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How To Prepare For College & University


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Many children (and their parents) dream of someday going off to college or university. Of course, there is a big difference between dreaming about it and creating a roadmap for success.

Planning for college can be a long journey, so it’s wise to start as soon as possible. While it’s important to keep your options open, creating a plan in advance will allow your child to be better prepared than waiting until grade 12.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when planning for college or university—including when to start planning and how to get there.

When To Start Planning For College

So… when should you and your child start planning for college or university? Believe it or not—it’s never too early!

Colleges and universities won’t be looking at middle school grades when considering applications. However, seventh and eighth grades are a great time to start thinking about the types of high school subjects your child is interested in taking.

By the time ninth grade comes around, your child should have an idea of his or her interests and be focused on developing smart academic habits. This includes getting good grades, while also getting involved with sports teams and clubs to grow your child’s leadership skills.

Keep in mind your child’s priorities and college choices may continue to change over time… and that’s ok! Having a plan can get your child on the right track, while still being flexible enough for changes.

Read on to learn some ways that you can start planning for college today.

How To Plan For College In High School

1. Set Academic Goals

One of the most important things you can do when your child is starting to think about college is to define long- and short-term goals. Long-term goals define what your child wants to achieve, while short-term goals help him or her reach those long-term goals.

For example:
Long-term goal: graduate high school and get accepted into [college/university of your choice]
Short-term goal: maintain at least a B on my 3 next tests/assignments

Try using the SMART goal approach to help make sure your child’s goals are clear and reachable. Each goal should be:

  • Specific: Identify the starting point and end point of the goal. When do you need to start it to make sure you accomplish it in time?
  • Measurable: Know exactly how to track and measure the progress of each goal. This lets you know when it has been accomplished.
  • Attainable: Your goal should be reasonable and within reach. Goals should be challenging, but not beyond your child’s reach.
  • Relevant: Is your goal worthwhile? Make sure that it is something that matters to you, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals.
  • Timely: Make sure that a timeframe is specified to accomplish these goals; for example, two weeks, three months, or 1 year.

2. Have A Plan When Choosing Classes

Something to consider when planning for college or university is how class selections will impact your child’s path. If your child wants to pursue science or math in college or university, make sure your child is taking the proper classes starting in ninth grade. This way, he or she will be able to fulfill the prerequisites for upper-level classes.

Depending on whether your child wants to attend college or university, he or she will also need to sign up for the appropriate class level. When choosing between academic and applied classes, think about how your child learns best and what his or her post-secondary plans are.

For class selection tips, read our blog on how to choose high school classes.

3. Enrol in Extracurricular Activities

High school is the perfect time to experiment with different extracurriculars. Keep an eye out for which activities your child really loves and wants to pursue over the long term. Colleges and universities like to see well-rounded students interested in learning and engaging the world.

Extracurricular activities include general activities, teams and clubs, volunteer work, and work experience. These activities show your child’s leadership skills, interest in activities, ability to work with others, and show that your child is community minded.

There is no perfect formula for determining how many activities to enrol in. But, it’s a great bonus if your child is able to demonstrate skills beyond academic grades on a college application.

4. Research, Research, Research

Researching college and universities is an important step to finding the one that suits your child’s requirements, objectives, and academic goals. You’ll want to consider the types of programs the school offers, the location, the size, the cost, and much more. Weigh each of the factors according to their importance and help your child rank each of the schools on his or her list.

To get started, help your child create a list of colleges and universities that interest him or her, and why. Knowing which features attract or turn your child off a school will help you understand what you really want.

In grade tenth and eleventh grade, start attending college fairs and college nights. Encourage your child to speak with college representatives who visit his or her high school. This will help your child differentiate between the different colleges and universities and learn about admission requirements.

5. Take College Admissions Tests

A common question many students ask is “Should I prepare for the SAT in ninth grade?” Ninth grade is a bit early to start planning. However, there are certain work habits and skills your child can start to build to prepare for standardized testing. This includes time management, organizational skills, and reading and writing skills.

Before your child decides when to start studying for the SAT, you first need to figure out when he or she will take the SAT. Make a plan with your child so he or she has plenty of time to practise and prepare. Take an SAT prep course or enrol in a SAT tutoring program. This is a great way to get introduced to the test and get a sense of where your child stands with his or her current skills.

It’s Never Too Early to Plan for College

Planning for college or university is an exciting time for all students and parents. Taking responsibility for your academic progress early and getting involved is the best way to find your stride and set yourself up for success.

Oxford Learning can help your child prepare for the future and build a path to success—from math and English tutoring to SAT/ACT prep. Contact a location near you today!






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