Dear Estelle. We have a serious, mostly all-A’s, 10 th grader who runs Varsity track and attends Interlochen Music Camp every summer. Her older brother, a college sophomore, counsels her constantly about college and has been a good resource in terms of high school preparation. Is there anything she’s not doing to prepare for college? S. Johnson, Centennial
Your family may be doing everything right but perhaps aren’t doing enough. Many people fail to realize the benefits of early college planning and that means 10 th grade or even 9th. Starting early can minimize the stress that students feel as they begin their senior year in high school. Students usually don’t get serious about college planning until they meet with their high school counselors January or February of their junior year after seniors have finalized their college applications. By this time, they may have missed the opportunity to take special courses that will enhance their GPA’s or have missed a prep course that would have prepared them for their PSAT and the chance to earn National Merit scholarship recognition. Starting a year earlier in the fall or winter of their sophomore year will also give them opportunities to decide where to put their energy in terms of extracurricular activities.
What are the advantages of early SAT and ACT preparation? They provide study skills necessary to succeed in other courses. Learning grammar, writing essays, improving vocabulary are all assets that will benefit a student’s coursework while preparing for the tests. Starting early a student can test more frequently and isn’t limited by a lack of time to repeat the tests if necessary.
By achieving a quality test score earlier, a student can make more intelligent choices regarding which colleges to visit in their junior, not senior year, when time is so limited. Completing important tasks early provides an impetus to apply Early Decision, knowing they have had time to look around and carefully evaluate colleges. According to recent statistics, applying early continues to be an advantage in college admissions.
You might think that starting earlier just puts additional stress on kids who after all are still kids. So why not just wait until January or February of Junior year? I’m suggesting that the upside of preparing for college earlier might actually reduce the stress that students have by allowing them to complete the college process early in their senior year and let them fully enjoy their senior year in high school. Unusual way to consider this but it has merit.