College? I'm only 14!

What?  College?  But I am only 14!

Marie Morris, Beyond18


As the new school year begins, your child gets that much closer to ….college!  Each year the process seems to get more complicated as well as competitive, not to mention that skyrocketing tuition!  What’s a parent to do?

Well, plenty, and it’s never too soon.  My hope is through this monthly update parents can see a logical time line to start preparing for the college application process.


Freshman Year

 First things first.  A time line is a great idea starting in freshman year of high school.  List activities, in and out of school, and throw in something new.  Make some goals of things your child might like to accomplish.  And beware, do not mention college at this point!  To a 14 year old, that is light years away!

So what would be a good thing to try in high school?  A new sport, a new club, a challenging class.  Pick one or pick ‘em all.  In our house, I mandated that children have a fall activity or sport.    They chose water polo, and while my sons had been club swimmers, my daughter was not a huge swim fan.  By the end of that first season, my older son said he was so glad that I had MADE him play water polo!  Fast forward 5 years, and into college, he still counts his water polo friends from high school among his closest.  I saw in my daughter an extremely competitive side emerge, and she came to love the sport.  Check that off the list, whew!


How about trying student government or any other of the numerous clubs on  every high school campus.  Oh sure, student council can be a huge popularity contest, and devastating to see your child lose(been there, done that as well), but there are huge lessons to be learned about life.  Being involved in some capacity during the high school years has many benefits, besides the obvious.  There is a coach, or teacher advisor that your child will be working with.  So nice to have another adult involved in your child’s life.  Many times this person will become a mentor and subsequently an advocate for your child.  They will see qualities in your child that we as parents can’t, mostly because we can’t get beyond the messy room! They will get to know your child and can point them in directions and/ or get them to think about things they might not have otherwise.  And when they know your child, they may see opportunities that we might have missed. 

How about volunteering?  High school kids are having a hard time finding part time jobs, just like the rest of the population.  Find a cause that interests your student and get them to volunteer on a regular basis.  In their journal of activities, have them think about questions like:  what did I learn?  What surprised me the most?  Could I imagine doing this kind of work?


So let’s start that resume of activities, and look for ways to add to it.

Next up: 

Fall of sophomore year


Sign up for the PSAT in September.  This one is for practice, the real one is junior year.  Consider taking the PLAN, this is the pre ACT.  They are two different tests:  PSAT (and SAT) test reasoning and the PLAN (and ACT) measures knowledge.  Many times a student will score higher on one than the other and all colleges accept scores from either test.


Focus on GPA, now and all year and next year and the next.  Don’t let your student get behind in classes and encourage them to take the most challenging classes they can.


Has your student expressed any interest in a particular career?  Now is a great time to look for a volunteer experience in that field, or just get them connected to someone in that field.  Is there a camp in that area?  Are there any career days coming up?


Does you student have a “dream college”?  Look at the website and see what they are looking for in potential applicants.


What kind of college might your student be interested in?  Public or private?  College town or major city?  Big or small?  This might be a premature discussion, only you know your child!  But what setting might they see themselves in?


Taking a trip?  Is there a college nearby?  Even the drive-by tour can give an idea and potentially spark interest. Remember, at this point, most kids are still thinking college is an eternity away!


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