College success is not an automatic occurrence; it has to be intentionally crafted and planned. In my line of work, I often see high school seniors who are way behind the college prep curve. Unfortunately, these students are usually in the underrepresented populations (minority, low-income, first-generation). I truly believe knowledge is power. With that, I have made it a life goal to make sure families are equipped with the right knowledge, at the right time, to make a good decisions about their child’s future.
Starting as early as the 9th grade, there are important things that parents and students can do to facilitate the college planning process. While senior year is the year to sign, seal, and deliver, the freshman year is the time to lay the foundation for a career path, college choice, and scholarships. 9th grade is a great time of exploration. Students should be exploring career options, talents, hobbies, and co-curricular interests.
Academic. Make sure students do not fall behind in their Algebra I course. This course is important to success in other math courses in both high school and college. If at all possible, arrange for a couple hours of after school tutoring to make sure they understand the material and to build up their confidence. For Louisiana parents, make sure you understand TOPS requirements and double check your child’s schedule to make sure they are taking the correct courses.
Career. Parents should encourage students to write down a broad list of possible careers and research them. If they need a little help, they can take a free career aptitude test that gives several possible career options base on personal interest and preferences. With or without incentive 🙂 , students can report back to parents on the results of their career search. For each possible career option, students should find out the educational requirements, salary range, locations, and potential employers. Thinking about career paths early on can help narrow down college choices later.
Financial & Social. While scholarships are appropriate to tackle in the junior year, students can begin to sharpen their competitive edge by joining organizations early. Scholarship application reviewers like to see that students have attained leadership skills and are well rounded students. However, the first step in becoming an officer or leader in an organization is to join early and become a dedicated member. Make sure your student diversifies their co-curricular activities by joining one academic, athletic, community service or a special interest group.