the truth is that preparations should begin long before junior year, and experts even recommend getting elementary-age kids on the right track. Keep these tips in mind as you travel through our college planning timeline.
For many college juniors, spring is test time. Testing for the ACT or SAT or preparing for financial aid applications takes time and effort.
But the truth is that preparations should begin long before junior year, and experts even recommend getting elementary-age kids on the right track. According to Lance Millis, assistant director of Student Academic Services for the College of Education at Oklahoma State University, folks can ease this long process by knowing a few things.
“The two most important components are the knowledge that this will be a lengthy process and a shared responsibility between student and parent,” says Millis, who advises families daily through his website, www.collegeprep101.com. “Open, constant communication helps prevent an expectations gap that can make everyone unhappy.”
Keep those components in mind as you travel through our college planning timeline.
Elementary school, ages 6-12. It’s never too early to start preparing today’s youth for college, says Millis, who suggests that creating “college ideation” for children is imperative.
“In my mind, one of the most important things you can do toward this end is to make college a part of their life, one of their expectations and something they learn about, talk about and hear about throughout their young life,” says Millis.
Now is also the time parents should begin making regular monthly contributions to a college savings account.
Middle school, ages 13-14. When it comes to middle schoolers, kids should be encouraged to dig deep into all of their interests. The best way to do this, Millis says, is to have them read everything they can get their hands on.
Encourage them to think about their interests in terms of a future career, or seek out volunteer opportunities within those areas of interests.
“It’s not too early to start visiting colleges, either,” says Millis.
High school: freshman and sophomore years, ages 15-16. Millis advises that now is the time to start building a resume with extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities and even taking jobs that fall within your interests. Students should be registered for a college preparatory curriculum, focus and study hard, as grades will count toward college beginning now.
Once sophomore year commences, kids should take the PLAN and PSAT tests and devote time to Internet research on schools. Parents should assist kids with attending on-campus events whenever possible, while ensuring they maintain good grades and work or volunteer.
High school: junior year, age 17. During junior year, school research, including the Internet and campus visits, is a must. Millis advises to maintain a strong course schedule and explore different careers by talking with professionals or working in their areas.
“Strengthen your resume with increasing responsibility and a record of accomplishment,” says Millis. “Build a scholarship information collection to be used next year.”
High school: senior year, age 18. Early in the school year, students should maximize test scores for application purposes.
“Continue to maintain a challenging curriculum and fine-tune your resume,” says Millis. “Narrow down choices and apply to several colleges in the fall.”
If possible, make second visits to serious-contender schools and seek valued opinions from family and trusted friends. Lastly, Millis recommends becoming “best friends” with guidance counselors to ensure timely scholarship notifications.