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College Prep Checklist: March-April

Summer’s right around the corner – which means focus on current academics (let alone preparing for college) can be extra tough. A checklist can help.

The spring semester in most high schools seems extra busy. Whether it is a sport to watch or play, or academic projects and competitions that keep students busy, some kids need to be reminded to keep pushing toward college… and pushing in their college prep. What’s more, summer’s right around the corner – which means focus on current academics (let alone preparing for college) can be extra tough.

This is the next of the College Prep Checklists to help you help your college-bound kid. As always, it is designed to build upon the other monthly checklists. So besides all the other stuff, here are some activities particularly curated for March and April:

College Prep for All Grades

(Some of these suggestions – great for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, or Seniors – might be fun for College Prep Parents to enjoy, too.)

  • Let the season stir excitement & exposure: If it is March, then it must be time for “March Madness.” If you absolutely can’t stand basketball, feel free to skip to the next bullet point. But the NCAA basketball tournament is a really good way to get kids to pay attention to the fact that colleges have distinctive attributes. What makes the 68 schools involved in the tournament different from one another? For a few weeks each spring, fans get to hear more nonstop information about colleges than at any other time. I encourage my students to check out the websites of the schools that catch their interest, and you can do the same. Who knows? You may be raising a future Tarheel, or Zag, or Sea Lion.
  • Get serving done: Spring is a good time to turn those service projects from good intentions into accomplishments. Spring Break, pretty weekends, or whenever it works out, many students have more room in their schedule now to make a difference in the lives of others (and add volunteering to a college resume).
  • Take in a game on your campus visits: College softball and baseball games are good ways for a high school kid to get fun exposure to life on a college campus. Spring games (or even watching practices for a variety of sports) can be an interesting introduction to this aspect of college.
  • Get to a local college fair: Some communities have college fairs in the spring. All grades of high school students are usually welcomed at these events – and the schools involved will recognize that students who attend are actively planning their future education (and someone to keep their eyes on).
  • Look into college camps or interest events: Some colleges have special-interest camps on their campus during the summer. A wide variety of activities and topics like painting, piano, robotics, spiritual focus, digital media, video gaming, sports, marching band, or environmental science are offered across the nation each summer. Now is the time to search the internet and find these opportunities. Bonus: You’ll get an up-close view of a campus, the living facilities, and likely some part of its staff, faculty, or students.
  • Consider other programs (but consider them wisely): Numerous travel programs and leadership forums are held each summer and advertised by mailouts to teachers, counselors, and students themselves. My advice from long experience with these services is if a student is interested, be sure and thoroughly check references. If you can speak to people that have done the same trip or attended the same program, it will help you get as much information as you can to determine the value.

College Prep for Juniors

  • Stay serious: Remember that junior spring semester grades will be considered heavily by any college that you apply to next fall. Make it count!
  • Use Spring Break to check out your future home: Especially for high school Juniors, Spring Break is a good time to swing by a local college or two or plan a road trip to visit more distant colleges of interest.
  • Finish out with AP: Advanced Placement exams are coming in May. If you’re in an AP class, plan now to finish strong! Take advantage of the online AP prep materials.
  • Start (or continue) looking for scholarships: Online scholarship searching is not just for Seniors. Register at and look for other databases to help your research.
  • Take your last chance for SAT or ACT: There are a few more opportunities to take the ACT or SAT exams this school year. If you haven’t already, pick the best dates and give it a shot. You want to have an idea about your score and next moves before Senior year.
  • Get clear on class choice: Spend time thoughtfully planning the classes you will take next year. Considering what is in your long-term best interest will take some thought if your school offers a lot of choices.
  • Seek a (smart) job: If you want a summer job, start looking now. If you have a choice, working at a job where you have to learn something is the best way to go. Future employers and college admission folks notice things like that.

College Prep for Seniors

  • Wait wisely: If you are waiting to hear from a college, use your time wisely.
  • Make every application excellent: If you are still applying to colleges (whether it’s your first or your tenth), avoid the temptation to get in a hurry and submit an application without checking it carefully. Have each college application essay or scholarship essay proofread by someone who knows what to look for.
  • Finish out with AP: Advanced Placement exams can be a big help to those students who have done well in class and are prepared to show what they can do. Take advantage of the online Advanced Placement exam prep.
  • Keep scouring for cash: Continue checking for financial aid for college. Keep searching online for scholarships and grants being offered by companies, as well as the colleges themselves. Remember that small prizes add up, and every dollar counts. Even if you feel like you or your family are “set,” you never know when additional funds could provide additional flexibility, even four years from now.
  • Your first college classes may come sooner than you think: Community colleges are a popular summer option for many students. If this is you, become familiar with courses, schedules, application procedures, and deadlines. Even though these schools often have easier requirements, don’t assume anything. Check with the college about each facet. Some area colleges start classes before the ink is dry on your high school diploma, and you don’t want to miss out. Start checking now… and keep checking frequently until you get the information you need. More than once, I have seen summer school college classes fill up very fast once the information is posted. “If you snooze…”

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