Getting ready for college can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start, let alone what needs to be done. Whether you want to do it for your children or they want to do it themselves, it can get really complicated. So, where do you begin? What needs to be done? And what resources do you have? Take a deep breath; you’ve found a great place to start!
The earlier you can start, the better. Sure, you see jokes about the sixteen-year-old who stresses over their favorite college. But, that isn’t necessarily a bad idea. You don’t want to stress over it, but starting early is a good way to make sure you are making the right choice, and it’s a good motivator! Start thinking about SATs and transcripts for college. Some colleges even want you to write something about why you should be chosen to attend. Or even recommendation letters.
The earlier to consider this and start working on it, the better! This way you know you have everything you need and plenty of time if you need to find a new college to apply for or something is missing.
Talk to a Counselor
That’s what they are there for. There used to be a requirement for counselors to talk to every student about their goals and how to get there. Now, the schools are so populated that almost seems impossible. So, ask when you can set an appointment. Make sure that there is a good amount of time, so you aren’t rushed. Talk about schools, grades, tests, and anything else that might seem like a concern. You can also ask about things you should be working on or anything they might recommend. It looks really good to have a letter of recommendation from your counselor and teachers, so you can throw that in while you are there! If you don’t cover everything you want to or think you will need to check back in, ask about scheduling another appointment before you leave.
Talk to Teachers
You will want a letter of recommendation from them, anyway. While you are asking, ask which colleges they like. If they teach a class related to the field you want to pursue, you can ask them which you should look for. Perhaps even courses you should take or if you should have a minor, that would be beneficial. It never hurts to ask for help or ideas. And in many cases, that can be what makes life a little easier for you in the long run. And if you decide not to run with those ideas, it’s not a problem. The teacher will be impressed that you asked and it might even make for a better letter of recommendation!
Setup a Plan
It’s always good to have a plan. Use a Student Organizer or even if it is just a small sheet of paper you can look at with simple tasks or a checklist, it will help a lot. Make sure you put it up someplace visible and easily accessible. If there are deadlines for the tasks, this is a good place to note them. If there aren’t any deadlines, you can still add them as a checkpoint. This will help ensure that you are hitting all of your milestones and tasks in the time needed to make any application deadlines. The more detailed the list, the better. And if you can break them down into smaller tasks, that might help a lot. Sometimes a task can seem daunting and make something seem a little scary or stressful. For example, instead of just writing down a deadline for your application, break it down into things you need to send with it. Any type of documents, an essay; they can all be individual tasks! This way you are hitting smaller tasks along the way. If you put everything in the same box or folder as they are done, you’ll have your entire packet put together by the deadline! No sweat!
Following these steps will take a little of the pressure off of the senior year. And that year is meant to be fun! Sure, college is important. But, it shouldn’t be enough to cause overwhelming stress and put a damper on those memories. Being prepared is important, and you’re already taking the first step by doing your research! The rest will fall into place, and you’ll realize that it isn’t as scary as it seems. College will be here before you know it and getting accepted is just the beginning. It’s an important beginning and a stressful one, but it will be just a brief memory soon. Senior year will offer you more memories that will stay with you longer. You want to cherish that, too!
By Dave Monaco
Dave Monaco has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He has put his M.A.T. to great use as the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders who will impact our global society. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time.