Most students have more than enough challenges on their plates by their freshman year in high school. They're learning how to navigate a new environment, exploring different opportunities, and joining new clubs and organizations. In most cases, these students aren't even thinking about college yet. If you have a high school freshman, however, there are several things you should already be considering in order to prepare him or her for college.
Start Planning Activities
These days, many prospective college students have very similar applications. It seems as though they all have high GPAs, long lists of activities, and plenty of honors and recognition for their accomplishments. To help your child stand out, try some of the following:
- Encourage your child to develop interests that he or she is passionate about and focus activity efforts in that area.
- Have him or her get involved in activities early! Colleges look at all four years of high school to see students' activities, so diving in freshman year looks great.
- Explore some volunteer opportunities that allow your child to explore his or her future career fields. This is a great way to learn more about his or her field of interest will help to determine whether or not this is something he or she wants to do for the rest of his or her life.
Create an Academic Plan
Many students think that their best chances of getting into college rely on taking as many honors classes as possible. While this is true - and it is equally true that high-level courses look great on college applications - it's also true that an "A" in a college prep course looks better than a "C" in an honors course. Help your child design an academic plan throughout high school that includes:
- A look at the subjects your student wants to take later in high school - getting prerequisites out of the way early can make it easier to get into those important classes later.
- A realistic understanding of his or her academic capabilities, including how your child can manage a high-level course load and how much stress he or she can deal with in conjunction with extracurricular activities.
- An idea of what career your child might like to pursue and what high school classes will give him or her a better foundation in that area.
Keep Track of Everything
Starting freshman year in high school, everything counts: grades and classes taken certainly, but also volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and any awards and honors your child receives. When they sit down in front of that first college application, unfortunately, many students draw a complete blank. Students who have received numerous awards and honors over the years or who have participated in many different clubs, organizations, and activities might not be able to call to mind all of them when they're filling out those vital applications. In order to make the college application process easier, make sure your student starts a running list of everything he or she accomplishes over the next four years. Each time your child receives an award, joins a new activity, or participates in a new volunteer opportunity, record it. Then when the time comes to fill out college and scholarship applications that will be one less thing your student has to chase down.
Estimate College Costs
Go ahead and sit down with your child as early as possible and create an estimate of how much college is going to cost. Take a realistic look at what type of scholarship help he or she will need or how much your child needs to work in order to help pay for college. Be honest about how much you will or will not be able to help - and if you aren't sure, estimate low on what you can provide rather than high. This will allow your child to spend the next four years pursuing his or her goals.
Freshman year of high school is a big year for many students. This year, your child will start shaping many of the decisions that will guide the rest of his or her life. Even though college may be the furthest thought from many freshman minds, it will be here before you know it. Early preparation is critical to ensuring that your child is able to make the most of the next four years.