The moment comes way too soon. One minute you’re hosting sleepovers and kissing the owies away and the next you’re looking through endless lists of college possibilities. However, regardless of the path you and your child have traveled to this point, nothing has the power to snap you into the reality of the here-and-now quite like preparing her for college.
This is my second go-round, so hopefully I am a little more prepared than the first time. For the next year and a half, I thought I would chronicle some of my experiences for those of you who are yet uninitiated to the process. Hopefully, this will give you a little something to stand on, because the whole process can be shaky ground for the newbie parent.
Some of the idealists in the crowd may ask, “Shouldn’t the checklist be for the student?” The answer to this question
is yes and a resounding no! While it ultimately is your child who will matriculate at one of our nations’ s fine institutes of higher learning, the average parent will have spent more than her share of time, and sometimes tears, to get them there.
Yes, there are those rare kids who do everything on their own. I have had some funny conversations with fellow moms who had those kinds of kids who handled everything themselves. They explained how they were lulled into thinking this whole college prep thing was a piece of cake up until their second, typical child came along to mess up their whole apple cart. More often than not, you will have to be an integral part of the process and yes, it’s a labor of love.
Is the process more complex than it used to be? It sure seems like it. Looking back on my own experience, I don’t remember even thinking about college until my senior year and then, I just looked at a few area schools and made my pick. But these days, just as everything else, the process has gotten a lot more complicated.
Parent Checklist for College: Junior Year
College Entrance Exams
Now, the preparation starts much earlier with standardized testing in the Spring of their Junior year. Typically, high school juniors should sign up to take the ACT or the SAT, or both, during the second semester of their 11th grade year.
The ACT and SAT are college entrance tests that all college-bound students must take. Although your child only has to take one or the other, there is a strong case for having your child take both tests at least once.
Your child should have 4 colleges in mind when they register for the tests, because each test will send results to up to to 4 colleges free of charge. Remember, this decision must be noted prior to the release of scores or you will have to pay for each and every result to be sent to perspective colleges. These costs can really add up!
When my son went through the process a few years ago, a veteran mom informed me that her kids took both tests because each test is designed around different philophies. The ACT (American College Test) tests the students current knowledge, while the SAT ( Scholastic Aptitude Test) tests their aptitude or potential for knowing. Consequently, one test has the potential to better suit your child and their learning style than the other. Thus, you have them take both.
For the SAT, you will register through the College Board website.
The nice thing about college board is that once you have logged in and registered, this is also the place you go to access advanced placement grades, as well as, register for clep tests.
For the ACT, you can go to The ACT website.
Preparation for these tests is not one size fits all. It depends a lot on your child and your chosen philosophy. Some students extensively prepare with paid tutors and classes while others use their first attempt to establish a baseline of their abilities.
It depends a lot on the type of universities your child hopes to apply for. If she has her eye on the top-tier universities, then it is advisable to do some preparation prior to test day. Also, keep in mind that these test scores are also the benchmark for a lot of academic scholarships.
Determining Senior Schedule
One other important consideration for high school juniors is determining their senior class schedule. It can be tempting for a student to want to coast for their senior year. However, selective colleges put a lot of weight on the senior class schedule. They want to see students challenge themselves during their senior year.
Also, sit down and talk to your child about their extra-curricular and service experience. If there are gaps, they still have time to find activities and opportunities to round out their experience before it’s time to fill out college applications.
This is one experience most of us parents share. If you have some advice for Junior year that I did not include, please share it so everyone can benefit; including me.