Use The Summer Wisely: Start Planning For College
Use The Summer Wisely: Start Planning For CollegeLorraine Hastings, VP for Membership Mobilization, The College Board
If you know a teen who will be a high school junior or senior this fall, you know a teen who should be thinking about the college application process this summer. As former head counselor in Georgia’s DeKalb County Schools, I saw 95 percent of my advisees go to college, so I know the difference early college planning can make. It allows students to break the application process into manageable chunks and eliminates the pressure of having to do everything all at once. Even if students make progress on only one or two of the tasks below, they’ll be ahead of the curve when school starts in the fall.
- Research colleges. With no papers to write or projects to complete, summer is an ideal time for students to start thinking about what they want in a college and then find schools that fit the bill. The Internet makes it easy to research colleges with free online resources students can use to learn which schools have the traits they’re looking for. The College Board offers a number of these free resources on BigFuture.org, including a step-by-step guide to help students get started.
- Visit colleges. For students who aren’t sure what type of college would fit them best, visiting college campuses can help them figure it out. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of time or money on travel; visiting an array of nearby colleges — small, large, public, private, urban, rural — allows students to discover which attributes are most important to them and which schools to apply to.
- Start a college list. I recommend that students make a list of at least four colleges to which they plan to apply. The College Board provides four college application fee waivers to all eligible seniors to eliminate the financial barrier of application fees. When students apply to four or more colleges, they increase their chances of enrolling in a college that is a good academic, social, and financial fit. Applying to four or more colleges also allows students to compare financial aid packages if they get into more than one school, which may be the deciding factor when choosing between otherwise similar colleges.
- Prepare for college entrance exams. Before applying to any school, however, it’s a good idea to take a college entrance exam like the SAT®. Most colleges and universities require SAT or other entrance exam scores as part of their application process — and even schools that don’t require these scores consider them when making admission decisions.
Most high school seniors will have already taken a college entrance exam, but those who haven’t can take the current version of the SAT through January 2016. Incoming high school juniors should plan to take the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT® in October and the new SAT in March 2016. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT is excellent practice for the first administration of the new SAT, and it puts students in the running for millions of dollars’ worth of scholarships. Ambitious students can use the summer to get a head start on preparing for the new SAT by reading about its key changes and signing up for free, online, personalized SAT practice at Khan Academy. The Official SAT Practice at KhanAcademy.org reinforces the skills and knowledge taught in classrooms around the country, which are the same skills and knowledge needed to be successful in college and career.
Summer is a time to relax and have fun, but I urge you to advise the college-bound students in your life to also spend some time planning for college. As little as two hours a week researching schools and practicing for entrance exams is all it takes for students to start the school year off right and take charge of their future.