider putting it in a place where your whole family can see what’s coming, give you space to work, and hold you accountable – family members can be part of your College Prep Team, remember!
  • Request recommendations (ASAP): If you will need recommendations for admissions or scholarship consideration, ask each recommender long before they are due. Remember, even adults can be procrastinators! (So make sure they’re clear on when you need it.)
  • Show gratitude: If any professional has helped you in the admission process (such as college representatives, recommenders, or teachers), sending a thank you note is the right thing to do!
  • Be sure to accept the offer: When you are offered admission to a college, pay close attention to the process and deadline for accepting (or declining) their offer. Also remember that the date you notify your future college of your decision often has an effect on housing assignments and orientation dates. And if you know you don’t plan to attend, letting the college know is a kind (and “adult”) thing to do – and may open up a spot for another kid.
  • Get going, even if you’re waiting for college: For those students considering deferring their college entrance and taking a formal or informal “gap year” to work or study or serve or travel, plan now. The best of the formal Gap Year Programs are usually competitive and may not be available as a “spur of the moment” decision.
  • Don’t procrastinate, even if you’re “allowed to”: If you have decided on a college with admission deadlines still a long way off, it is still to your advantage to get all the required documents in and to get accepted. Getting on lists early is like standing in the front of a line – you often get more choices.

A kid serious about college prep, with the encouragement and coaching of their College Prep Parent, can use February to keep the ball rolling toward their goal and add some great material to their amazing admissions story!

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