Education

Preparing for College: the Early High School Years

Next year, my oldest child will be a freshman in high school. As incredible as it seems, that means it's time for him to start thinking about where he wants to go to college and what he wants to study. Here are some things to start thinking about...

by Stacey Schifferdecker

students studyingNext year, my oldest child will be a freshman in high school. As incredible as it seems, that means it’s time for him to start thinking about where he wants to go to college and what he wants to study. It also means he has to

  • Be sure he is taking the required classes he needs to get into college
  • Make sure his GPA stays good
  • Participates in extracurricular activities that look good on a college application
Yikes! The boy is still just 13. Okay, he’ll be 14 in a few weeks, but still…
Deciding on a College
When I was talking to a counselor at the high school open house, I mentioned that I was planning to begin developing a list of potential scholarships soon. She suggested, however, that at this point my son should be concentrating on narrowing down his school choices. A good way to begin is to make virtual visits to colleges by checking out their websites. This will help your child develop an idea of what is important to him or her, such as
  • Distance from home
  • Availability of specific course offerings
  • Religious affiliation
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Athletics
Later, you can go visit a few colleges that seem appealing. Don’t automatically rule out private schools, either. Although they are more expensive than public schools, many of them also offer excellent financial aid packages.
Taking Required Classes

Counselors should be helping your child decide what classes to take in high school. You can also visit your state’s Department of Education website to see what courses are required for graduation. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that students take Algebra I in 8th grade and Geometry in 9th grade. They also suggest students take English, Science, and History or Geography every year, as well as foreign language, computer, and visual or performing art classes.

You should also find out what classes are required by the colleges your child is interested in. Keep in mind that the difficulty of your coursework can affect your acceptance into a college. Most colleges prefer students with average grades in tougher courses than high grades in easy courses.

Many high schools now offer Advanced Placement classes in numerous subject areas. Students who take these classes and pass a test at the end of the class receive college credit for their work. Your child can shave a semester or even longer off of college by taking AP classes.

What about the Money?
The same counselor who suggested we focus on selecting a college for now also had some encouraging words to say about financing that college dream. She told me that money is available to help motivated students; she could not think of any students in her career who wanted to go to college and weren’t able to because of money. In fact, college students receive $60 billion of financial aid each year. Parents should still set aside money for college, but don’t neglect looking for available financial aid too.
Create a Portfolio
When it is time in a few years to start filling out college and scholarship applications, your child will need to list activities, honors, awards, etc. Make the job easier by creating a portfolio now. As your child brings home report cards and certificates, insert them in the portfolio. Make notes of volunteer activities your child participates in, including hours spent. By having all this information gathered in one place, you will ensure you don’t forget anything.

Your child doesn’t have to decide his or her entire future before even getting a driver’s license, but it is a good idea to begin laying the groundwork early for a successful college career later.

Biography
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2008 All Rights Reserved

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