Guide Freshmen Through the Next Four Years, Part II

For incoming freshmen, high school may seem like an exciting succession of dances, football games, pep rallies, and burgeoning independence. And it is - but it's also the time when they'll become the people behind their college applications.

For incoming freshmen, high school may seem like an exciting succession of dances, football games, pep rallies, and burgeoning independence. And it is--but it’s also the time when they’ll become the people behind their college applications.

This week, I’ll continue last week’s discussion by suggesting a few more ideas to help your freshmen get a jumpstart on the college admission process.

Create Leaders

Exemplary leadership skills can separate the “maybes” from the “shoo-ins” in a college applicant pool. Encourage your freshmen to begin looking for ways to take on leadership roles in any capacity. Student government is an excellent vehicle, as are officer positions in various clubs and organizations. Particularly ambitious students might even consider heading up the creation of an entirely new club, a feat that would provide impressive fodder for admission essays. Discuss your students’ interests and help them find related areas where they can function as leaders.

Prep Them for Tests

SAT and ACT exams may seem distant and inconsequential to incoming freshmen, but the volume of information covered on these tests is best absorbed over time rather than crammed into a few tense, nail-biting months or weeks. Talk with your freshmen about their strengths and weaknesses in the areas covered on these exams, and let them know that subject tests in their future area of study may also be required with their college applications. Encourage them to read voraciously, beyond the books assigned in their classes. You can also suggest that they go ahead and invest in some test prep materials and look over sample exams. And discuss a timeline, including when they can take the PSAT/NMSQT, which can provide an excellent gauge of their preparedness.

Tame the Dog Days

Summers should be used wisely, and there are numerous activities your students can engage in during these months that will make them more attractive candidates for college admission. Volunteering or working part-time jobs will teach them responsibility and can give them experience in their proposed majors and careers. You can also help them look into summer camps where they can both learn and have fun while getting a taste of independence. And make sure they’re armed with a summer reading list that will help with SAT/ACT/AP test preparation and give them an edge in college English courses.

Pave the Road to College

Advise your freshmen to start thinking about the colleges they’re interested in. Even though their personalities and preferences will evolve throughout their high school years, they can start visiting schools and speaking with admissions representatives now. Help them by going over the admissions requirements at the types of schools they’re interested in, which will give them more clearly defined goals. You can also encourage them to talk to older siblings or other relatives who are currently in college to get some valuable first-hand accounts. Get the ball rolling by checking out all the schools profiled right here at

Start Saving

It’s never too early for students to start thinking about how they’ll pay for college. If it’s likely they’ll need financial aid, you can help them research schools where they’ll get the best education for their money, and they can start looking for grants and scholarships they might qualify for--help them get started with the scholarship search tool. Even if their parents have money put aside in a college fund, the ever-rising costs of tuition and room and board can still make financial aid a necessity. Remind your students that doing well on AP exams can translate into college credit, a potentially huge savings. They should also plan on taking the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year to be considered for National Merit Scholarships. And summer jobs can provide a means of saving here and there for smaller ticket items like textbooks, dorm décor, and of course, junk food for all-night study sessions.

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About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie Darlet and CollegeXpress. Stephanie holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times she has been: an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 


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