By Randi Mazzella
With summer here, it’s a good chance for middle and high school students to catch their breath after busy and sometimes stressful school years. Summer brings some much-needed downtime and a chance for students to rejuvenate. It also provides the space to plan so that future years aren’t so hectic. And that means it’s not too early to start thinking about the college application process.
College Application Process
Although there is ample time before the college application and selection process really heats up, there are things that eighth through tenth graders and their parents can do to get a head start on the college process. These six tips can make the coming college application process a little easier:
- Put Together a Binder of Accomplishments. Your student can start a binder or folder now where she can write down her accomplishments.Keep a list of every activity she is involved in and any honors or milestones. As the years pass, it may be hard to remember a two-week volunteer program she completed or an award won on a summer baseball team. Keeping a record now will make filling out her college application that much easier in a few years.
- Learn a Skill. Does he want to make the freshman soccer team or participate in the school musical? Maybe she wants to start her own business designing websites or giving swim lessons to young kids? The summer is a great time to work on talents or learn a new skill, and to lay the groundwork for the coming school year’s sports and activities.
- Visit College Campuses. If you go on any summer vacations, casually visit colleges that are nearby. It’s a great way for students to get an idea of what they like or don’t like (big or small campus, city or more rural setting, etc.) without the stress of a formal college visit. Junior and senior years tend to be very hectic, and there is often not enough time to physically see every school your student may be interested in.By visiting campuses at a leisurely pace, it will be easier to see which schools you want to make formal trips to once your student really hones in on his top college choices.
- Cultivate Relationships with Teachers and Coaches. If a teacher, coach or guidance counselor has been helpful or made an impact on your child’s life this past year, encourage your teen to let that person know. A simple heartfelt email or note card is all it takes to let someone know that their work has made a difference. Aside from it being a nice thing to do, it may also be beneficial should your student to ask this teacher or coach for a letter of recommendation down the road.
- Talk with College Students about Their Experiences. Many upperclassmen are home for the summer. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about colleges from someone who has actually spent a significant amount of time there. Encourage your student to reach out to former classmates, especially those that share similar academic and extra-curricular interests. For example, if your student thinks she wants to play a sport in college, speaking with someone who has done so will give her more insight about what it is really like to be a part of a varsity college team.
- Read for Pleasure. With so much schoolwork to complete during the year, many students give up reading for enjoyment. Reading books and newspapers are an ideal way to increase vocabulary and reading comprehension. It’s a great way to get ready for standardized test taking without formally studying. (Plus, it’s fun!)
There’s no need to panic, but a little groundwork now for the college application process is likely to make the coming years a little calmer and more organized for your whole family. A saner junior year? Now that’s worth investing in.
Randi Mazzella is a mother of three and freelance writer/journalist/blogger. Her work has appeared in many online and print publications including Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy, and Teen Life.