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My High School Senior Looks Back on her Four Years

Four years ago, when Andi was an 8th grader scheduling for her senior year, I wrote a post called Transitioning to High School. This inspired Andi to write her own post called Andi’s Version of the High School Transition. I showed her that old post last night and she decided to write an update (I suggest reading the original first by clicking here):

Well my mom’s bloggies, I made it thru. I should have been scared when i wrote that the first time. High school was scary, I probably was scared and just lied. In general, I was afraid of the upperclassmen and what everyone would think of me. I wanted to be cool and popular, unlike myself in middle school. I tried too hard and was intimidated by other girls in my grade and the grades above me.

Beginning of junior year i realized that it didn’t matter what they thought of me and I stopped wearing makeup everyday and trying to look stylish all the time. I learned to love myself more. Now that i am the “headmaster” (as my past self called it) of the school i realize that when I was a freshman the seniors probably didn’t care about what i wore or how i looked bc I sure as heck don’t pay attention to the freshman. I also realized that nobody is going to remember that one day I went to school without makeup and greasy hair. I learned to embrace the way I look. I wish I could tell my freshman self all of these things because she’d probably poop her pants if she knew I don’t wear foundation every day to school, heck sometimes i don’t even wear makeup around the boy I like. When I think about my freshman and sophomore self I don’t hate it, I just wish she didn’t hate herself.

As far as classes go I’m still taking Spanish. I moved all the way to AP, and let me tell you, lamp is not el lampo. Spanish is definitely difficult. I stopped taking journalism after freshman year because I wanted to take other classes & it wasn’t really my forte. If you are sending your child into high school next year I definitely recommend taking regular classes & ignore the pressure for AP, ESPECIALLY regular social studies courses. AP world would be the death of your child. AP English is really no biggy as long as you already understand grammar because they don’t really teach that in AP.

Even though I was annoyed about how worried my ma was about me going to high school, I’m thankful for it because there were times I was happy I was her little princess. 

Yes, I was teary eyed when Andi sent this to me last night. It shows how much she has grown, not just physically but as a person in the last four years. She’s a young woman now. She plans to major in social work at Northern Kentucky University this fall. She might even minor in Spanish…

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How to Prep for Your Child’s Senior Year

Note: This post originally ran on Kenton County Public Library’s Blog, written by me.

Okay, I admit it… this title is misleading. My daughter Andi is a senior in high school and I’m not really sure what the best way to prep for senior year is but I can tell you some of the do’s and don’ts we have learned along the way. I will say you should start preparing before freshman year even starts.

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  1. Draft a plan for the next four years that includes what classes your student will take and when. Make sure you cover all of the requirements and then figure out what electives your child might want to take. Andi changed her mind throughout the years on the electives but at least we had a plan and knew exactly what had to be taken to meet her graduation requirements.
  2. Decide with your child if they will take advanced or college placement classes and do your research. Not all colleges accept AP credits and even some of the credits accepted do not actually give you the general study credit you need. Your teen must pass the AP test, a college exam, at the end of the year to even receive the credits. Although some colleges accept a weighted GPA (a B is an A if it’s an AP course), not all colleges do. Since high school students are taking college level courses in the 10th and 11th grades, they don’t always score as high as they would if it was a regular course. This will impact their GPA. Along with your student, decide if you want to focus on college credits, rigor or GPA.georgia-state
  3. Most colleges require students to have two consecutive years of a foreign language in high school. Think about this when scheduling freshman classes and drafting the four year plan. My daughter started taking Spanish as a freshman. She is now taking AP Spanish as a senior. Our hope is that she passes the final exam and that the college of her choice will take that credit since she plans to minor in Spanish.
  4. Unless you have a huge college fund sitting around, instill in your child that they are their ticket to college. There are a lot of opportunities for scholarships based on grades, ACT tests, community involvement, etc. Make sure they understand that 9th, 10th and 11th grades count. High school can be fun but don’t sacrifice grades for a good time.
  5. Unless you are looking at an elite school, most colleges require a decent GPA and ACT score. Many do not look at rigor, extracurricular activities or even require an essay. However, scholarships look at all of that. You do not have to be a 4.0 student with a 36 ACT to receive a scholarship. Scholarships are given to cancer survivors, students who volunteer their time to work with the elderly, those who take on a service project, children of alumni who have at least a 2.5 and worked a soup kitchen. Okay, it might not be as specific as that last example but it’s close. Andi has done a lot of volunteering over the years but it was here and there type stuff. Now that we are looking at scholarships, we wish she would have picked at least one agency to really focus on all four years. Take a look at scholarship opportunities when your child is a freshman so they can plan ahead and be sure to meet any requirements. Your school’s guidance counselor should be able to lead you in the right direction.
  6. Take the ACT more than once and take a prep course. Andi took the pre-ACT as a 10th grader and the real ACT in March of her junior year. This gave us a baseline for a very difficult test. We then enrolled her in Torch Prep (there are several courses out there to choose from), which taught her the strategy behind the ACT. She took the test again in July and received an increase of four points. The course was definitely worth the cost since she will now receive merit scholarships based on her ACT/GPA combined.
  7. Choosing a college is difficult for the child and the parents. Obviously cost plays a huge part but you still want to choose a place that your child will be comfortable and receive a good education. Go on several college tours, even to schools you didn’t think you would consider just to compare. Consider whether the child will live on campus, off-campus or at home. Make sure the school offers the program of study your student is interested in, even if they do change their mind 10 times. Once you have narrowed down the college choices, have your child shadow a student for the day at the schools they are interested in. Andi will be shadowing a social work student at Northern Kentucky University next month. She will have lunch with that student and professors. I believe this is the best way for her to decide if this is the program for her or not.andi-nku
  8. Dig out your and your child’s financial information at the start of their senior year to prepare for FAFSA. This is the financial aid application that everyone is encouraged to file, even if you don’t think you will receive money. This application even determines if they can work on campus. Visit the FAFSA website in advance to make sure you have everything you need. The application process starts Oct. 1 of your child’s senior year and the money is given to first come first served. This includes some student loans. Make sure you understand the rules and regulations so that your application is not delayed.
  9. Your child will start applying to colleges in the fall of their senior year. Take a look at the common college application and help them get a head start.
  10. There are a lot of fun things that happen senior year as well – senior photos, prom, senior pranks, college acceptance letters, graduation parties, senior trips and more. My daughter is so focused on grades, college aps and paying for college that I do have to remind her to have a little fun. It think helping our children balance, especially their senior year, is a big part of our job.

And remember, just because you and your child choose one path freshman year, doesn’t mean you have stick with it all four years. Your student will be figuring out what works best for them as they go. It’s not set in stone, just a draft to guide your student through the next four years.

 

Suggested Resources (click on the link to put on hold):

Book of Majors

The Other College Guide: a Roadmap to the Right School For You

Winning Scholarships for College

Paying for College without Going Broke

Up Your ACT

Online Resource:

Kenton County Public Library’s Learning Express – ACT and SAT Prep

Should Your Child Take AP Courses in High School?

I should have probably written this last spring before all of Joey’s friends started signing up for their freshman classes but hey, better late than never. I’m not an expert in scheduling or a guidance counselor but I do have two step-sons in college (Josh and Joel), a high school senior (Andi) and a high school freshman. I have been through the college application and financial aid process with Joel, high school scheduling/AP classes/GPA process with Andi and now it’s Joey’s turn.

With school starting tomorrow, many kids are posting their schedules and asking who has classes with them. Joey is still in Germany ( a post to come soon) but I am discovering that very few kids are in the same classes as Joey. Why might that be?  It is because Joey is not taking early bird or AP classes.

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Our high school pushes taking both of those things. AP classes are college level courses that students can take in high school. They do cost extra, but less than what it costs in college. However, you have to get a certain score on the final exam to get the college credit and not all colleges accept those credits. Early bird students take an additional course at 7 a.m., instead of starting their day at 8. That means we have 14-year-old kids taking seven classes and college courses. Neither of my children are morning people so early bird wasn’t even an option in my house. However, taking AP courses was.

Andi had always been a strong student with a good GPA. She was placed in higher level courses and chose to take the AP level classes that were offered. It didn’t go quite as planned her sophomore year. She suddenly found herself struggling in English and history (both AP courses), which had never been an issue before. She wasn’t the only one. Several of her classmates received much lower grades than they were used to and didn’t receive college credit. We were convinced that this was because 10th grade is a difficult year, they hadn’t taken so many AP courses before, etc. So we decided to continue with the AP track her junior year. And found ourselves, like many others, in the same situation. Halfway through her junior year I had wished that we had done things differently.

Some will tell you that colleges want to see that you took AP classes before considering scholarships or admission. This is true to an extent. Competitive colleges (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc) want to see that you took these courses and did well. But I will tell you that Joel was accepted to every college he applied for – University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead and the University of Louisville – and none of them cared that he didn’t take AP classes or early bird. They wanted to know his GPA and ACT score. That is all that really mattered.

Andi’s high school years would have been a lot less stressful if she would have skipped some of the AP courses. Her GPA would be much higher (it’s not bad) if she would have taken more regular-level high school classes. A higher GPA would mean more opportunities for scholarships. And believe me, you want more opportunities for scholarships.

Andi is going to take AP Spanish her senior year because she plans to minor in Spanish and having the basic level course out of the way will be helpful. But other than that, she is taking regular classes. She will take regular English, math, science, art and computer tech. She will enjoy her senior year and hopefully boost her GPA a little. But I’ll tell you a secret… Colleges are really looking at your GPA as of your junior year because you will apply in the fall of your senior year.

So we decided to take a different approach with Joey. He can take AP classes if he wants but we won’t push it. I would much rather him take classes that challenge him and allow him to focus on a higher GPA than take classes that are going to cause extra stress and might not even transfer to the college he chooses. Since Andi and Joey attend the best school district in the state of Kentucky, even the regular courses are challenging. He is taking PE/Health, Principles of Engineering, Spanish 2, English 1, Alegebra 1 and Intro to Physics. There are no AP classes or early bird on that list but I don’t expect him to be bored.

goofballs

Joel, Andi & Joey – They are all goofballs but unique in their own way

We all want our kids to succeed but we have to remember that they are 14 to 18 years old. They will be stressed in college as many of them figure out how to pay for undergrad, work at least a part-time job and go to school full-time. Expecting every student to suceed in college courses at the age of 14 is unrealistic. Pushing seven classes on them in addition to school plays, sports teams, homework, circus (my son works with Circus Mojo), part-time jobs and a well-rounded social life is also unrealistic for many.

I know it’s hard to say no to AP and extra courses when the school administrators are pushing so hard to do it all but I suggest that you and your child make the best decision for your student. What’s best for one of your children, might not be best for your other children. I do send big kudos to all the kids who succeed in early bird and AP courses, just remember, it’s not for everyone.