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By Boots Whitmer
Your child needs to register with the College Board.
At www.collegeboard.org if he hasn't done so already. That way, you will have reminders of test dates sent by email and you can register for tests online.
For all tests: Register as early as possible.
Because that way you will get to take the test at your local neighborhood school rather than commuting hours away to a place that can take your child when your local school fills up.
Take the PSAT in the fall.
It's good practice. It won't count toward National Merit Scholarship rank, because only PSATs taken in 11th grade count.
Consider scheduling a trip.
To see the college(s) of your child's choice while that institution is in session, if he has not done so. Be sure to schedule a visit with the financial aid office, as well as a campus tour.
If your child is struggling in a subject or neglecting studies, monitor the situation carefully.
Perhaps transfer schools or find tutors to help your child survive tough subjects.
Be sure you know you child's counselor.
High schools vary widely in informing students or preparing students for college. Expect to have to do this yourself. Consider, if you can, spending a small amount of money on a college advisor who can talk with your child and make suggestions you can follow up on, including financial aid.
Whenever your child does volunteer work, try to get a written recommendation.
And show your child how to keep a file of such important items. Although I don't think these extracurriculars are as important as grades and scores (and a certain passion for a particular subject), they sometimes add a little to one's college application, not to mention the child's own personal growth.
Keep essays written in English class and similar classes to draw on for college essays.
Particularly if those essays encompass the student's personal reflections on life. Imagine our surprise when one college (Vassar) wanted a copy of an English class essay, complete with teacher comments as a condition of admission. We could not comply, because our daughter had tossed the ones with comments. She had copies of all essays on her computer, but the comments were not on the computer! The paperless society has not yet arrived.
This year and the first semester of the next year will be filled with testing: SATs, ACTs, APs, SAT IIs, writing exams, etc. On top of that, this year counts, big time, for grades. Kids are highly stressed. Be supportive but keep on top of your student if she needs that type of monitoring.
Try to get your child to take SAT IIs when they are most advantageous.
(i.e. Immediately following the course in question: chemistry after the chemistry class is over.)
If you can, have your student inquire at the college(s) of choice whether they have "overnight" visits.
These are designed to let the prospective student stay overnight in a dorm and go to classes with a buddy to get a real feel for college life at that institution. Some colleges have organized dorm tours requiring reservations and done in massive groups taken around campus in buses.
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