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Preparing Your Freshman For College Admissions

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Preparing Your Freshman for College Admissions

By: Meredith Eastman Principe- Campus Bound

What should my child be doing during the early years of high school to pave the way to college?

Although college seems far away to most high school underclassmen and their parents, the entire high school record counts for college admissions.  Any earlier accomplishments or difficulties are cleared away and students are given a fresh start in high school.  They have three years to accumulate the academic and co-curricular credentials on which colleges will base their admission decisions. 

Time and time again, we’re asked by parents of high school freshmen and sophomores questions about their children’s involvement in extra-curricular activities.  How many activities should they be involved in?  What if they no longer want to continue with piano lessons?  Is it better to be involved in community service or play a sport? 

Although colleges like to see students who are involved in their school and community, the first thing that an admissions officer is going to look at is the student’s transcript.  How strong of a curriculum does the student have?  What grades has the student earned?  Has the student challenged himself?  More often than not, the student must first meet the academic qualifications of the school before extra-curricular involvement is even considered. 

Therefore, encourage your son or daughter to do well academically even as early as the freshman year of high school.  Unfortunately, a lot of students don’t understand that even their freshman year grades factor into their overall cumulative GPA the same amount as their sophomore and junior year grades do.  Instead, many students think they can wait until junior or senior year to start doing well in high school.  As a result, it’s critical for parents to encourage their children to challenge themselves academically while performing to the best of their abilities. 

After emphasizing academics, consider extra-curricular involvements.  There are no formulas or exact amounts of involvement that do or don’t work when it comes to college admissions.  Parents should encourage their children to get involved in activities that they enjoy.  Colleges review involvement to gain a sense of students’ passions, interpersonal skills, leadership abilities, and interests.  They do not seek only the students with lengthy resumes or impressive accomplishments; they want to admit students who will be involved on their campuses and will contribute to their communities in positive ways.

And finally, parents and students should be taking steps toward understanding the financial side of a college education.  Parents need to continue to save for college as aggressively as possible during the early high school years.  There is a misconception that saving will significantly reduce your chances for need-based aid.  In fact, depending on how you save, the impact can be relatively minor.  Parents should take the time to learn about how the financial aid system works and plan accordingly.  By understanding your likely costs {which can be different than someone else’s} it can help you to set expectations with your child and minimize friction and long-term debt in the future.