In person, virtually, or a hybrid of the two, students are back in school. Although this new school year may not have the typical buzz of excitement, there is still an opportunity for students to make a fresh start, to set new goals. Now is the time to strengthen study habits, develop connections with school staff, and prepare for the college application process. Whether your child is just starting high school or in their senior year, if they are planning on attending college, it is never too early or late to begin.
Most students know they need to be able to take notes, study, and manage their time when they get to college and that high school is the place to perfect those skills. What these future college applicants may not know is that they will need two teacher letters of recommendation along with one from their guidance counselor to support their college application. Throughout the school year, they should touch base with their guidance counselor sharing updates about their challenges, successes, and future plans. If they are struggling in a class, they should arrange to stay after school or go in early to get help from the teacher. The teacher may not necessarily be a favorite, but may be a person who can attest to your child’s perseverance and work ethic when it is time to apply for college.
Knowing colleges are looking for well rounded applicants, some students will become involved in every club and sport they can fit into their schedule. How many activities are too many? The Common Application has space available for ten activities and the Coalition for College application only eight. Students are required to enter the number of hours per week and weeks per year they participated in each activity along with a description of the activity. This gives college admission counselors insight into how applicants are spending their time as well as how committed they are to each activity. Community service is often a quagmire with students volunteering in multiple places and once again, only ten available spaces in the Activities section of the Common App. Students should find one or two places to volunteer on a regular basis. This reserves space on their college application for school activities, sports, and part time jobs. Social distancing policies may make it difficult to participate in some activities and there may be sports and clubs that are inactive for this school year. Students should remain as involved as possible. If a club is not running consider learning a new hobby or participating in a virtual club.
As September comes to a close and the school year progresses, students should keep in mind the importance of all their grades in addition to the rigor of their course work. Colleges look at courses and grades from freshman year, senior year and the years in between. Make each class count. Consider making balance the goal for the 2020-2021 school year, striking an equilibrium between life in and out of school. Wishing everyone a meaningful school year!