14-Day Course– All At Once
Give it all to me now, please! I get it! When I’m ready to dive into a topic, I don’t want to wait. If you are ready now for information on college planning, grades, classes, testing, extracurricular activities, college visits, etc., I’m putting the entire course here for you. Read what you need now. Come back later to review. Warning: I made this a 14-day course because the information can be overwhelming. I’ve included a lot of details and examples, so you may want to take notes or plan to revisit the lessons on a daily basis to get everything.
Day 1: College Planning TimelineI’m so excited to be working with you on The Parent’s Guide to College Admission. I’m going to share information on grades, test scores, finding the right college, selecting the right courses, scholarship, financial aid, and so much more. My focus is RESULTS. Today we start off with the big picture—what to do each year from junior high through senior year. No matter where you are in the process, you can start planning for what’s to come. Your College Planning Timeline (click to view) I said that my focus is RESULTS. I want you to be confident and informed. You need usable action steps so you and your child can begin to see RESULTS in their school work, test scores, extracurricular activities, and eventually in their college applications. But I have to warn you: This isn’t some get-smart-quick (or get-into-college-quick) scheme. I’m not selling magic beans. There is so much information out there, and I want to take time to cover each topic without confusing you completely—that’s why this process is spread over 14 days. You will have time to learn, think, process, and TAKE ACTION. Each day, you will receive an email from me. Some days I send videos or audios; other days, I share articles or checklists. Some of this may be new information, and some of it may reinforce things you already know. I include detailed action steps, so you can begin to see RESULTS. Along the way, if you have any questions, post them on the College Prep Results Facebook page! I can’t wait to get started!
Day 2: GradesToday, we are tackling the most essential foundation of college preparation or admission: GRADES. Don’t get caught up in the misconception that grades are the only important thing. They aren’t. Colleges primarily look to grades as a way to predict a student’s ability to do college-level work. They are looking to answer this question: “Will this student be academically successful on our campus?” So grab paper and pen. Let’s find out what you can do about grades. Next I’ll tie grades to their partner—classes. An “A” by itself is meaningless. Colleges are looking to see in what context that grade was earned. Further Reading But My High School Is Ultra-Competitive How Do Admissions Officers Compare GPAs? 5 Things To Make College Admission Easier P.S. Yes, I ignored the most popular question on purpose. Everyone wants to know: “Is it better to have a B in an advanced class (AP, IB, honors, etc.), or an A in a regular class?” Every college admissions officer answers this question the same way. “It is better to have an A in the advanced class!” This isn’t the answer people are looking for, but it is the truth. Use the “make it happen” suggestions from today’s video to help your child earn that higher grade.
Day 3: Classes & Course SelectionToday we tackle the topic of classes. The details depend on the classes offered at your school. As you can imagine, there are thousands of possibilities across the country—different graduation requirements, electives, number of class periods per day, and options for advanced courses. But the way to get RESULTS is still the same. 1. Core classes are the foundation of a high school education. No matter where your student is applying, the ideal high school transcript shows that he or she has taken four years of each of the core courses: English, math, science, history, and foreign language. Yes, FOUR years. Often, high school graduation requirements reflect a minimum standard. Colleges like to see more. This often means taking harder upper level courses such as Physics, Spanish 4, French 4 or German 4, or Calculus. Strong students will accept the challenge and go beyond minimum requirements. Electives shouldn’t replace academic courses, but they are important because they show what a student’s interests and passions are. 2. Students should challenge themselves academically, taking advanced courses when available and where appropriate. (AP, IB, Honors, Advanced, etc.) Not every high school offers advanced courses, and not every student is able to work at an accelerated pace in every subject. You need to encourage your child to work to his or her potential. Be sure your child takes the strongest academic classes he or she is capable of, but ensure he or she pursues unique talents and interests, too. We don’t want kids who are stressed out and drowning in their advanced classes. 3. Students’ choices of classes show not only what they are interested in, but also how interested they are in learning. In junior and senior years, students have a lot of options to explore areas they are interested in as electives, take advanced courses in subjects they love or are exceptionally good at, or take an “off period.” Here’s my advice: Avoid too many “off periods.” It may be tempting to take fewer classes, especially senior year, but colleges want students who are willing to learn. Overall, colleges are looking for evidence of your child’s commitment to and enthusiasm for learning. Class selection can speak volumes. Is this the student interested in science taking extra science classes as electives? Is this the future lawyer excelling in English as well as debate? Even if your student hasn’t shown a strong preference for a particular field of study, he or she can demonstrate a commitment to education and a passion for learning. 4. Further Reading I’ve given you the big picture for course selection. This is a topic we could discuss all day if we examined each and every situation and possibility. Here are some additional resources to help answer your specific questions: Honest (Sometimes Unpopular) Course Selection Advice Improve College Admission With Another Year of Foreign Language Is That Extra AP Class Worth It? High School Course Selection: Hard Core Exceptions to Standard Course Selection Advice And as always, feel free to post questions here.
Day 4: Picking the Right CollegeFinding the right college involves narrowing the list down from the 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. to a more manageable number—between 10 and 30—that you can begin to research in detail. Picking colleges is a lot like selecting the right pair of shoes. There are lots of shoes in the store that will fit my feet. I need to begin by limiting my choices: dress or casual shoes? What color? What style? Do I like the look and feel? Today, I’m giving you a checklist to help you begin the process of selecting the right college. Download your checklist here. Tomorrow, I will send tips for making college visits (what to look for when you “try on shoes”). Further Reading: Recommended Resources How Do I Research Colleges? How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? 4 Tips For Visiting College Fairs
Day 5: College Visit ChecklistToday we are going to test-drive a college. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, would you? A campus visit is a test-drive of a college or university.. Let’s do it right. Kicking the tires and peering into the window on the closed car lot doesn’t count. Neither does driving through a campus in your car, attending a sporting event, or going to visit cousin Jerry. Make a real visit, scheduled through the admissions office. Often, you can do this online. Listen to and understand the one-hour information session. Take the student-led tour. Stay for lunch, and talk to people while you’re there. I recommend that parents begin taking students on college visits as early as ninth grade. Start by visiting schools in your area. Try to see a small college, a big university, and one in between. If you live in a major city, visit a campus in a small college town. If you live in a smaller town, try to visit a school in a large city. Keep an open mind. Make notes as you visit. Here is my Campus Tour Notes form. I print these front and back on one page. The front side allows me to make notes on the different aspects of the campus. The backside includes questions I ask of my student tour guides and other students I meet. Want to get an honest view of a school? Talk to students on campus. Explain that you are considering that college, and most students will be more than willing to share their experiences. If you feel uncomfortable approaching strangers to ask them questions, go to the student center and offer to buy someone lunch or coffee in exchange for a few minutes of his or her time. Free food is always popular on campus! What should you do on a visit? I’m including my 21 Suggestions For Visiting Colleges checklist, which offers suggestions for basic visits all the way through very serious overnight stays. Don’t feel you need to visit every college and university. But DO start looking at the schools on your list and planning a few campus visits. The sooner you start this process, the easier it will be come application time.
Day 6: Finding ScholarshipsContrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be the valedictorian or a star athlete to earn scholarships. Here are my top five tips for maximizing your scholarship dollars: 1. Apply to the Right Schools. Private colleges and universities are more expensive, but they award more scholarships than in-state universities. I know many students who are attending private schools for less than it would cost to go to a state school. Select a few schools where your grades and test scores are above average. Keep in mind that some of the most selective schools (Ivy League, for example) don’t award ANY scholarships; they just provide for financial need. 2. Apply Early, Apply Often. Some scholarships are available as early as a student’s freshman year in high school, and others are reserved for college juniors and seniors, so you have an eight-year window in which to apply for awards. Motivated students should begin early and set a goal for the number of scholarship applications they intend to submit each school year. My former student with the most scholarship awards at graduation wasn’t number one in her class, but she was a good student who applied for dozens of scholarships. She came to see me in the counseling office every week in her quest for scholarships. Her efforts paid off, and she “earned” more than any part-time job would have paid. 3. Maximize Your Test Scores. Test scores matter. By senior year, it is difficult to improve GPA or class rank, but a student can make a positive change in his or her SAT or ACT scores. If you want to see one example of how test scores can influence scholarship dollars, try the Baylor University scholarship calculator: http://www.baylor.edu/admissions/index.php?id=82248 4. Don’t Overlook Small or Local Awards. Money adds up. $500 won’t cover tuition, but it helps, and a few $500 awards added together start to make a big difference. In addition, small and local scholarships tend to have less competition. Some awards go unclaimed each year because no one applies! Increase your odds of success, and don’t ignore these opportunities. 5. NEVER Pay for Scholarships. There are a lot of scams out there preying on parents’ fears and financial needs. ▪ No legitimate scholarship will require payment. (No processing fees, transaction fees, or deposits.) ▪ No legitimate consultant can promise results. I’ve seen fraudulent programs promise to help students find and qualify for awards—for a fee. These programs usually keep 90% of the fee, and the student “wins” a $250 scholarship from the company. There are plenty of online resources to help you find scholarships. I like FastWeb.com, but there are many others. Before you begin an application, verify the program is still in existence; the economy has negatively affected some scholarship programs. Here are additional resources: Key to Earning More College Scholarships Merit Scholarships for International Students 15 Colleges Where Every Student Gets a Full-Tuition Scholarship
Day 7: Activities & ResumesAs parents, we want our kids to experience success. Of course, success doesn’t just come in the classroom; it comes in sports, clubs, volunteer work, hobbies, or religious organizations. Colleges want students who develop interests, strengths, and talents outside the classroom. This is why applications ask students to list their extracurricular activities. It is better to commit fully to a handful of activities than to list a lot of activities with which you’ve done little. Hobbies can make great activities (reading, rebuilding cars, gardening, robotics, etc.). However, some hobbies are not seen as favorably as others. Colleges probably don’t want to see that your student spends 100 hours a week watching TV or playing video games! As early as the summer prior to ninth grade, start keeping a resume or list of activities to use on college applications. Here is the format I use. It can easily be adapted to specific applications. Resume Template Further Reading Extracurricular Activities: What Do Colleges Want? How To Avoid Overcommitting On Extracurricular Activities Time To Update Your College Bound Resume Community Service: Share Your Gifts
Day 8: College Bound VocabularyIt’s grow your lexicon day! Vocabulary is so much more than a Friday quiz in English class or a pile of flashcards used to prepare for the SAT. Like it or not, we are judged on how we present ourselves to others, and our vocabulary plays a crucial role in how we are perceived. Whether watching candidates debate, listening to a sales presentation, or reading persuasive articles, we have all seen situations in which the person who can express him or herself eloquently and precisely seems much more credible. Johnson O’Conner Research Laboratory conducted numerous studies about how word knowledge affects employment. That research revealed that people with superior vocabularies:
- Have higher IQs
- Command greater respect
- Read faster and comprehend more
- Are considered more intelligent
- Interview better
- Are promoted faster and more often
- Make more money
Day 9: Standardized Test ScoresWoo hoo! Today we talk about testing— one of my specialties! It seems like the world is divided into three groups:
- Super test takers (people who always have been good at tests)
- Those who HATE tests
- Everyone else
Day 10: PSAT & Scholarships“You mean the PSAT qualifies students for a major national scholarship program?” YES!!! Before I jump into the PSAT and the National Merit Scholarships it can bring, I wanted to check in with you on how the course is going. Are you learning new things? Taking action on things you may have known before, but had not made plans for? Don’t get overwhelmed! This is a lot of information, especially if most of it is new to you. Take in what you can, and give yourself time to process what you are learning. You can always save these emails and review them again in a few months. So back to today’s topic: the PSAT I’ve got it all together on one page for you:
- How the PSAT leads to National Merit Scholarships
- What ninth- and tenth-grade students need to do
- Why the PSAT is essential for ALL juniors