Get me outta here!

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.

pick-your-path

  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

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Transitioning to High School

My baby girl is going to high school

As my ex-husband Troy, our daughter Andi and I start to plan for Andi’s high school career; I can’t help but reflect on my own high school years. I know I’m going to make a few people mad with this post since many of you know where I went to school but I don’t think my high school prepared me for college or my career. Of course others who went there might feel differently than I do and that’s okay. But I feel my high school cheated me out of an education. I have always felt this way. I get that you get out of what you put in and I definitely didn’t put in a lot but I also wasn’t offered a lot.

For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Catholic high school. Now I am sure that some Catholic high schools are fantastic and the one I attended might even be better now since it has been 20 years. I was a good student K-8 and I really tried in the 9th grade but I quickly learned that it didn’t really matter. I struggled with math quite a bit that year and in no way should I have passed but my teacher passed me anyway. I remember going to him for help but other than taking a few minutes between classes, he wasn’t willing to give me the time. The school did not offer tutoring and I don’t know if it was something my mom ever considered or not. Why would she? We didn’t really have the money and he was passing me anyway. Struggling that year in math meant that I never had the basics to understand math in the coming years.

It wouldn’t have mattered even if I did understand. One year, my math teacher was the principal. I loved our principal but he didn’t really have time to teach a class. There were many days that he would just buy us pop and/or pizza and put a movie in while he went to a meeting. Sometimes, he would give us a worksheet but I always had a friend do mine or just wouldn’t turn it in. So I went another year without learning math.

I remember a history class that was taught by a football coach. I think he only taught because he had to in order to be the coach. Every day he would come in and say “Get out your book and copy pages 1-20.” Well of course the page numbers were different day to day. My classmates and I quickly learned that he was not going to read these so we never did it. Instead, we wrote notes to each other. And honestly, I would not have retained the information by copying the book anyway.

A few of the teachers had absolutely no control over the class. It was constant chaos and as a teenager, I was happy to be part of that.

Even though we paid thousands in tuition, the school didn’t have the money for a lot of elective type courses or technology. Computers were becoming a huge part of life at this point but we only had a few in the entire school and only the really smart kids got to use them. I learned how to type on a manual type writer. It wasn’t even electric. Actually, I probably got more out of my typing class than any other class in high school (except for maybe two English classes). I can now type about 90 words a minute. If I remember correctly I took cooking, a year of Spanish, child development, interior design and a business class as my electives. I think advanced science and an art class were the only other choices.

As I look at my daughters choices for electives, I’m in shock. She probably has a hundred choices. They include several different types of music, art, film making, communication, theater, journalism, science, AP courses, fashion design, financial literacy and so much more. I wish I would have choices like this. I remember feeling very ill prepared when I started my journalism classes in college. I felt like everyone in the class had been on a real student newspaper except for me. They all had taken journalism classes already. I was the only one in my speech class who hadn’t already taken public speaking of some kind. I was very overwhelmed.

My college-prep school did not prepare me for college. In fact, my guidance counselor told me I shouldn’t even apply for colleges. Now I have already admitted that I wasn’t the best student but I have never understood why an adult in that position would tell a kid that. I hope she has heard that I finished my first semester in college with a 3.8, graduated with good grades and went on to be a reporter and now in the public relations field. Yeah, I’m not bitter. LOL But maybe her not believing in me is what I needed to become an excellent student in college.

I do have to give kudos where it is due. I did have two English teachers who believed in me very much. They saw my talent and pushed me. They have continued to encourage me during my college and professional careers.

I am lucky to have my children in one of the best districts in the state. My daughter is having a hard time deciding on her schedule because she has so many choices and would love to take more classes than the day allows. She’s not stuck picking the best of the worst. She can get free tutoring at school or I will hire a private tutor if she struggles at all. She has been placed in Advanced English and I don’t worry that it will be too much pressure because the school and I will provide her with the tools she needs. I can’t imagine that any teacher in her school will ever tell her just to copy pages from a book everyday or leave the kids alone to eat pizza while he goes to a meeting. I know that if a teacher can’t control a class, the leader of the chaos will be removed or another teacher, who can control them, will be brought in. My daughter and I are both lucky that I have smart friends who actually learned math and history and are willing to help her with her homework.

Growing up

While many parents are nervous about their kids transitioning from middle school to high school next year, I am excited. Andi is a great student who loves learning and is anxious to take classes that interest her. Although I am sure there will be some struggles over the next four years, I am looking forward to the challenges and excitement that comes with it. I also found this article to be comforting.

What was your education like? Any tips for a mom with a child entering high school?