The Road to College
By May S. Ruiz
Your kids have reached the homestretch! Freshmen are looking forward to their last month, relieved that they are almost done with 9th grade. Meanwhile, it is a bittersweet time for seniors as they anticipate the end of their high school career and spend the last remaining weeks with lifelong friends.
This is the last call for your 9th graders who need to improve their grades! Make them focus on staying on top of school and homework. Get them up to speed on their studies and ready for final exams. Their final grades will be on their transcript, one of the most important components of your children’s college application.
If their marks are not adequate for college acceptance requirements, they need to meet with their college counselors to arrange for remedial summer classes.
Remind them to get their summer projects lined up. If they need to get approval for a particular service activity they want to pursue, they need to speak to their grade level dean right away. Get them to spend their summer months in programs to supplement an art interest by applying for internships or jobs. There are companies which have internships that students have to pay for while there are a few that actually pay their interns to work during the summer. Get your children to research the various organizations in town or in nearby cities.
Admissions officers look for students who have demonstrated sustained community service in a few well-chosen areas. It isn’t the quantity of activities but the quality that’s important – they want to gauge the depth of students’ intellectual and ethical engagement to a given cause. The summer after their freshman year is the time for your children to find activities that truly speak to their interest and passion. Let them choose one that really resonates with them which they should carry through their four years in high school.
The long summer months are also a great time for your children to read. Encourage them to explore various genres and different authors. At the very least, reading will help them expand their vocabulary and expose them to different writing styles. This will come in handy when they write their personal statement and supplementary essays for their college application.
Sophomore year is when your children have fully transitioned into high school. They are comfortable about how this phase fits into the whole secondary school experience. They have taken the practice PSAT, as a preparation for junior year when the results determine their eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship. They have also taken some AP tests, if they took an AP course.
Hopefully, your children have also done well in their studies, have maintained good grades this entire year, and have prepared for final exams. Admissions officers expect grades that are consistent, and if their freshman marks weren’t that great, their sophomore grades should at least show improvement over last year’s.
Make sure your children have lined up their summer activities. These should be an extension or an expansion of what they did in the summer of freshman year. Admissions officers want to see commitment to a particular interest.
Make sure your children have registered to take all the required standardized tests for college admissions. The Cal State and UC systems start taking applications in October of their 12th grade, and if your children are applying through early action or early decision to other colleges, they need to have taken the SAT or ACT this summer.
Your children’s final grades are extremely important! Eleventh grade is the last complete year that college admissions officers will see on the application and they expect grades that are either consistent with, or better than the first two years’. They need to prepare well for final exams.
If your children are still sweating it on the waitlist of their first-choice college, they need to ensure their final grades are terrific! They should keep up with all other school and extra-curricular classes and send the college admissions officers any updates on awards and honors they receive. They should ask their college counselor if an additional letter of recommendation might be helpful. Keeping in touch with the admissions office reinforces their interest in attending the school if accepted.
They should have put a deposit on their second-choice school to guarantee them a place for the incoming class in the fall. Although, if they come off the waitlist on their first choice, they will lose this deposit.
Be there for your children to support them whatever the outcome of their college application. It has been a significant phase of reaching adulthood and was a very important learning experience. In the end, what matters is not where they had been accepted; the college they attend will not guarantee success in the real world. It’s how they use their education that determines how well they do in life.