Engaging Rising Seniors in the College Process
It’s hard to coax students into educational activities during a typical summer, but the warm months before senior year are especially hard—yet the most crucial. The big question is how to get students engaged with the college process before the school year begins. Once school is in session again, it’s classes, extracurriculars, sports, and college applications. That’s not even to mention if they have a job or any family troubles—it’s too much.
Prodding students to get a head start on their college application process before heading back to the classroom in the fall doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, though. There are several simple ways that can nudge (or give a hearty push) towards tackling the beginning stages of the college application process.
Providing a Comprehensive List
Sending your teens home with a checklist is always a great place to begin—it neatly arranges everything that needs to be done. They’ll likely promptly lose it or leave it in their backpacks to gather dust, but they’ll glance at it for at least a few seconds after you hand it to them. It’s a start at familiarizing them with everything they need to do.
Here’s a checklist you can use and build off of: Checklist Google Doc
Because sheets of paper are so easy to “misplace,” sending the checklist out via email would be prudent. Periodic emails, texts, and phone calls are great ways to encourage your rising seniors to begin their college search. Asking simple questions can get their brains working, even just subconsciously, thinking about what they prefer:
Do you want to spend the next four years in the suburbs or city?
Are you thinking about going to a large school, with 20,000+ students or are you considering smaller institutions first?
What initial thoughts are you having about choosing a major?
Do you already have a few colleges in mind?
Goal setting is another major asset in your arsenal. Leaving something up in the air, such as “create a list of colleges this summer” can feel incorporeal—setting a specific date on the calendar solidifies the goal. “By July 31st, let’s have a first draft of your personal statement and a list of 10 schools that have caught your attention.” This is much more tangible and will give something definitive for you to check in about. On that final day in July, you should expect an email with their essay attached and a list of colleges for you to look over, which is an excellent reason to schedule a Skype or phone call.
Gathering In Person
One of the things that many students lack over the summer is support. It’s not always for lack of trying on the parents part—to some, applying to college is a foreign process. To others, it’s just hard to remember what it was like way back when they did it. Also, the entire system has drastically changed.
If it’s something you can work into your agenda, having a get together with all of your students parents’ is an ideal way to encourage support over the summer. Even just providing a timeline for parents is helpful—do students visit colleges and then apply? When do they fill out the FAFSA? What are the most common deadlines for applications? Any way that they can feel in-the-know about what’s going on will lower stress levels all around and might even enlighten parents about how they can help.
One of the more difficult aspects for teens to grapple alone is having that frank conversation with their parents about finances. Encourage parents to have a real talk about money so that the student understands their particular situation.
Can the parents assist in paying for college? If so, how much?
How much estimated student aid will the student be receiving?
Are student loans going to be a requirement for the student to go to college?
Not only will this conversation help students and parents figure out the next step in the college application process, but it also gets both parties involved.
What have you done to engage your rising seniors over the summer months? With some students, a midsummer email might be enough to get them moving, but others might need more guidance to stay on track in the college process. Make a plan, set some calendar reminders, and help your teens get off on the right foot for their final year of high school!