College Action Plan, Part 2 – Preparing for Life After High School


Hi, it’s your Money Mavens, and last week we jumped into the bittersweet conversation about helping your child prepare for life after high school.

It’s an amazing world of new possibilities teeming with new relationships, experiences, and yes, also plenty of challenges.

In our last issue of Profit Boss Weekly, we talked about how to help your child thrive during high school.

Today, we’re picturing graduation.

Pomp and Circumstance is playing, square caps flying sky high, and yes, Mama may be tearing up knowing they grow up so fast!

Now, what? When the grad party is over and their (likely) last summer at home arrives, how can you know they’re ready for what the next year may bring?

Let’s wind back time as much as possible to see what steps you can take right now to prepare for life after graduation.

Preparing for Life After High School

Your child will have plenty of decisions to make after high school – what career to pursue, where to go next, who they want to be.

Preparing for life after high school largely depends on what your child is like and what their future goals may be.

As a freshman, they can start building their resume of extracurricular activities, community service projects, and eventually work experiences.

These activities are great ways to be more engaged in school. All are valuable nuggets of information on the college application.

A student does not need 10 different activities. In fact, colleges would prefer that a student have only a few key activities they pursue, show passion for, and grow into over the years.

As their parent, you can help keep track of all the details about honors/awards, interest groups, community service, extracurricular activities, and leadership positions in your child’s high school years.

You’ll need that information when they start applying for colleges. You don’t want to be trying to recreate that information in August of their senior year.

Testing – PSAT, ACT, SAT

The dreaded SAT and ACT! For students, especially high school upperclassmen, it can seem like a never-ending testing cycle.

The PSAT/NMSQT is an exam offered to all juniors in October.
Sophomores may be offered the option to take the test for practice. (Your school may offer the PSAT 10.)

During your child’s junior year, the primary purpose of this test is to identify candidates for the National Merit Scholarship awards.

Taking the test in their sophomore year, can be practice for the SAT. (However, in our opinion, a better way to ‘practice’ for the SAT is to take the actual SAT exam.)

If a student has an IEP or 504 Plan, families will want to speak with their guidance counselor about accommodations for the ACT and SAT. This process is lengthy so it’s a good idea to start as soon as possible.

Ideally, students should take the ACT or SAT as close to the completion of Algebra II or Geometry as possible, usually close to the start of their junior year.

Students can quickly forget what they learned in Geometry so try to schedule an exam when the material is still fresh in the student’s mind.

Taking the actual exams early is great practice for understanding the topics covered and the timing involved.

Try to take each one once. Identify the preferred test for your child, and then, take it again two or three times during their junior or senior years.

By their senior year, your child will likely have taken the ACT, SAT, or both at least a few times. Students often re-take these tests at least one more time before the end of December.

Your child will need to request their testing scores be sent directly to the college(s) where they’re applying.

It can sometimes take at least a week or two for test scores to arrive, so be sure to request the test scores well before an application deadline.

Go Tech? Go State? Go Check Out Both!

If your child is a freshman or sophomore, it’s an excellent opportunity to talk about where they may want to go to college.

Of course, setting up college visits takes some planning, but that may be overwhelming for your child as an underclassman.

College representative visits to your child’s school can be a great conversation starter. You can ask your child what they like about where they live and what they may want to live near as they get older.

During their sophomore year, having one ‘official’ college visit is a good idea. They can start a very general list of colleges that sound interesting and then begin narrowing that list down throughout the year.

When application time is nearing, having official visits – where you register with the college for a tour and information session – is a good idea. Showing interest with an official visit catches colleges’ attention.

You can work with your child to start narrowing down the types of schools they’re interested in based on their preferred criteria – big vs. small, urban vs rural vs suburban, etc.

Applying for College

Of course, the big step is applying for college. The good news is it’s easier than ever to apply and sort through college opportunities.

The Common App is used by more than 800 colleges and goes live on August 1st each year.

Many early application deadlines are in November or December, but some are as early as October. These dates are sometimes startling for students – the calendar can move so fast!

Thankfully, a little prep work can help minimize the stress later.

Start brainstorming essay topics. Think about which teachers you will ask for letters of recommendation. Identify if the college uses a separate application or supplemental questionnaire.

And through this whole experience, try to savor making great memories with your child. These last few years are a blink to many parents.

And, if you need a tissue, we understand, too.

Stay tuned as we’ll wrap up our College Action Plan Series next with how to pay for life after high school.

To your prosperity,
Your HWM Money Mavens


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