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Finishing Junior Year Strong – 5 Tips Every Parent Should Know

As a parent of a junior in high school, you might think you have plenty of time before college applications are due next fall. But I promise you, that time will fly by. We all know college applications are a big deal. We’re talking $100,000s in scholarships, the research opportunities available at elite universities, and of course those eventual job offers. They all depend on a stellar application. Now you’re saying, “Yeah, Jessica, I know that, but what can I do to help my student create the best possible college applications?”

Following these 5 tips will help you get your child into the best possible position for next year.

1. Study for the ACT or SAT

It is so important for parents to understand how valuable these tests are when it comes to the college application and scholarships. They’re generally equivalent to your students grades, and those get 3 or 3.5 years of focus! It’s also a great motivator for students to point out how differences in a few points on the ACT or a few hundred points on the SAT can equal $10,000s if not $100,000s in scholarship money.  

If your student hasn’t already started studying, start today. Make sure they go through official practice exams from the test makers. If they need it, look for a tutor or class for them to feel really prepared. You don’t want to put this off until senior fall when you have all of the applications to put together.

2. Connect with Your Counselor

This is a great time to touch base with your student’s high school college counselor or, better yet, encourage your student to schedule a sit down with them. They can help you and your student figure out a good fit college list early. This can help you start pulling deadlines together. Your counselor may be able to give your student guidance on what might be missing in their profile and how to fill in those gaps between now and when applications are due.  

We all know high school counselors are spread thin, and you might want to think about getting an independent college application coach for your student. If you think you might want outside help, now is a great time to research online, ask friends, and meet with coaches to see if one is right for your family.

3. Plan for the Summer

The summer after junior year is one of the most important summers for college applications. Students must take advantage of this time. Parents can encourage their students to apply for both local and national internships, college courses and programs, and volunteer positions or look for job shadowing opportunities or start a personal project. There are so many things students can do over the summer, and I’d encourage doing several of them.

Some of my favorite summer options, that I took advantage of myself, are the summer programs put on by universities, like the WashU Summer Scholars Program that I attended. A lot of these deadlines are coming up, but your student still has time to apply. These are great because your student can demonstrate they are ready for college by doing well in actual college courses. Many also have generous financial aid, so don’t let the price tag scare you off from applying.

4. Look for Leadership Roles

This is the time of high school that students should be looking for ways to demonstrate and improve their leadership skills. That could be in clubs or extracurriculars that they are involved in at school. My favorite way, though, is to start their own clubs, organizations, volunteer efforts, or projects. This not only shows leadership, but also entrepreneurship and is a great way for your student to set themselves apart in the application.

As a parent, you can really help your student go after these leadership roles by connecting them to mentors and sponsors who can help get their vision off the ground. You can also brainstorm with them, asking them what they like and how they want to make an impact. These kind of activities can make the difference between getting in and getting rejected. They can also be worth $100,000s in scholarship money, so make sure your student is taking this time seriously and going after those leadership opportunities.

5. Shine in the Classroom

Junior year really matters on that college application. Not only that, but your child will be asking for teacher recommendations next year. Being a standout student could help them get a really glowing rec that puts their application over the top. Make sure your child knows how important these grades are for college applications. If they’re struggling, get them help!

Remember shining in the classroom isn’t just about grades. Students can demonstrate leadership and kindness in the classroom as well and that will be sure to come across in teacher recommendations.  

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