The college application season may seem a long way off for current high school freshmen and sophomores, but it’s never too early to start planting college prep seeds – especially since all four years of high school courses, grades, activities, and more are evaluated in the admissions process. The struggle comes, however, in getting many students engaged in college prep early on in high school.
For most 9th and 10th graders, the thought of college is so far off they don’t want to engage with the process until it becomes more time sensitive in 11th grade. Many think “well I have a lot of time to think about this,” and while this is true they also need to be actively engaging in simple college prep tasks in order to get and stay on track with their college admissions goals. This might sound overwhelming to some underclassmen – thinking about college prep while also juggling current schoolwork and activities – but when approached in the right manner it can be really fun and exciting for everyone! Parents, here are some simple steps you can take to help your student get excited about their college prep.
Get to Know Your Student
This may seem silly because obviously know your student better than anyone else, right? The reality is, especially as students engage in a wide variety of coursework and activities in high school, your student’s interests might have dramatically changed in a short period of time. Your child who was obsessed with drawing and art a few months ago might have traded their paint brush for a camera, opting instead to channel their creative interests into photography. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to refocus their interests and not announce it to the world. This fall, take some time to get to know your student again. Spend quality time discussing their interests and learn as much as you can about any new activities they’ve taken up. Not only does this give you an opportunity to grow closer to your teen but can also spark excitement in your student as someone else is taking an interest in their passions – encouraging them to pursue them further.
Engage In Their Interests
Now that you know what your teenager is into these days – get involved! Now, that’s not to say that you need to enter your STEM-focused student into every robotics competition you can find, but you can seek out ways to show your support so that they are encouraged to continue pursuing their passions – which is key to demonstrating a specialty to colleges. If your student is into nature photography, offer to take them on a hike they’ve been talking about. Have a business-minded student on your hands? Encourage them to get a fundraiser together for their favorite school club. If your teen is heavily involved in the performing arts, offer to take them to the next Broadway musical that comes to town. By actively engaging in their interests in ways that are simple and supportive, you can encourage your student to further pursue their interests and find new and creative ways to make an impact without making them feel like you’re taking over the process.
Go on Casual College Visits
For many younger students the thought of planning for college is so foreign because they haven’t had any first-hand experience of a college campus. How are they supposed to think about what type of school they want to attend if they don’t even know the difference between different types of institutions? Now’s the time for students to start to think about what they want from their college experience. Does going to a big school sound exciting? Or is a smaller campus more of their vibe? Start by visiting some local campuses casually. Take an afternoon to just walk around a local campus, check out the book store and dining hall, and get a “feel” for the school. If you have older students already visiting colleges this fall or spring, take your younger teen along for the experience. Exposing younger students to college campuses can help get them excited about the prospect of their own college admissions journey and help them begin to form opinions about what they want from their college experience. Your older student may not have enjoyed one campus, but maybe your younger student loved it! Visiting different schools in a low-pressure manner can help get students in the right headspace to start thinking about their own college goals.
Help Them Set Small, Manageable Goals
There’s a lot that students can be doing any school year in order to prepare for the college admissions process senior year. Again, younger students feel there’s a lot of time to prepare so they don’t need to think about it now, however, setting small college prep goals can actually help them get excited about the prospect of college rather than feeling overwhelmed. For example, simple college prep goals like taking an SAT Subject Test that aligns with a current course, catching up on an outside reading list, or just seeking out help to improve a math course grade can help students feel like they are making progress without overloading them with too many “college prep” tasks. Check out our free College Planning Checklist for some more low-pressure college prep goals that students plan to complete during 9th and 10th grade.
Laying the foundation for college prep starts early, and by finding creating and low-pressure ways to engage younger students in the college admissions process parents can help them navigate this journey in a stress-free and helpful manner. At IvyWise, we work with students at any stage in the college admissions process, whether they’re just starting high school or a senior embarking on the college application process. Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for high school freshman and sophomores.