Those of us who have been through the cycle of planning for college, college searching, creating applications, and finalizing enrollment and financial aid details know how fast this all can come upon us. From a parent’s perspective, it seems as though today our children are in diapers and tomorrow they’re receiving high school diplomas.
In light of this fast transition, let’s take a look at what needs to happen–and when it should be done–in order to prepare for that important passage from high school to college.
The first steps in the college preparatory cycle can begin while the future undergraduate is in elementary school. Some parents are quite good at keeping a scrapbook of their children’s activities. This can result in a fine achievement resume by the time the student is ready to apply to college. What kinds of things should a parent keep track of? One of the most valuable kinds of activities is long-term, quality involvement in community service. If a student volunteers to visit nursing homes, provide yard or household help for senior citizens, or is active in a significant way with a school club or activity, then take note of these things. A record of this kind of performance will be extremely useful at application time.
From a direct academic standpoint, college preparation can also get an early start in elementary school. Take challenging classes in English, mathematics, science, history, geography, and a foreign language. The key here is the word “challenging” which means just that. A course entitled The History of Rock and Roll would not be considered challenging. This is where it is very important to develop a close working relationship with your school counselor. A counselor’s job is to make sure the student is working at the proper level of challenge.
It’s also very important to develop strong study skills as early as possible. Start thinking about which high school classes will best prepare you for college. If you have an opportunity to choose among high schools, or among different programs within one high school, investigate the options and determine which ones will help you further your academic and career interests and give you the maximum number of options for the future.
The best time to start thinking about saving money for college is as soon as possible. Investigate different ways to save money such as starting to buy U.S. Savings Bonds or opening a savings account, for example. Start saving now.