The Road to College
By May S. Ruiz
Summer! Either your children are monumentally excited because they finally have the time to decompress or they are bored of sitting at home and playing Wii or other video games (unless they’re really into it!).
If they could not find seasonal jobs, your children should take some fun classes, attend recreational camps, or find professional internships to spend their time productively. There are test-prep courses children can take during summer to get them ready for all the standardized exams required for their college application. Today’s high school kids want to be as good as, if not better than, their classmates. Nowhere is this cutthroat competition more apparent than in the western San Gabriel Valley, where a record number of students are getting perfect scores on the APs, ACTs, and SATs.
There is an abundance of things to do during the summer months. There is absolutely no excuse for boredom and inertia.
– Rising Freshman: high school is going to be an exciting phase in your children’s academic life. Having completed middle school and their tween years where they found their identity, they are now ready to assert themselves in this new environment.
If your children had not shown much interest in reading during their elementary or middle school years, you need to encourage them to spend this month reading – just for the sheer pleasure of it. Persuade them to look for different authors and genres, familiarizing themselves with various styles and themes would help them find their own voice. Reading would expand their vocabulary as they gain maturity in their writing and that would prepare them for composing their college application essay.
– Rising Sophomore: as mentioned above, summer is an opportune time for reading. Encourage your children to spend part of their day to this pleasurable and educational pursuit.
Your children should find an enrichment program or perform community service work related to something they are passionate about – sustained effort and interest in one particular cause show that your children are sincere, and not just padding their resumes.
If your children are so inclined, they can start researching colleges. Nowadays, they can go online and get virtual campus tours of most colleges or universities.
– Rising Junior: your children should be preparing themselves for one of the busiest years of their high school career. They should be immersed in community service work, professional internships, and enrichment programs. Some students enroll in test-prep courses during the summer months to get them ready for PSAT and SAT. They can attend one of the many schools offering these courses with some of their friends to make it less of a chore.
They can likewise start researching colleges and going online to get virtual college campus tours. This would also give your children some idea about the college application process.
This is the time for them to read extensively to expand their vocabulary and prepare them for writing their essay for the college application.
– Rising Senior: this is the year that would test your and your children’s mettle. Be prepared for the marathon (which actually started in the spring of their junior year).
They should still be continuing the community service work they began back in their freshman year, getting an internship, or looking for avenues to use their talent.
If your children did not visit the schools to which they are applying, this summer would be a good time to take that trip. It would help them narrow down their list to a more realistic number of applications.
They should also be thinking about their personal statement. Some universities also require a supplementary essay specific to them, with topics that range from the practical to the philosophical. Admissions officers are constantly on the lookout for something fresh and original in applicants’ compositions. However, it requires a certain amount of creativity and proficient writing skill to come up with a treatise that would impress seasoned readers.
That said, your children might also find some time to actually enjoy this summer before they get swallowed up by the vortex of college applications.
– Rising College Freshman: unless your children are spending this summer agonizing because they’re waitlisted at their first choice school, they must be very excited to have completed high school and are anxiously looking forward to the next phase of their education. By this time, they should have put in the deposit on the college they plan to attend. Some colleges would be sending out the procedures for class registrations, information on housing, meal specifics, and such other details to the incoming class.
Let your children take the lead on the college moving arrangements and only offer guidance when they ask for it. In all likelihood, your children would be moving away from home, maybe going to the other side of the country. They would need to practice being on their own and the preparations for moving would be a good place to start.
If your children will be attending a university across the Atlantic, as my daughter did, there is a whole set of preparations you have to attend to. Applying for a student visa should be your priority, as it could take a month to secure. You and your college-bound student need to communicate closely with the school, as their requirements may differ greatly from those of American universities.
Email or call the university to know when to wire the tuition and other college fees. Make sure your student has the necessary information on how to register for classes, how to apply for housing, what essentials to bring to school, where to find items that your student would need.
Going to school in another country would take more preparation so make sure you have enough time to spend helping your student settle into his or her new environment.
At this juncture, let me address another situation. If your children weren’t accepted to any school they applied to, then they would need to decide if they want to attend a community college. Most of these institutions will accept new students close to enrollment time. Some of them have arrangements with the UC system so graduates can attend a UC school for their junior and senior year. This has the double advantage of ensuring your children get a college diploma from a four-year university and saving on the cost of their education.
Some college applicants who are on waitlist on their dream university, ask to be admitted one year later (this would only work if your children met all the academic qualifications for admission to the school with only the problem of the university not having the space for your student this year).
There could also be some instances when your children could gain admission during the spring term to their first choice school (this scenario happens if the school wants to keep their school ranking and your children did not receive a perfect SAT score but they met all the other requirements for admission. If your children have highly desirable qualities that will enhance their student body, they will wait until after their school has been ranked so your kids’ SAT scores will no longer affect their place). Confer with your children’s college counselor about how to accomplish this.
Of course, there is the option to take a gap year after high school. This is a growing trend among American high school graduates. One of my daughter’s classmates took a gap year and spent it performing charity work in Africa. Several universities see this as a major boost in an applicant’s resume. They tend to see the applicant in better light – this person has some tangible experience to bring in and, therefore, adds to the school make-up.
So whether your high school graduate is going directly to college, going by the community college route, or taking a gap year, recognize their decision as a first step towards their independence.