Preparing for College

When does college prep really begin? Some people begin in their student’s junior or senior year. Is this soon enough?

Planning for college is essential for meeting all of the course requirements for admission. Several factors come into play, and you should consider each of them well before a student’s junior year of high school.

The first concern is your child’s desire to go to college. Beginning in middle school, talk with her about college. She will begin thinking about the possibilities for education and career. Encourage her to explore many options. One way is to have her talk to professionals you know. You will probably notice that she mentions some career choices more often than others. Help her set some long-range goals, but be prepared for them to change.

When your child begins the seventh or eighth grade, work with a school counselor or teacher to prepare your child for high school classes that will be required. This is a steppingstone to college prep, and it helps children learn to set and meet goals. When high school starts, take the same steps with teachers and counselors, and outline an academic program that includes college prep courses.

Students often don’t worry about grades until their junior year of high school, but it is important to recognize that every grade from freshman year on is important. However, a poor performance early on can be overcome. It is essential that students not become discouraged and quit trying. Parents, teachers, counselors and tutors can all help a student turn around a lagging performance. Colleges will take into account any improvement during high school years. In addition to required classes and grades, colleges will look for good attendance records.

Finally, if you did not set up a college fund when your child was young, start now. Research financial aid options, including loans, and learn where your family stands in terms of financial need. It is also a good idea to have your child set aside in a college fund part of any money she earns or receives as a gift.

Every college has its own special set of requirements and expectations. Check with college admissions offices and with guidance counselors to find out specific needs. There are also a number of Web sites providing college preparation information. You may want to try.