The road to college
Students are ready for the end of a school year that has been marked with so much uncertainty and upheaval – education officials and school districts going back and forth between opening campuses and then resuming remote learning because of infection surges; teachers unions refusing to let their members return to campus until everyone has been fully vaccinated and schools have coronavirus testing in place; parents who are divided into two camps: those who want their children taught in school because it’s what’s best for them and those who want to continue remote learning because they don’t think schools can keep their children safe from COVID-19.
Whether your children returned on campus to finish what little was left of the schoolyear or stayed with distance learning, they must be relieved to finally get done.
Some schools are considering offering enhanced summer programs that combine academic courses with outdoor and sports activities that hadn’t been available. Academic experts have long worried about learning loss during the lengthy summer break which, inarguably, has been brought into sharper focus during distance learning. Now, more than any other year, you should encourage your children to enroll.
This is the last call for your ninth graders who need to improve their grades! GPA is the most important component of your children’s college application. If their marks are not adequate for college acceptance requirements, they need to confer with their college counselors to arrange for remedial summer classes.
By June, almost every Californian will likely be vaccinated and business will reopen. We will presumably have some kind of normalcy in our lives that will allow us to resume some of our summer activities. Encourage your children to speak with their grade level dean to figure out possible internships.
Your children should begin planning summer volunteer activities. Admissions officers look for students who have demonstrated sustained community service in a few well-chosen areas. It isn’t the quantity of activities but the quality that’s important – they want to gauge the depth of students’ intellectual and ethical engagement to a given cause. The summer after their freshman year is the time for your children to find activities that truly speak to their interest and passion. Let them choose one that really resonates with them which they should carry through their four years in high school.
Because we haven’t been able to go anywhere or seen anyone for 14 months, your children could be tempted to spend the summer months hanging out with their friends. While I know they deserve to get their social life back, they should also schedule some time for reading books. Encourage them to explore various genres and different authors. At the very least, reading will help them expand their vocabulary and expose them to different writing styles. This will come in handy when they write their personal statement and supplementary essays for their college application.
Sophomore year is when your children have fully transitioned into high school. They are comfortable about how this phase fits into the whole secondary school experience. They have taken the practice PSAT, as a preparation for junior year when the results determine their eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship. They have also taken some AP tests, if they took an AP course.
Hopefully, your children have also done well in their studies, have maintained good grades this entire year, and have prepared for final exams. Admissions officers expect grades that are consistent, and if their freshman marks weren’t that great, their sophomore grades should at least show improvement over last year’s.
Make sure your children have lined up their summer activities. They will probably have more choices than they had the summer of freshman year during social distancing, but they should try for something related to what they did last year. Admissions officers want to see commitment to a particular interest and, given the circumstances, they will really appreciate your children’s effort.
Make sure your children have registered to take all the required standardized tests for college admissions. While standardized tests are not required by the Cal State and UC systems, they are still part of the application for some and, if your children are applying through early action or early decision to these schools, they need to take the SAT or ACT this summer.
Your children’s final grades are extremely important! Eleventh grade is the last complete year that college admissions officers will see on the application and they expect grades that are either consistent with, or better than, the first two years.
The high school graduation is a rite-of-passage that signifies a teenager’s first step into adulthood. I hope that your children’s school has some kind of celebration and a virtual commencement exercise planned, should an in-person graduation not be deemed safe.
If your children are still sweating it on the waitlist of their first-choice college, they need to ensure their final grades are terrific! They should keep up with all their schoolwork and send the college admissions officers any updates on awards and honors they receive. They should ask their college counselor if an additional letter of recommendation might be helpful. Keeping in touch with the admissions office reinforces their interest in attending the school if accepted.
They should have put a deposit on their second-choice school to guarantee them a place for the incoming class in the fall. Although, if they come off the waitlist on their first choice, they will lose this deposit.
Be there for your children to support them whatever the outcome of their college application. It has been a significant phase of reaching adulthood and an important learning experience. In the end, though, what matters is not where they have been accepted. The college they attend will not guarantee success in the real world; it’s how they use their education that determines how well they do in life.