Your student can keep rolling toward college, even as this school year wraps up and summer begins. They likely even have more time to prepare, plan, and explore! You, as their College Prep Parent, simply have to coach them to use this time to accomplish future goals. Hopefully these ideas can help.
Unlike past checklists, I’ll combine Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors here – since much of what they can pursue during this time is very similar. Then don’t miss my final section just for Graduating Seniors.
College Prep for Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors before Summer Break:
- Talk with Seniors before they leave: Pay attention to where Seniors you know are planning to go to college. This is one of the best ways to learn about schools, because these friends have done the work of weighing options. Ask them what other schools they considered. Then ask what made them decide on “the one.” It is helpful to keep these notes as a reference as you research your own colleges of interest.
- Look for leadership opportunities for next year: As teams and clubs are getting organized for next year, leadership opportunities will become available. On a college admissions resume, a “participant” or “member” may get lost in the shuffle. But on that same college resume, a “chair” or “captain” or “officer” or “founder” stands out.
- Keep your grades up: The last few weeks of class and the final exams can really impact a GPA. Don’t slack off or start vacation early. Every point counts, and hard-working teachers expect their college-bound students to be just as hard-working as they are.
- Get serious about time management: Spring athletics can be especially hectic, especially with meets and matches during the school day. Whether sports or something else is keeping you busy, you must manage your schedule. Time management is key for busy students to survive without taking a hit in the grades department.
- Pick great classes: Sign up for next year’s challenging classes that will help meet your academic goals. If you are unsure of a course’s suitability, seek advice from a teacher or counselor or your College Prep Parent (some of the members of your “college prep team“). A good rule of thumb: If you have the prerequisites, go for it!
- Get ahead of the game: When you know which classes you’ll take in the fall, take the time to talk to those teachers. What do they say is the best preparation over the summer to be ready for the class? Don’t be surprised if they only suggest that this summer you should “Have fun” or “Sleep late” – but they also may give you some really helpful tips because you cared enough to think ahead.
- Get a test in: There are a few more opportunities to take the ACT or SAT this school year. Especially for Juniors wanting to have another try before their senior year, May, June, and July offer times for one or both of these tests.
College Prep for Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors in the Summer:
- Plan for college visits: College visits can be really fun if you do a little planning. If your summer travels are taking you to a college campus, check out the website for tour information. (Learn about the three types of campus visits here.)
- Don’t procrastinate summer assignments: If your high school has summer reading assignments or other academic projects to complete, make a plan on how you will accomplish those. When you knock them out early, you will be amazed at how much more fun the summer will be. (That is also a very “college” kind of lesson to learn.)
- Or read books anyway: If you don’t “have to” read for school, summer is still a great time to read for yourself. Maybe read those books you have heard about, but didn’t have time to tackle during the school year. (For example, consider reading the entire Bible or a large chunk over the summer!) Getting in the reading habit just takes a little time and some good books. But getting out of the reading habit just takes some excuses.
- Consider a summer job: Summer employment can be not only a source of income but can expose a college prep kid to a wide range of elements found in any number of careers. Those “lessons” might include dealing with new people, working with math, being responsible for someone else, maintaining a good attitude, having to work as a team, or spending long hours all by yourself. If you’re too young to get hired yet, many volunteer opportunities can provide these same kinds of experiences.
- Or go camping: Specialty summer camps can be a great way to spend your summer days or weeks. Church camp, band camp, tennis camp, piano camp, equine camp, fitness camp, ocean camp… and the list goes on. Some colleges use their mostly empty campuses for some of these programs, giving you the chance to get a feel for that campus (and college campuses in general). An internet search can give an adventurous college-bound kid a lot of ideas.
College Prep for Graduating Seniors:
- Take another chance to raise your score: For those Seniors still trying to raise an ACT or SAT score for scholarship consideration, look for the few test dates left in May, June, and July (ACT dates and SAT dates)
- Don’t let priorities get lost: The rush of senior activities, parties, teas, picnics, building lasting memories, etc., can really be a threat to some students if they don’t take care of their academic business. Grades still matter – and to some students and some college admissions staffers, they matter very much. Priority management becomes important during this time of fun and celebration.
- Don’t miss a deadline: May is usually full of dates that a student who has been accepted by a college needs to be aware of. These may include a date by which they must accept an offer of admission, housing dates, orientation registration, or any number of other important matters. Seniors and their parents need to read each message from the college carefully. Don’t miss even one deadline.
- Find some more money: You can continue to find help paying for college. Scholarships and other financial aid opportunities do not sleep… and never really run out. There are still websites to visit and essays to write if a student keeps looking. Students also need to make a note of those financial aid options that look promising for the future, after they’ve entered college. Some organizations award scholarships to students who have stuck with college for a few semesters.
- Use your summer to get started: “Commencement” is what we call the graduation ceremony. Students tend to think this celebrates what they have finished, but actually commencement means you have started something. With this in mind, the summer after graduation can be a huge help if the college-bound kid looks at it as “commencing” the next chapter in their life. That means you should consider taking a summer jobs, attending summer school to get started on your college classes, and/or attending college orientation. All three of these activities are in the category of “full speed ahead,” since they accomplish things that contribute to college success.