Preparing a child for college is a process that should be started when your child enters high school. Aside from understanding mandatory credits and courses required for high school graduation, make sure to keep these other college essentials in mind:
1. SAT/ACT: Most colleges have a minimum score required for admittance. The minimum score varies, but the higher your child scores, the more colleges your child will have to select from. The sooner your child prepares for these standardized tests, the better he or she will score. Don’t wait until your child’s junior year to brush up on SAT skills. Starting as early as the 9th grade will get your child accustomed to the types of questions involved, and will help keep your child’s math skills fresh. Geometry is a course that is easily forgotten after having taken the course, but will constitue a good portion of the Math SAT test. There are plenty of free online SAT resources. Take advantage of them early. If the school year is too busy, make it a summer project.
2. Extra Curricular Activities: Most college applications require a “resume” that shows your child’s activities outside of basic classes. Make sure your child is not only involved, but takes leadership responsibility in some areas. My daughter cheers for a competition team, and between practices and traveling to competitions, this takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, if this is the only thing she can put on her resume, it will look quite bare. Activities don’t always have to be as time consuming as this (or any other) sport. Volunteer work is a good way to build a resume. Many volunteer services, such as helping out with a church bake sale fundraiser, only take a few hours and don’t require a year long committment. Every activity helps. Just be sure to start and update your college resume on a regular basis. By the time you’re ready to fill out college applications, this will already be done.
3. Grades: Aside from advanced math classes and foreign language taken in middle school, your child’s grades will start being recorded in the form of a GPA starting from the 9th grade. In general, most colleges have a GPA requirement around a 3.4. This is the equivalent of making 3 A’s and 4 B’s If your child’s report card is usally full of B’s and C’s, it will be difficult to find a good college. It is possible for a C student to start pulling A’s in some classes, so look online for tips on how to help your child academically. It may be as simple as keeping up with a homework routine. Or, with my C average children, it helped to undestand their work load. For example, my daughter will always struggle with Social Studies, but she is a little stronger in math. We’ve put a little extra effort in math to make sure that stays an A, and she maintains a B in Social Studies. Same with Art, Health and Spanish. My daugher finds it fairly easy to maintain A’s in those particular classes, so those 3 A’s will help offset that C she might get in Science. In other words, make your child’s strengths their A classes. That way, if they have 2 or 3 B or C classes, those A’s will keep their GPA in the range colleges are looking for.
4. Job: Encourage your child to find a job and fill some, if not all, of the responsibility for paying for their college. Working even once a week, or only during summers, will not only give them work experience, but if taught how to save, it will help them learn to manage their own money and build a small college fund. It is also a good opportunity to each the basics of checkbook balancing. Consider getting a credit card (with a very low limit that is only used for the sole purpose of building your child’s credit history).
5. Life Skills: Go beyond academics and understand that your child will need to know basic cooking, cleaning, sewing and laundry skills. These are skills that are needed not simply for college, but for the rest of their lives.