College prep: One mom's timeline for high school
GreatSchools asked a San Francisco mom whose sons were accepted at competitive four-year colleges to share her year-by-year timeline for high school. Even if your situation is different, her insights can help you help your child.
By Boots Whitmer
Summer after eighth grade
(Yeah, I know you are exhausted just getting your child into high school, but buck up!)
Make this the cross-country car trip year. Sample different types of schools: big, small, public, private, East, West, Midwest, South, suburban, rural, urban. Your child needs to "see" himself in the place. As my son said, "Where is my new home?"
Allowing your child to glimpse his future in such a concrete way will motivate him to approach his high school studies in a more focused manner. Unfortunately you will probably not see the college in session during the summer, but the tours are useful anyway.
Try especially to look at colleges in a part of the country far from home. It's broadening for the child and can be financially beneficial. Colleges seek geographical diversity, and some are willing to pay your child to attend.
This is a good time to remind your child that colleges require him to self-report any misdemeanors or similar (or worse!) marks on character and will take them into account.
You and your child may be told that this year "will not count" toward college admission. This is nonsense. Some college Boots Whitmer requirements are tackled in ninth grade.
Consider taking the SAT IIs in biology if your child takes biology that year.
It will be fresh in her mind.
If your child saw one or two colleges she is interested in, try to schedule a trip to these institutions during times when students are actually on campus.
Ask teachers for recommendations.
As your child goes through high school, because asking years later is problematical.
Do not end ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade or 12th grade without learning the final grade from each teacher.
Before school gets out for the summer! Do not accept "no" for an answer! Take it up with the counselors or the principal if a teacher does not cooperate.
Both my son and my daughter were graded down by teachers who had failed to give them credit for work they could prove they had done! By the time the final grade is submitted, the damage is done, and it is difficult to get the grade changed. Final grades at the end of each year do not come in the mail until the middle of the summer — often as a great surprise — and trying to get them corrected the following fall is nearly impossible. In several cases, the teachers in question had left the district! Both of my children had this happen to them. In a couple of cases, we were able to get the grades changed when the work was produced (complete with teacher comments). The teachers in question had wrongly given them zero credit, which wrongly brought down an otherwise high grade.
Do not expect teachers to be sympathetic to your sense of urgency about the importance of getting kids into college. Most of them went to college before colleges became as selective as they are today. They may not understand that yesterday's "safety" colleges are now "reach" colleges.
Although the following incident did not happen to us, I know of one child whose teacher left the San Francisco school district to enter a monastery after incorrectly grading a child down. No grade can be changed without the teacher's assent and since the monastery would not allow the novices to communicate with anyone, the child was out of luck!