Start Thinking About College — This Summer!

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

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While I would never suggest forgoing your favorite family beach trip or backyard barbecue, it’s never too early to start prepping for college, and summer can be the perfect time to get a leg up.

Here are some things to consider while soaking up summer rays:

Starting Early and Thinking “Big Picture.”  

The earlier you can start to think about college prep, the better. Even before high school, there are some pretty simple big-picture questions you can be asking yourself that’ll help best prepare your child:

  • How is your child doing academically? Are there areas where he or she needs extra help?
  • How well-rounded is your child’s schedule, in and out of the classroom? Look at the overall balance, and consider including arts as well as academics, along with extracurricular activities and community service.

It may not be easy to talk your children into taking extra classes or college classes earlier, but let them know it will make their first year of college less overwhelming and allow for a more gradual change. The extra effort also makes a big impression on college admissions officers, which is always a plus!

  • Summer, weekend and/or after-school classes are always an option, if your child is up for it!
  • Who doesn’t want to save on college costs? Sometimes it’s possible to rack up college credits by taking college-level courses during high school, at lower or covered costs. Check with guidance counselors about dual-enrollment options with a local college.

Prep for the Prep. Plan for a Retake.

Winging it won’t work. As your kids prepare for college and admission tests, look for classes and other resources that will help them excel at those tests.

  • Like anything else, practice makes perfect! College prep tests are like marathons — they’re long and exhausting, and you really need to practice before you try to run one.
  • Plan to take the tests early so if your child needs another try, this can be an option. You can retake your SATs and ACTs. In fact, many kids take these tests more than once, for the first time in the spring of their junior year, and then again in the fall of their senior year.

Make it a Team Sport

Don’t crush yourself with all the paperwork and prep; get the whole family involved to share the load.

  • Consider adding rewards and incentives to make the process more pleasant. Took that practice SAT? Make it movie night! Celebrate the small steps you complete along the journey, as well as the big ones.
  • Keep your eye on the ball. When you guys get frustrated, indulge in some fantasy time, visualizing the super-cool college your kid will be attending.

Get a head start on college prep now, and it will set you and your teen up for a smooth road ahead. You’ll thank yourself later!

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