Junior year of high school is a time when most students begin to explore their college choice as a personal reality. As their junior year is ending, they are looking at friends who are graduating and going to college and beginning to see themselves as high school graduates. For those families who have already made personal visits to colleges, you may have begun to see changes in your children as they view college as reality for themselves.
Here is a top-five list of what you should be doing now.
1) Keep the conversation with your child open and alive. Some students want to think they are done with looking and thinking about colleges. Many parents, afraid of the costs they are seeing, want a break as well. For most, this is a defense mechanism to deal with the stress. Whether you view this as an exciting time or want to put the process behind you and move on to summer vacation, the next few months are extremely valuable for everyone to stay on track and move forward with college plans.
2) Review the list of colleges your child is considering. Evaluate (or-read) the strengths and weaknesses of each college in the following areas:
You can add additional areas based on your specific needs. These may include:
3) Get updates of your child's junior year grades, their three-year GPA and recent standardized test scores. How do they compare with the admissions requirements of the colleges your child is considering?
4) Review your child's list of safe, likely and reach schools. This list may have changed based on your research and visits. Have you considered including schools to create better financial aid leverage?
5) Update your personal finances, your anticipated Expected Family Contribution, the likely availability of financial aid and your spending plans for each school.
Be sure to take current-year costs and add 5% since your child won't be starting for another year. As the list of schools changes, your spending plans must change to match.
In addition to these top-five, talk to your child about the essay(s) they will be including with their applications in the fall.
Colleges begin to receive applications in August/September. Early Decision and Early Action applications are due by October/November. No one wants to be thinking about this over the summer vacation.
However, the beginning of their senior year of high school will come quickly, along with the need to schedule additional college visits, the rigors of AP courses, preparation for fall sports, music and drama programs, etc.
Enjoy the summer months. They are a time to be together, enjoying a less-scheduled time of year. It is best for everyone if these relaxed months are used to review, to update and to plan.