Each fall, the high school population is once again flooded with a new group of anxious and eager freshmen. They’ll come to you in any number of guises, with all manner of priorities. The doe-eyed girl with her heart set on the varsity quarterback, the bookish wallflower secretly daydreaming of sixth grade’s quiet predictability, or the math whiz with plausible Ivy League aspirations. But they all have one thing in common: the next four years are going to go by more quickly than any of them expect.
As a college counselor, you can play a pivotal role in keeping your students grounded and focused on their future early on. This week and next, I’ll be discussing just a few of the many ways you can help your freshmen make the most of their vital but fleeting high school years.
1. Get to Know Them
Foster an open line of communication with your freshmen. Depending on your position, you might be working with them throughout their high school careers, so set up tentative times for regular tête-à-têtes, perhaps once a semester. If your freshmen will be working with multiple college counselors over time, you can at least have a discussion about their collegiate goals and help them lay the groundwork to attain them.
2. Promote Relationships
Convey to your freshmen the importance of developing relationships with teachers, church and volunteer group leaders, and other mentors. They can start by actively participating in class discussions and after-school opportunities to establish rapport with their teachers. In general, they should take advantage of any chances they have to work in close proximity to the influential people in their lives. When they begin the college application process, they’ll need to come back to them to garner recommendations.
3. Emphasize the Importance of Class Selections and Grades
With college an infinitely distant four years away--a veritable lifetime when you’re all of 14--it can be difficult for freshmen to understand that their actions today will have repercussions tomorrow. Discuss which AP courses they might be interested in and which electives will help make them well-rounded college applicants with glowing transcripts. Remind them that their grades from all four years are going to show up on those transcripts and figure into their GPAs, so every class, every assignment, and every exam should be taken seriously.
4. Pencil It In
Create a four-year calendar that will give freshmen a better understanding of the goals and deadlines they’ll be juggling throughout high school. Having a visual timeline to look at will help them realize that college entrance exams and initial application deadlines really aren’t all that far away.
5. Get Them Involved
Extracurricular involvement is an invaluable addition to a college application, so students should start choosing constructive extracurricular activities as soon as possible. Consistency with a particular activity can help a student stand out by demonstrating his or her ability to work at something diligently over time. For example, a student interested in writing might take journalism classes (if available) and write for the school’s newspaper with the goal of becoming its editor in his or her senior year. Sticking with a sport can benefit students hoping to secure athletic scholarships. And joining clubs and other organizations is a great way to bolster a student resume. Help your freshmen by discussing their prospective major and career aspirations and suggest which extracurricular activities might give them a leg up in those areas.
Next time: Five more ideas to help get your freshmen thinking about college.