It’s never too early for you and your child to start thinking about college admissions. In reality, most freshmen and sophomores consider college to be far off, and don’t get serious until it’s too late. But the right time to start seriously thinking about college is now.
What can you and your child do to get a head start in the college admissions process?
Prepare your class schedule in advance.
Even as early as freshman year (or eighth grade), college-bound students should think strategically about the classes that they want to take in their junior and senior years. If your child is strong in math and science and might choose a science or engineering major, then she will want to take advanced math or computer science as a high school senior. It makes sense to take the prerequisite courses in the first two years of high school. Similarly, if he wants to be an architecture or art major, prepare early to take photography, art and advanced design courses to create a portfolio in his senior year.
Do well in school.
It cannot be emphasized enough; start high school on the right foot, and chart yourself on a continuous path of challenge and success. Most colleges will forgive freshman grades, but it’s great if your child starts strong. Admissions officers will look for trends in grades, so it’s important to continuously do better each year.
Join a club or two.
Your child can test out clubs to see what she likes. If she’s not happy, she can find another activity or ask a teacher to serve as a club adviser and start a new one. It’s good to be active and to participate in a wide variety of activities to show leadership. Students should not join ten clubs throughout high school -- a good idea is to get involved with, say, four to seven activities and to stick with each one for two, three or four years. Look outside of school for activities to join.
Talk to your child’s school counselor.
You or your child might have a mandatory meeting with him or her -- if so, make the most of it. Your child should mention aspirations for college to design a course schedule that will position him or her for success. If you don’t have a mandatory meeting, set one up. It’s your right to have such a meeting and advocate for yourself.
Keep track of your grades and your achievements.
Start a résumé. Create a file or folder for all high school records, whether electronic or in a filing cabinet. The more organized parents are, the better positioned for success you are when your child’s senior year comes around.
Use online resources to do research.
Visit college websites, view student profiles and learn about financial aid. Join message boards to ask questions. The more time you spend researching college options online, the easier it will be to narrow down the list of schools that are most appropriate for you to visit when your child is a junior.
Remember that the earlier you and your child plan for college, the more organized and in control you will be. Heed this advice and gain an advantage for your child in the admissions process.