The road to college
Your children have just weathered what is possibly the greatest upheaval in their young lives. The coronavirus crisis has affected all of us in ways we’ve never before experienced. But summer has brought with it renewed energy as the economy reopens and people resume their usual activities.
Many seniors actually enjoyed in-person proms and graduations, all rites-of-passage not to be missed. There are also promising data from Challenger, Gray, & Christmas that suggest summer jobs will be plentiful this year.
As we cautiously get back to normal, or the new normal, encourage your children to focus on the main objective during their high school years – build impressive resumes to look attractive to admissions officers. They should be in some enjoyable classes, recreational camps, or professional internships to spend their time productively. There are test-prep courses students can take during summer to get them ready for all the standardized exams required for their college application. Today’s high school kids want to be as good as, if not better than, their classmates. Nowhere is this cutthroat competition more apparent than in the western San Gabriel Valley where a record number of students are getting perfect scores on the APs, ACTs, and SATs.
High School is going to be an exciting phase in your children’s academic life – especially after having spent a year-and-a-half of remote learning. Having completed middle school and their tween years where they found their identity, they are now ready to assert themselves in this new environment.
If your children have not shown much interest in reading during their elementary or middle school years, you need to encourage them to spend this month reading – just for the sheer pleasure of it. Persuade them to look for different authors and genres, familiarizing themselves with various styles and themes will help them find their own voice. Reading will expand their vocabulary as they gain maturity in their writing and that will prepare them for composing their personal statement. They need to practice writing essays, a staple in high school courses. Brianna Chu, a writer for Hey SoCal and tutor at Mundo Academy, wrote a blog on essay writing which your children might find useful.
Now is the time for your children to start developing time management and study skills that will help them succeed in high school. A recently published article “A Review of New Research on Study Skills and Time Management Benefits” also written by Brianna Chu, delves into these topics.
As mentioned above, summer is an opportune time for reading. Encourage your children to spend part of their day to this pleasurable and educational pursuit.
Now that the economy has reopened, your children should find an enrichment program or perform community service work related to something they are passionate about. Sustained effort and interest in one particular cause show that your children are sincere, and not just padding their resumes.
If your children are so inclined, they can start researching colleges. They can go online and get virtual campus tours of most colleges or universities.
Your children should be preparing themselves for one of the busiest years of their high school career. They should be immersed in community service work, professional internships, and enrichment programs. Likewise, they can research colleges and go online to get virtual campus tours. This will also give your children some idea about the college application process.
Summer is the perfect time for them to read extensively to expand their vocabulary and prepare them for writing their essay for the college application.
This is the year that will test your and your children’s mettle. Be prepared for the marathon (which actually started in the spring of their junior year). They should still be continuing the community service work they began back in their freshman year, getting an internship, or looking for avenues to use their talent.
If your children didn’t get the chance to do an in-person college visit, this summer would be the perfect opportunity to do so if you’re all fully vaccinated. I’m sure that, like the majority of us who have felt cooped-up during the pandemic, you’re excited to pack your bags and travel. When my daughter was applying to colleges, we incorporated the campus tours with our summer vacation.
They should also be thinking about their personal statement. Likewise, some universities require a supplementary essay specific to them, with topics that range from the practical to the philosophical. Admissions officers are constantly on the lookout for something fresh and original in applicants’ compositions. However, it requires a certain amount of creativity and proficient writing skill to come up with a treatise that will impress seasoned readers.
That said, your children might also find some time to actually enjoy this summer before they get swallowed up by the vortex of college applications.
Unless your children are spending this summer agonizing because they’re waitlisted at their first choice school, they must be very excited to have completed high school and are anxiously looking forward to the next phase of their education. By this time, they should have put in the deposit on the college they plan to attend. Some colleges will be sending out the procedures for class registrations, information on housing, meal specifics, and such other details to the incoming class.
Let your children take the lead on the college moving arrangements and only offer guidance when they ask for it. In all likelihood, your children will be moving away from home, maybe going to the other side of the country. They need to practice being on their own and the preparations for moving will be a good place to start.
If your children will be attending a university across the Atlantic, as my daughter did, there is a whole set of preparations you have to attend to. Applying for a student visa should be your priority as it could take a month to secure. You and your college-bound student need to communicate closely with the school as their requirements may differ greatly from those of American universities.
Email or call the university to know when to wire the tuition and other college fees. Make sure your student has the necessary information on how to register for classes, how to apply for housing, and what essentials to bring to school. Research where to find items – including beddings (sizes are different from what’s standard here) and small electric appliances (voltage and shape of plug are different) – that your student will need. Knowing beforehand what stores you have to visit saves time.
Going to school in another country takes more preparation, so make sure you have enough time to spend helping your children settle into their new environment. When my daughter left for college in the U.K., we arrived there three weeks prior to ‘freshers week.’ We opened her bank accounts, shopped for household items, and familiarized ourselves with the area (nearest grocery stores and hospital to her housing, for instance).
For most parents, sending their children away to college across the country is difficult enough. Letting 18-year olds live on their own 5,000 miles away for four years is almost unthinkable. It takes a great deal of courage, on your part and your children’s, to make that plunge. But you’ll find that they grow into confident, responsible, and self-reliant adults and it was the best decision you both made.
At this juncture, let me address another situation. If your children weren’t accepted to any school they applied to, then they have to decide if they want to attend a community college. Most of these institutions will accept new students close to enrolment time. Some of them have arrangements with the UC system so graduates can attend a UC school for their junior and senior year. This has the double advantage of ensuring your children get a college diploma from a four-year university and saving on the cost of their education.
There are some instances when your children might gain admission during the spring term to their first-choice school (this scenario happens if the university wants to keep their ranking and your children did not receive a perfect SAT score but they met all the other requirements for admission. If your children have highly desirable qualities that will enhance the university’s student body, they will wait until after their school has been ranked so your kids’ SAT scores will no longer affect their place). Confer with your children’s college counselor about how to accomplish this.
Some college applicants who are on waitlist on their dream university, ask to be deferred (this will only work if your children met all the academic qualifications for admission to the school with only the problem of the university not having the space for your student this year).
Of course, there is the option to take a gap year after high school. Last year, many students deferred going to college because they felt that paying a full tuition isn’t worth the price when schools may not reopen their campuses and classes may be held remotely. Waiting until campuses reopen offers them the full experience of freshman year.
In a strange twist, The New York Times education Briefing reported two weeks ago that “law schools experienced a surge in applicants over the past year, driven by a mixture of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, the presidential election and the Black Lives Matter movement. To ease the load, many schools have promised that scholarships will be in place for students if they choose to defer. A few are offering financial incentives. Duke promised $5,000 to students who accepted a ‘binding deferral’ and promised to go next year. Columbia University also dangled money in front of some students: $30,000 if they deferred. The school focused on recent graduates and also offered some career placement help, like two sessions with a career counselor and a list of open jobs.”
Pre-pandemic, one of my daughter’s classmates used her gap year performing charity work in Africa. This noble use of a gap year can help your children stand out in a sea of similar-looking applicants. Several universities consider this as a major boost in an applicant’s resume. Admissions officers tend to see the student in better light – this person has some tangible experience to bring in and, therefore, adds to the school make-up.
Whether your high school graduate is going directly to college, going by the community college route, or taking a gap year, recognize their decision as a first step towards their independence.