MASTERs Plus Tutoring Program’s 12 Months of College Prep: September

by Zena Smith

CollegeMoveAs this year’s seniors return from summer break to walk the halls of high school one last time, they may be thinking—and you might, too—that the countdown to college is finally on. By this time next year, those same seniors will have become the small fish in a big pond . . . assuming, of course, that everything goes smoothly at the admission office! 

There is still plenty of time for graduating seniors to make or break their higher ed wishes. Application essays must be written, standardized tests must be taken, and scholarships still need be applied for. When you think about it all at once, the whole idea of making college happen becomes a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be. The road to college can be as smooth or as bumpy as you make it. However, the key to a smooth ride might be simpler than you think. The trick is to take things one month at a time!

During the next twelve months, MASTERs Plus will provide a monthly road map to help you and your graduating senior navigate the path from home to higher ed. We’ll let you know everything you should be doing each month to make the college application process smoother and more successful and to ensure that your student is ready for the big leap, come next fall!

September

For you, September may mean the return of football season and long-awaited peace and relaxation as your students return to the classroom. But for your college-bound high school senior, September is as busy a month as any. To strengthen the chances of being accepted and receiving much-needed scholarships, your student should have a clear college prep regimen—at school, at home, and even on the weekends.

At School

College-bound or not, your student will spend much of the next nine months in school. Despite their goals for the future, students must still attend to their obligations now, which includes being at school nearly 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. If they’re goal is to make the next step to college, the best way to get there is to make the most of their time in and around the classroom.

Go Hard at Academics
Yes, there is still time to drop a blemish on that report card your student has worked so hard toward perfecting. And alternatively, there is plenty of time to improve if your student’s GPA isn’t where they hoped it would be. Among the many things college admissions officers look at, grades are almost always near the top of the list. They say a lot about a candidate for admission, so use this first month of school to start strong. If the option is there, enroll in AP coursework. Ensure that no homework goes unfinished, studying gets ample attention, and classroom attendance is on point. Making that first impression starts now!

Meet with Guidance Counselors
A guidance counselor is one of those resources that all our students have but few of them use to the fullest. A good counselor can do a lot more than many of us realize. They can help match a student’s strengths and interests to an appropriate college major and career path. They can answer important questions about the benefits and drawbacks of certain schools or majors. And they can ensure that all your student’s questions about paperwork, deadlines, and the rest of the admission process are answered. This September, ask your student to make an appointment with their counselor. You won’t regret it, and neither will they!

Seek Support (aka Recommendations) from Trusted Teachers
Every student has a favorite teacher, and very often that relationship goes both ways. When you think about it, the only person who spends nearly as much time with your student as you do, are their teachers! Believe it or not, a teacher often has great insight into the things that make students tick as well as unique strengths and talents that even parents don’t always know about.

One of the best ways to make an impression on an application is to include glowing letters of recommendation from people who know your students work and work ethic. In fact, some college admissions offices require it. And who better than a teacher to provide such a recommendation? This month, encourage your student to put in a request with a teacher who can speak well of them. This will provide ample time for the teacher to write the letter and ensure that they don’t run out of time or aren’t put off by a last-minute request.

At Home

Not all college prep can be done within the confines of the classroom. To be sure that the application process goes as well as possible, some work will have to be done at home—and that’s not a bad thing!

Register for the TEST
Some students may not want or need to take the SAT to get into the school of their dreams. There are schools that simply don’t require it, while others make SAT scores optional. However, if your student is interested in a variety of great universities (including many Ivy League and East-coast schools), they’ll need to bolster their application with an SAT score, and a good one at that! Check the admissions requirements for all schools your student wishes to apply to. If an SAT score is required, now is the time to apply!

Similarly, your student might be in a position to retake the ACT (or take it for the first time). In the likely event that their score is not where they’d like it to be, an October re-test can be a life saver! Find out when and where the closest test date falls, get registered, and get down to studying!

Set an Agenda
The only thing worse than a rejection letter is a missed deadline! With the countdown to college in full effect, now is the time to make sure that all deadlines are on your student’s calendar. Early decision, early action, standardized test registration, and college application deadlines are ALL important to keep in mind as your student sets sail for higher ed. If it helps, purchase a calendar or agenda so you can make sure all important dates are accounted for and don’t slip through the cracks!

Begin Plotting Your Admissions Essay
No college application is complete without a well-crafted admissions essay. If your grades and extracurriculars leave admissions officers in doubt, the easiest way to sway their opinion in your favor is to write a memorable essay. Need some tips on how to develop an admissions essay? We’ve got you covered!

On the Weekends

Good things often take time, and we all know that time is one thing that students don’t have a lot of . . . at least not during the week! The weekends are a great time for your student to take the extra steps that will distinguish them from other candidates when application season arrives.

Beef Up Your Resume With Extracurriculars
Admissions officers don’t just want students who can get good grades; they also look for students who have proven leadership skills and show themselves to be ambitious. While no resume guarantees acceptance to a school, the presence of volunteer experience and participation in extracurriculars will make a strong impression on any application reader. Have your student use the remaining warm weather to volunteer for a personal cause, join a club or sports team, or otherwise prove that they are able and willing to lead. What better way to use a weekend in September?

Attend a College Visit
College visits are more than a right of passage for high school seniors. It’s one of the best ways to make sure that your student’s school of choice is the right fit for them. It’s also a lovely opportunity for students to meet the professors they’ll be learning from and the students they’ll be sitting alongside a year from now. Don’t let business or bashfulness stand in the way of a chance to make sure your student is on the right path. Most colleges offer easy campus visit registration processes, so jump right in! Your student will be there and back before they know it—and all in a single weekend!

As the clock ticks down on your student’s high school career, it’s time to seize every opportunity to improve their chances of getting into college—and getting into the college that they want! September is a busy month for college prep, but if you follow the right steps, your chances of finding a happy higher-ed home become better than you may have ever expected. Use it wisely, and we’ll see you in October!

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