College Preparation & Planning

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For Parents


Guide your child toward positive study habits to help him prepare for college. Your child's academic record is an important deciding factor for college admissions officers. Show your child how to set up a calendar with upcoming due dates. Help him create to-do lists to prioritize his time and complete tasks in a timely manner.

If your child is struggling with grades, help him with his work, encourage him to talk to his teacher and get involved in your child's school and activities. In addition to a high grade point average, many colleges require that prospective students complete specific courses in high school before applying for admission. Therefore, it is important that you help your child choose classes that will help him when applying to college, such as advanced placement classes that offer college credit and foreign language classes.

One of the most powerful things you can do as a parent is be informed.  More than just your student's current grades, do you know your student's overall or cumulative Grade Point Average?  Do you know their rank and quartile?  This is a very important point to monitor throughout your child's high school career as these indicators can help your students often receive guaranteed admission into state flagship colleges and universities (ex: University of Texas or Texas A&M University) and potentially scholarship.  Your student's campus counselor is able to provide you with an update of your student's GPA, rank and quartile at the end of every academic year, if not semester.

There are programs in SBISD that offer parents and students support and training on college prep.  Contact you campus for details on how you can sign up or participate.  Click here to read more about SBISD's SpringBoard and Collegiate Challenge programs.

Extracurricular Activities

Colleges and universities seek well-rounded students who are involved in extra-curricular activities. They want to admit students to their institution who will add value to their campus life and college community.  A significant indicator for admissions counselors is how involved a student has been on their own high school campuses and in their communities.  If a student has been an active part of their high school's energy and school spirit, it's likely that they will become active on their college campuses.  This not only helps the college campus life, but also means that the students will find a place where they "belong" much quicker which means they will feel connected to their college quickly.  A student who finds and feels a connection to their college campus is a student who is most likely to graduate.  And that, of course, is what colleges want most.

Encourage your child to take part in school activities and volunteer opportunities. If your child enjoys swimming, encourage her to join the swim team at school. If your child is interested in foreign languages, encourage her to join the Spanish club.

Extracurricular activities do not stop at the school entrance or on the last day of school.  What a student does during their summers is just as important, if not more, than what they do during the school year.  Encourage your child to participate in summer enrichment programs.  There are hundreds of programs that take place in the city, in the state and in the country and world that your student can participate in.  From study abroad programs (many that offer partial and scholarships) to academic programs, from athletic programs to internships, your student's participation in programs that require an application and acceptance will make their college resume very strong.  If your student is able to participate in a formal summer enrichment program, suggest they take a trip abroad during the summer and document what they do, see and feel.  Oftentimes the best college essays come from these experiences.  Volunteering and strongly participating in their church community will also help your student - youth groups, bible study, retreat teams, choir, etc.  All of these help form an image of what is important to your child and can and will help them in college admissions.  And lastly, encourage your child to volunteer at the library, food bank, mission shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes or hospital.

Testing - Attention Junior Parents (and all parents)

Most colleges require that students take the SAT, ACT or SAT Subject Test test before they are granted admission. Make certain that your child registers for these tests early, so that he can retake the tests if necessary.  Most families make the mistake of waiting too long before signing their students up to take the SAT and/or ACT.  The ideal time for your student to sign up for their college standardized tests (SAT and ACT) is December and January of their junior year of high school, not senior year.  This will not only give your student adequate time to retest, if necessary, but will also give your student the knowledge they need to begin researching and preparing their the admissions process at the universities on their list.  If a student knows their chances of admissions earlier, they have time to do something about it.  It is recommended, however, that your student wait until summer after junior year before taking their SAT Subject Test (or SAT II's).

Additionally, it is highly encouraged that initially you encourage your student to take both the SAT and ACT during their junior year.  The mass majority of colleges and universities accept both (in fact, it is rare to find a college or university who accepts one, but not the other), and often enough some students find that they naturally score higher using one exam over the other.  While it is a possibility your student will see no difference between the score, for students who do see a difference in score between the two exams, the difference is usually significant enough that it will make all the difference in their admission and scholarship processes.

For families who are worried about the financial burden taking the SAT and ACT will be, there is a potential to have the fees waived.  For families who qualify for the Free & Reduced Lunch program (participation is not necessary, qualification is), their student is given two fee waivers for the SAT Reasoning exam (the regular SAT) for their entire high school career, two fee waivers for the SAT Subject tests for their entire high school career, and two ACT fee waivers for their high school careers.  This means that your child could potentially take the SAT and ACT at any time during their high school career and have the fee waived up to two times for each of these exams.  Please talk to your campus counselor to find out what is necessary for you to receive a standardized testing fee waiver.

To see what both the SAT and ACT test material contain, view the page entitled "SAT or ACT" on this website.  Knowing the difference between both tests can help in how your student approaches studying or preparing for the exams.  Borrow or purchase testing study books; help your child set up a study schedule so that he will be prepared for the test.  For families who are able, there are many test preparation agencies who might be able to assist your student in preparing and raising their score (ex: The Princeton Review, TestMasters, Kaplan, etc.).  

Research Colleges, Scholarships and Financial Aid

Choosing the right college is daunting. Help your child narrow down her choices by researching potential colleges.  Many families encourage their students to attend a parent's or sibling's alma mater out of pride as alumni or alumni parents.  It is important to be open minded and encourage your student to find the college or university that is the right fit for them.  To find out which colleges will be a right fit for your child, discuss her interests, and help her determine possible career goals.  Find out what she dreams to have out of her college experience.  Does your child crave the culture of cities like Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.?  Does your child fit best on a liberal arts campus in the northeast?  Or is your child most compatible with the energy that runs through college towns?  Your child is their own individual person with their own needs and wants.  Make a list of potential colleges that match her dreams, career goals and your budget.

You may have heard rumors that you will never be able to afford schools outside of Texas, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  Many out of state colleges and universities, specifically private ones, will give your family a financial aid package that mirrors almost exactly what you would receive at a university in Texas.  Your student might even get a better financial aid package at a private school outside of the state.  It is true that most out of state public colleges and universities will charge a substantial "out of state" fee that can potentially make tuition, room and board out of your family's reach.  However, most private institutions do not charge out of state feels and can end up being just as affordable as any in state private institution.  Remember, by applying your son daughter is not saying that they are definitely going there.  They are saying that they want to see what their options are.  And there is nothing wrong with that at all.

You may believe you need to limit the number of schools to which your student applies to two or three due to the large amounts of application fees.  Many and most colleges and universities, both inside and outside of the state, have the ability to waive your student's application fee.  Firstly, if your family qualifies or participate in the Free and Reduced Lunch program and if your student also takes the SAT at least once, College Board will give your student four college application fee waivers that almost all colleges and universities will honor.  Talk to your campus counselor to see if your student qualifies.  Even if your family don't qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, there are other ways to get your application fee waived.  If your student is applying to a college or university that utilizes the National Common Application, there is a fee waiver request that your student's campus counselor can have sent with your child's documents that colleges might honor.  It is called the National Association for College Admissions Counselor (NACAC) Fee Waiver.  And even if none of these options works out for your family, most colleges and universities still have the ability to waive your application fee themselves.  Sometimes they have their own application fee waiver for you to fill out, sometimes they have a deadline where if you apply before the date there is not fee, sometimes they will ask your child's campus counselor to write them a short letter to verify that you need financial assistance, sometimes they will ask your student to write them a short paragraph essay stating why they really want to go to that university.  Sometimes all you need to do is ask for one.  Bottom line: you shouldn't let the possibility of not getting a fee waived when there are so many ways that you might get it waived overshadow the opportunity to attend.  Tip: developing a relationship with the admissions counselor can be key in getting your application fee waived.  They have more power over your application than you realize.  Get to know them now!

Request information from the schools, visit the campus and talk to admissions officers. In addition, research scholarship opportunities, work study programs and financial aid. File taxes early and make sure you have all the paperwork and documentation necessary to apply for financial aid. Tuition costs do not have to determine your child's choices if she is awarded scholarships and grants. 

College Applications & Mentoring

Filling out college applications and crafting engaging college essays take time. Help your child get organized by creating a time line for completing the required applications, recommendation letters, tests and interviews necessary for college applications. Most colleges do not accept late applications. Make certain that your child has all the materials she needs, including envelopes, transcripts and application fees. Stay organized and ahead of schedule to help your child stay calm and avoid mistakes.

At the end of Sophomore year or the beginning of Junior year, your child may have the ability to receive college mentoring through the Collegiate Challenge program for their junior and senior years, helping prepare and go through the college search, application and financial aid processes.  Have your student contact their campus counselor for more information as to when and how to apply.  Collegiate Challenge students are found to apply, be accepted and attend college at a higher rate than students who do not receive this mentoring.  

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