The New College Try: How to Find the Right College For Your High School Student
Local educators share tips for helping your high school student find the right college.
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Rising sophomores should take the time to process how they’re charting, curriculum-wise.
“They should feel that they are in the right courses,” Maslar says. “If they’re doing the best they can, they at least should be able to get a B. But I’m also asking them, what takes up your time? And I don’t want to hear, ‘Facebook.’ Who are you? Who do you want to be? Who do you not want to be?” Finding the answers to questions like these, Maslar says, is an important step toward ensuring students are well-matched with the college they eventually attend.
“A catch phrase in admissions right now is ‘passion,’” says Lauck. “It’s one that’s been around, but colleges really want kids who are passionate about those couple of things they do really well. So for some of our kids, they will be specialists; and for some of them, they will be good all-arounders, and I’m always telling the kids throughout upper school, choose the two or three things that you love best, and rise to the level of leadership. So if you start writing for the student newspaper as a sophomore, perhaps you’re a section editor your junior year, and by senior year, you’re taking on the editor-in-chief role. Nurture those passions.”
While Lauck says it’s important for sophomores to just keep their heads down and work, it’s also OK to move around a little.
“I encourage them to do that, to try new things,” she says. The summer of sophomore year is a perfect time to participate in constructive non-academic activities.
“We have a great legacy of students going on to interesting summer camps,” she says. “Music, art, theater.”
While students are participating in culture-enriching programming, pencils shouldn’t be far from reach.
“This is the time to start developing your writing and really start to care about it,” Lauck says. “One of the things that many studies have shown us is that students who are good writers turn into adults who are good writers, which turns into a much more successful career. Care about the level and quality of research you do. Make sure that becomes a life-long habit.”
It’s also the time for students to begin sitting for standardized testing, like the PSAT.
“The whole idea is if you expose students early to what is required, they get over the anxiety and get a baseline understanding of the testing,” says Maslar.
This is also the time to bring mom and dad into the mix, she suggests, to begin the conversations about exactly how much it’s going to cost. “If I have parents here, I will look at them and say, ‘Where does the dollar play?’ It helps me help them.”
Thanks to federal law under the Obama administration, all schools are now required to post net-price calculators on their websites. “Click around to different sites and use them,” Maslar says. She also urges sophomores to stop in and speak with either their guidance counselor or college placement counselor.
“It can be overwhelming,” she says. “Sometimes students feel too anxious to come in because they think, ‘Well, I don’t
really know anything about any of this’ and they get so nervous. We are not here to judge. We’re here to help.”
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