Action Plans /////

Getting through high school can be challenging enough without having to be strapped with having to decode a myriad of education requirements and mandatory service hours to embellish your resume and and impress some strangers why you deserve their endorsement.
If this is that time in your life to begin exploring options and figuring out who you are and where you want to go

…and couple that with figuring out what and how to get the information you need to pursue which opportunities are available can be daunting even with social media communication and technology.
Getting a jump start in the process can help you get from first base to hitting a homerun. It depends on how much effort you (and your parents, etc.) are willing to put into it.

Your High School Action Plan... Year by Year

Here are some suggestions on how to find the tools at your disposal to help you work toward your goals.

Getting Involved

Senior year is a whirlwind of activities. This is a big year for your child as he or she balances schoolwork, sports, extracurricular activities and the college application process. Use the suggestions below to help you and your child successfully navigate this important time.

(Download/print this checklist)

• During the Summer

Take college visits together. If possible, make plans to check out the campuses which your child is interested in. Use this Campus Visit Checklist to learn how to get the most out of these experiences.
Ask how you can help your senior finalize a college list. You can help him or her choose which colleges to apply to by weighing how well each college meets his or her needs, for example. Find out more about how to finalize a college list.
Find out a college’s actual cost. Once your 12th-grader has a list of a few colleges he or she is interested in, use the College Board’s Net Price Calculator together to find out the potential for financial aid and the true out-of-pocket cost— or net price—of each college.

• Encourage your child to get started on applications

He or she can get the easy stuff out of the way now by filling in as much required information on college applications as possible. (Read about how to get started on applications).

.• Help your child decide about applying early 

If your senior is set on going to a certain college, he or she should think about whether applying early is a good option. Now is the time to decide because early applications are usually due in November.
(Read about the pros and cons of applying early)

Gather financial documents

To apply for most financial aid, your child will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll need your most recent tax returns and an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA, which opens Oct. 1.

In the Fall

Encourage your child to meet with the school counselor. This year, he or she will work with the counselor to complete and submit college applications. (Learn more about the counselor’s role in applying to college)

Create a calendar with your child

 This should include application deadlines and other important dates. Your child can find specific colleges’ deadlines in College Search. If your child saves colleges to a list there, he or she can get a custom online calendar that shows those colleges’ deadlines.

Help your child prepare for college admission tests

Many seniors retake college admission tests, such as the SAT, in the fall. Learn more about helping your 12th-grader prepare for admission tests.

• Help your child find and apply for scholarships

He or she can find out about scholarship opportunities from the school counselor. Your high school student will need to request and complete scholarship applications and submit them on time. (Learn more about scholarships)

Offer to look over your senior’s college applications

But remember that this is your child’s work so remain in the role of adviser and proofreader and respect his or her voice.

Fill out the FAFSA to apply for aid beginning Oct. 1

 The government and many colleges use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to award aid. Now it’s easier than ever to fill out this form because you can automatically transfer your tax information online from the IRS to the FAFSA. 9Read How to Complete the FAFSA to learn more)

Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®, if required

If your child needs to submit the PROFILE to a college or scholarship program, be sure to find out the priority deadline and submit it by that date. Read How to Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.

Encourage your child to set up college interviews

An interview is a great way for your child to learn more about a college and for a college to learn more about your child.
(Get an overview of the interview process)

Winter Time…

• Work together to apply for financial aid.
•Have your child contact the financial aid offices at the colleges in which he or she is interested to find out what forms students must submit to apply for aid.
• Make sure he or she applies for aid by or before any stated deadlines. Funds are limited, so the earlier you apply, the better.
• Learn about college loan options together. Borrowing money for college can be a smart choice — especially if your high school student gets a low-interest federal loan.
(Learn more about the parent’s role in borrowing money)

• Encourage your senior to take SAT Subject Tests. These tests can showcase your child’s interests and achievements — and many colleges require or recommend that applicants take one or more Subject Tests.
(Read more about SAT Subject Tests)
• Encourage your child to take AP Exams. If your 12th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.
(Read more about the AP Program)

Spring Time

Help your child process college responses. Once your child starts hearing back from colleges about admission and financial aid, he or she will need your support to decide what to do.
(Read about how to choose a college)
• Review financial aid offers together. Your 12th-grader will need your help to read through financial aid award letters and figure out which package works best. Be sure your child pays attention to and meets any deadlines for acceptance.
(Get more information on financial aid awards)
• Help your child complete the paperwork to accept a college’s offer of admittance. Once your child has decided which college to attend, he or she will need to review the offer, accept a college’s offer, mail a tuition deposit and submit other required paperwork. (Learn more about your high school senior’s next steps)


Meet With Your Counselor
Your counselor can help you plan a schedule and choose sufficiently challenging classes.

When reviewing your records, colleges take into consideration both your GPA and the amount of effort required to earn it. If you were not automatically placed in advanced classes, think about asking to be placed in them.
Many high schools will allow you to move to an accelerated class if you are successful at the current one. Others will want you to pass a test if you would like to change your schedule. Whatever the requirements, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Involve Yourself In Extracurricular Activities
Getting involved in outside activities will make your application stand out. Whether it’s finding a part-time job, joining a club, or helping out in the community, becoming a part of something shows that you could handle more than homework.
Colleges are interested in someone who is unique and who will contribute to their school. Whichever activity you choose, stick with it.
Being able to commit to high school activities shows that you will likely commit to college ones.

This is an really important year in your transition. Now that you got the hang of being on your own, don’t forgot- preparation, preparation.
First, confirm your major and career goals and consult with your counselors often.
Speak with upper class men in the field you are pursuing and be sure to stay informed about current and future trends. There may be opportunities to study abroad. If you are really studious, you may carry a double major or minor in another area of interest.
Choose elective courses to enhance your skills and increase your marketability.
Other suggestions:
• Be the best student you can be. Your future opportunities may depend on your grade point average (GPA). 
Whether you ascribe to be a professional athlete or seek a professional career, now is the time to start to develop a professional attitude.
Look the part.
Develop a work attitude.
Getting into the workforce (if necessary) over the summer or volunteering can be invaluable in resume building and go hand in hand with a strong academic background. It’s a great way to impress future employers. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed employers to assess which factors were influential in their hiring decisions. Nearly 75% stated that they preferred candidates with relevant experience.
Participating in extra-curricular activities can develop leadership skills. Opportunities in student organizations, student government and other activities are great areas to be involved in.
Use your social media to network to connect with recruiters and organizations that interest you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and attend regional job fairs. You can gain valuable experience and information about opportunities. Some college alumni offer mentoring programs. Stop by your campus career center for more details about these opportunities.
Start to create your resume. This will help you to keep track of your accomplishments. 

The time has come for serious college planning.
If you prepare for standardized tests now, you can avoid the frenzy during your senior year. Time spent now will more than pay off next year. You will be able to keep up your grades and enjoy your final high school months while scouring the scholarship offers you may receive AND research as many opportunities available!

What Major(s) are  you interested in?
It will be helpful to research potential majors this year. Identify your interests, and use them to create a list of possible college majors. If you are not ready to pin down your career, and most high school students aren’t, consider taking a career assessment test. Some websites provide free assessment tests that match your interests with possible careers. Confer with your guidance counselor to find out if these tests are offered at your school.

• Continue Researching Colleges
Once you have an idea of what you would like to do, start to narrow down a list of prospective colleges you are interested in. Ask yourself: which ones specialize in your areas of interest and which offer the majors you are considering. Do they excel in your sport(s)? What are your playing opportunities? Is there any interest in you? Would you consider “walking on?” Factor in the size, location, and educational reputation of schools. Are you willing to live in a rural area or do you love the bustle of city life? Do you like the intimacy of a small school or would you prefer a large campus? These are some questions to ask yourself when you conduct your research. Once you have narrowed your choices, sign up for as many college visits as you can. Plan a trip when school is in session to get a feel for what a regular day looks like. Check out the area, speak with a professor, and interview an admissions officer. Some schools may even allow you to sit in on a class of interest. All these steps will help you make the right college choice.

• Search For Scholarships
Many people want to wait until their senior year to begin searching for scholarships, which can be a big mistake. While senior year is certainly an important time to be searching for ways to fund your education and you certainly should be heavy into your scholarship search by then, you really should begin now. There are scholarships specifically for high school juniors to apply for and only adds to the ones you may encounter in your senior year.

Begin Prepping For Standardized Tests

The SAT and/or ACT tests are a must (along with eligibility requirements by the NCAA/NAIA to play sports), so add value to your application by concentrating on scoring as high as you can on each one (or the one you desire to take…check with your guidance counselor).To compare your level of preparation with that of students nationwide, most colleges require that you take one or both . You can usually choose which to send, but some colleges only accept one of these. Check to see which your colleges of interest require. The advantage of taking those tests in your junior year gives you a chance to improve your scores, if needed. Most libraries carry instructional books with practice exams and test-taking tactics designed to improve your scores.

It’s your senior year, and college is just around the corner. Hopefully, you have begun the college application process, but don’t panic if you haven’t. There is still time, but you’ll have to move quickly. Here are a few steps to remember:

Get Recommendations

Good recommendations are important, for both college and scholarship applications. Colleges will have your grades, but they will be interested in knowing you personally. To ace this part of the application process, maintain relationships with your teachers, coaches, and volunteer directors. Pick out those who know you best, and ask them for a letter of recommendation. Be sure to give them sufficient time and to thank them when they have finished.

Register For The ACT And/Or SAT AND NCAA Clearinghouse (for athletes)

Almost all colleges will require that you take the ACT (American College Test) or the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). If you plan to take the ACT, be prepared to take it between the months of September and June. It is offered 6 times a year, and each registration deadline is about a month before the test. Dates are similar if you plan on taking the SAT. It is offered once a month between October and June, and you have to register at least a month in advance. You can have your scores submitted to several schools for free when you take either test.

The NCAA Clearinghouse or Eligibility Center requires you register and be cleared to participate in sports.

• Apply

The submission of application materials is the most important part of the college application process. Pay close attention to your grammar and spelling as you complete the required forms. When writing your essay, personalize it to the school of your choice. Including reasons for your interest in each school shows that you have put forth an effort and have done your research. Deadlines for an early decision are usually in early November. Regular deadlines are generally between January and February. Applying early is your best bet. You stand a better chance of getting in if all of your information is in before the deadlines. Near the cut-off dates, most admissions offices are swamped with entries. It is possible for things to get misplaced or lost, and having time to resend application materials is important.

• Continue Your Search For Scholarships

Begin in September, see what is available and what is coming up so you will have time to apply for those best suited to you and ramp-up your efforts, month after month. In January, you really need to be ready to begin applying for the scholarships that are best suited to you. Use a free scholarship search such as hbcuconnect.com or see scholarships where you will find hundreds of  scholarships for which you may qualify. 

• Submit The FAFSA Form

The deadline for completing the FAFSA on the Web varies by state and can be as early as January or February. However, even if your state has a later priority deadline you should try to submit it as soon after January 1st as possible. You will need to have a copy of your parents’ and, if applicable, your own tax returns before beginning. It is easiest to submit your FAFSA form online (although a paper version is available). This can be done at fafsa.ed.gov. Beware of sites that charge you for applying for financial aid. Remember, FAFSA is the FREE application for federal student aid, so if you have to pay, you’re on the wrong site.

• Wait For Results

Most colleges will let you know their decisions by the beginning of May. Once you have received the results, consider your options. Take into consideration your financial need, the location, and the reputation of each college. Let each school know if you have accepted their offer as soon as you can.  The application process can get a little tedious, but finishing the process can give you time to adjust, reflect and look forward to receiving the good news!
Good luck!

4 Ways to Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

As students work on their college application timelines, they should include plans to write scholarship essays to win funds for college.

Read more here.

When applying for college, along with your application, many schools require a letter of intent or personal statement. Personal statements can be one of the most important parts of the application and sometimes the deciding factor for admission.

1. Be yourself

Students are encouraged to write about family, education, talents or passions… books you have read, places you’ve been…memorable events and people who have been influential in your life.

2. Show diversity

Here’s your chance to separate yourself from the other applicants and illustrate why you should be accepted and what will you contribute.

3. Tailor each essay for each situation 

• Every college is different, so tailor each statement to fit their requirements. Never use a “generic” essay that can easily be spotted by admissions departments.

• Make a convincing point why you’re interested in attending their school.

4. Follow directions

• Make sure you read the directions carefully. One of the biggest red flags for an admissions office are students who don’t adhere to word limitations, etc.
• Don’t give them a reason to trash your application.
Keep your essay to a page or less. Don’t become boring. If you need some help, ask your guidance counselor or a teacher for help and give you feedback.

5. Go beyond your resume, GPA and test scores

Many students worry about how their GPA and test scores will affect the admissions process. The personal statement is an opportunity to explain any strengths or weaknesses in your application — such as changes in major, low GPA or lack of experience.

6. Tell a story

A good story makes a great impression. One of the worst things you can do is bore the admission officer. Make your story interesting.
You don’t have to be a genius to pull this off. Just be sincere and make an impact.

There are hundreds of sites that cater to ways to finance your college education. We will provide a list below ut consider these options:

•Grants. Colleges, states, and the federal government give out grants, which don’t need to be repaid …
Federal Student Aid

Ask the college for more money 

• Work-study jobs
 Federal WorkStudy provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need , allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work 
related to the student’s course of study.

• Apply for private scholarships 

• Take out loans
Many students find that they need to borrow money to cover college costs. 

• Claim a $2,500 tax credit 
How to claim a $2,500 college tax credit. If you’ve got children in college, you could be eligible for a valuable tax credit when you file your taxes this year. The American Opportunity Tax Credit could knock $2,500 off your tax bill for your child’s college expenses.

• Live off campus or enroll in community college


Don’t know where to start? If you are a top athlete or A-list student, there are probably many more recruitment choices available, but if you haven’t received any leteters or have not marrowed your choices, now may be the rifht time to start exploring the waters.

Many HBCUs are offering academic and athletic scholarships for the student athlete who qualify…and that can mean a lot of different opportunities. That’s why you need to inverstigate the eligibility requirements and that can lead to many more opportunities for you.

Perhaps your parents, relatives or friends are playing a big part in helping you to decide. Weigh ALL of your options at this point…then begin to narrow your choices based on what or where you feel comfortable at.

See the list of schools, locations, national rankings (for you academic types, enrollments and sports available (some with national rankings in NCAA Division I, II, NAIA, etc.) Note: The NCAA has a clearinghouse to determine athletic participation eligibility, so make sure you keep your grades up)

 [See the list] 

Parents should help teens pace themselves to complete high school graduation requirements to avoid burnout.

About High School Notes

Whether you are a parent, teacher, student or administrator, get caught up on the latest news, ideas and policy debates affecting America’s high schoolclassrooms. 

Chicago teens will soon have to provide proof of what they plan to do next to graduate high school, such as a job offer or college acceptance letter, under a controversial new graduation requirement.

High school graduation requirements vary by states and districts, but students generally have to complete classes in a number of core subject areas, including English, math, social studies and science. Other requirements could include completing community service and coursework in personal finance or technology, along with passing tests in core subject areas.

Graduation requirements have changed a lot since parents were in school, says Brittanie Davis, a school counselor at Kokomo High School in Indiana. Expectations for students are higher and teens are more stressed, she says.

Navigating the maze of graduation guidelines can be a challenge. Parents can use the following tips to help teens fulfill requirements and graduate on time.

  1. Learn as much as possible about requirements early: As students transition from middle to high school, there should be many opportunities through curriculum fairs, evening presentations and similar events for families to learn what is required for graduation, says Jennifer Grossman, a school counselor at Staley High Schoolin Missouri.

A course planning guide or similar documents should be available for families to reference each year too, she says. And parents can visit school websites and speak with counselors to learn more.

Davis says parents should know some schools have additional tasks students must complete that go beyond their state’s minimum graduation requirements. Graduation requirements may not also include all that is required to get into some colleges, such as earning credits in a foreign language.

Parents should start learning about graduation requirements in middle school, Davis says. If parents notice a middle school student is struggling in a particular area required for a diploma, they could then help him or her get the resources needed to build a strong foundation before high school.

2. Be aware of the types of students who struggle: Students who always have struggled academically consistently in the past and those with social-emotional issues, such as students who move a lot, may have a hard time meeting graduation requirements, Grossman says.

Parents should be proactive in contacting school counselors to see how they can help their student graduate on time, Davis says.

Grossman tells parents to monitor their high schooler’s grades – many schools have online platforms to do this – and intervene if they notice a drop in performance by midsemester. Don’t wait until the end of the course.

If these students fall behind, a parent-meeting with school counselors is critical to determine what students need to graduate, she says. There may be alternative ways students can earn credits – online or through summer school, for instance, and other supports available like tutoring.

And if a student is struggling in a particular required class, parents should advocate on the teen’s behalf to see if there’s alternatives, Davis says.

Parents should be open to other ideas of how to get a diploma, Davis says. Indiana offers an alternative diploma for students who struggle, she says. It won’t prepare students for a four-year college, but allows students to graduate and get a job, attend community college or go to trade school, she says.

3. Help students pace themselves: Many families want to rush to complete general education requirements early in high school, Grossman says, but students could overload themselves or miss an opportunity – since there could be more electives to take.

Some students who overload themselves with requirements early in high school, reach senior year and have very little to do. “They get a little bored,” she says. They might start to tune out, think about early graduation or lose focus. “They don’t feel as pressured.”

[Use all four years of high school to prep for college.]

Seniors don’t want to waste that year, she says, as it is important for college.

“Pacing is important,” she says. “Having a well-thought-out four-year plan is very important.”

[Learn how high school counselors can help families.]

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