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Calendar Guide

9th Grade: Help Your Child Prepare for College

Your child's grades appear on official transcripts starting this year, so if you haven't already started doing so, it's time to take stock.
If your child has particularly strong academic interests, encourage them, but don't lose focus on strengthening areas of weakness that can't be ignored, such as English or algebra.


1. Get involved
The initial weeks of high school can be a difficult adjustment, socially and academically. Keep an open dialogue about how classes are going. If your child is struggling, now's the time to get a handle on it. Similarly, you may want to talk to the school about placing your child in a more advanced class if the work seems too easy.

2. Help your child explore
As classes progress, encourage involvement in meaningful activities in and out of school. Allow your child to feel out what they're comfortable with and how much time they can dedicate without impacting schoolwork negatively.

3. Heap on the praise
Help your child begin keeping an activities record that lists participation in activities as well as accomplishments, awards, and leadership positions.


1. Provide support
Keep up regular conversations with your child about his or her academic progress. Grades should be up to par and course levels appropriate. If not, perhaps your child could use your help in establishing better study habits or creating a better study environment.

2. Be a motivator
Develop an improvement plan together if your child is struggling and remember that the best motivation is encouragement.

3. Remain open to change
One of the points of high school is for students to explore their interests. Determine if your child is enjoying what they're doing, and if any changes need to be made.


1. Look to the future
Together, review and evaluate the comprehensive academic program and activities record started earlier in the school year, make any necessary changes, and update accordingly.

2. Hit the books
As summer approaches, develop a summer reading list that will help with the academic transition to 10th grade, and finalize any summer plans that were in development.

10th Grade: Help Your Child Prepare for College

Tenth grade is a banner year for most kids. For the most part, the classes your child takes this year will determine the courses your child will be qualified to take in grades 11 and 12.

In terms of preparing for college, it's an important time, since AP and honors classes require prerequisites that your child will need to be fulfilling this year and next. You and your child should have an open discussion and strategically map out classes together.

Sophomore year also marks the beginning of standardized testing. This year, students can take a practice PSAT/NMSQT — a preparatory step for the PSAT/NMSQT. For students planning on taking the ACT, the PLAN assessment is also administered in their sophomore year. If it hasn't already started, it's buckle-down time!


1. Encourage preliminary testing
Make sure your child gets in touch with the school guidance counselor about taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Although the "real" PSAT/NMSQT is taken in October of junior year, this is a great way for your child to get familiar with the test. In ACT regions, they should ask about the PLAN schedule. The PLAN helps immensely in predicting your child's performance on the ACT. Both tests will help your child prepare for the "big" tests next year.

2. Get a head start
It's also time to start checking out college fairs and possibly meeting with school representatives that come to town. Encourage your child to start investigating schools by attending one fair and a session or two with representatives at school. But don't push it — this might be way too early!

If your child seems okay with this, encourage the creation/modification of a list of colleges that are possible destinations.


1. Stay coordinated
Mark the date for the PSAT/NMSQT in big red letters on the wall calendar! Your child should be doing a little prep work for this test, but don't forget to maintain open dialogue on how classes and activities are going. Remember: this is a practice run.


1. Make plans for improvement
PSAT/NMSQT scores should be back by now and between you, your child, and the high school counselor, strategies for improving weak areas should be developed, if necessary.


1. Keep talking
Just as you've been doing all along, make sure that your child's classes seem to be an appropriate fit. If grades are slipping, perhaps the course levels are too high or study habits are poor.

2. Stay active
Take a look at extracurricular activities as well, not just from the standpoint of whether or not they're going well, but if they are having a negative impact on your child's studies and need to be cut back.


1. Consider additional testing
You and your child (and perhaps the school counselor) should discuss SAT Subject Tests and APs, although many students wait until their junior year. May and June are the usual test times and the most common test taken by sophomores is biology, as it is often a completed subject by this time.


1. Break out the sunscreen
Summer is coming up again, and your child should be considering what options are best for his summer plans. Vacations are nice, but so is earning money or enhancing one's transcript with a summer camp or program!

2. Check the schedule
If your child needs to, he or she should register for June SAT Subject Tests now.


1. Plan for the coming school year
Testing aside, gently oversee registration for next fall's classes and activities. Urge your child to select (or continue) the most challenging classes possible and to participate in at least one community service activity. Finalize any summer plans, and, just as you did last year, devise a summer reading list together that will help the transition into junior year.


1. Make the break a productive one
Your child should have a job or be participating in constructive activities throughout the summer. Summer study, jobs, and volunteer work always rate high with admission officials. If your child has a career goal in mind, see if you can help arrange a day where he or she can "shadow" someone who works in that field.

2. Do some early research
The Web provides good college entrance information, as well as online applications to many institutions. Summer is a great time for you and your child to check out some of the sites and bookmark your favorites.

11th Grade: Help Your Child Prepare for College

This year the college search process really gets going. The combined exploration of the past two years along with your child's testing should help refine the list of colleges that you and your child have been working on. Poor grades will not be as easily forgiven as they were in previous years, and colleges will look for commitment and accomplishment outside of the classroom.

Just as you've been doing all along, help your child stay on top of things and continue to provide support and encouragement -- and constructive criticism, if needed.


1. Go to the fair
Check into college fairs and college representative visits to the school. (The school counselor should have a schedule.) Encourage your child to attend and to start becoming very familiar with the college resources available at school.

2. An important note
If you haven't done so yet, get a Social Security number for your child.


1. Keep driving the bus
If your child is taking the PSAT, make sure the date is in big bold letters on the family calendar. Diplomatically remind your child to read the Student Bulletin and to try some practice questions. Try to refrain from grilling your beloved offspring about how he or she thinks they did as soon as the test is over. Plan a not-test-related treat instead.

2. Get out of town
Schedule a day trip to visit nearby colleges. Don't worry if these are places where your child won't apply. The goal is to explore different types of schools. Aim for variety. Discuss which characteristics of schools are attractive and which aren't.


1. Get ready to buckle down
If you have questions about PSAT scores, contact your child's guidance counselor and, if necessary, discuss strategies for improving weak areas for the SAT. This is another year for college admission tests, so look into prep options for the SAT and ACT

2. Look to the future
Help refine the list of colleges, with test results in mind. If you or any of your acquaintances have a college student at home for the winter break, ask them questions and encourage your child to do so as well.

3. Start thinking dollars and cents
Take an introductory look at financial aid forms just to see what you'll be doing this time next year.


1. Keep up communication
How's school going this year? Since classes are probably tougher than ever, continue to evaluate your child's academic progress. Does everything seem to be going alright? What does your child need if he or she is struggling?

2. Dream about summer
Start making initial summer plans for working, studying, volunteering, or attending a summer program. Try to make sure your child is involved in something that looks good on a college application.


1. Check the schedule
Look ahead to SAT or ACT registration deadlines. There may be one coming up quickly since some juniors take the SAT in March, which isn't a bad idea. Heed the February registration deadline.


1. Plan, prepare, and plan some more
Consider and plan spring vacation college visits. Hopefully, your child's spring break WON'T coincide with college breaks, so you can see some students and really get a gander at college life when you visit.

2. Get organized
Have your son or daughter start a "College Binder" by making an early list of target colleges in a notebook. Visits to college Web sites should increase and he or she should begin calling, writing, or e-mailing target colleges to request publications. Set aside an area where all the marketing materials can be organized and be easily referenced.

3. Remember those tests?
If you didn't do it last month, check upcoming SAT or ACT registration deadlines for tests your child still needs to take. Is there one on the horizon? Make note of the test and registration dates on your calendar.

If AP tests are coming up, make sure your child discusses plans to take exams with teachers and/or the guidance counselor, as needed.

4. Make plans
Discuss the lineup for senior year classes. Urge your child to include at least one math course or lab science, as well as the most challenging courses possible. Both of you should recognize that colleges weigh senior classes and grades as heavily as the junior record.


1. Double-check
Does your child still need to take the SAT or ACT? Check for registration deadlines and upcoming test dates. If it hasn't already been done, have your child update his or her extracurricular-activities record.


1. Prepping for tests
Does your child still need to get the SAT and/or ACT out of the way? (And yes, we will remind you every month until it's done!) Make sure no deadlines or test dates are being overlooked

2. Explore some options
Assess the need for and affordability of special services, such as standardized prep test courses, independent college counselors, and private group tour programs.


1. Double-check…again
Make sure your child is registered for anything that still needs to be done. As always, if your child has a test coming up, mark the test and registration dates on the family calendar.

2. Think scholarships
Take advantage of the summer slow-down by visiting scholarship search and financial aid Web sites with your child, or by checking out comparable library resources.


1. Don't slow down
By now, your child should be accustomed to setting summers aside for employment or some other constructive activities. These are the types of activities that sit well with admission officials. This is also a good time to take some summer visits and plan fall college visits.

2. Work on your child's list
Keep your child on track with test preparation, if needed. He or she should continue requesting college publications. They should also begin planning, if not executing, any supplemental submissions that will be needed, such as audition tapes or art slides or portfolios. Review and update the list of target schools that you and your child have been developing, adding the pros and cons of each school.

12th Grade: Help Your Child Prepare for College

Phew! Once your child reaches senior year, the college search kicks up a notch and will sometimes feel like a full-time job — with all of the toil, tedium, and triumphs that come with it. But this is the home stretch for both you and your future college graduate. It might be a lot of work, but it's a labor of love!


1. Take a moment with your child
Start the year off right by planning an evening out (perhaps dinner at a favorite restaurant) with your college-bound child. Go over your strategy for the school year. Discuss plans and goals and review your child's list of colleges. If necessary, find a few more colleges using an online college finder (or college lists) to make sure you haven't neglected any possible colleges.

Also discuss plans to attend college fairs and meet with any college reps who may be coming to the school. (The school guidance office will have a schedule.) Go over which college sites have been visited and which ones haven't. Finalize plans for college visits. If it all seems overwhelming, reassure your child (over dessert!) that you'll be there to support them every step of the way.

2. Start the application process
Does your child still need to take the ACT or SAT? Find out the dates and get them registered!


1. Make a decision on early decision
Go over options for early decision and early action and determine if it's an option you and your child want to pursue. Help your child complete the college list by adding application and financial aid due dates, then add the dates to the family calendar.

2. Move them in the "write" direction
Monitor the start of applications and encourage your child to mull over various application essay topics to determine if any can be overlapped to reduce the workload. Your child should also start requesting teacher recommendations now; that way, they'll be done well in advance of any deadlines.

3. Hit the road
Start making college visits to the top schools on the list of colleges, and schedule any interviews that can be completed on campus or with college alumni. Attend college fairs, gather more information, and take a little time to laugh about the process by renting a good comedy and taking a night off!

4. Think dollars and cents
Certain colleges require a supplemental financial aid form, known as the CSS/PROFILE. This has an earlier deadline than the FAFSA. Check the schools to which your child is applying to find out if you'll need to complete this form in addition to the FAFSA.


1. Nag (but just a little)
You might have to start nagging your teen about early application deadlines, if applicable. Narrow your college list to those schools to which applications will be sent. Try to use time over the Thanksgiving break to get in a campus visit. As your child starts working on (or completing) applications, offer to proofread and provide constructive criticism.


1. Start coordinating paperwork
If your child plans to have another go at the SAT or ACT, make sure they register. The January sitting (February for ACT) is their absolute last chance.

2. Keep an eye on the calendar
Get your federal financial aid forms (FAFSA) from the guidance office or the Web and attend workshops if there any available. Leave gentle reminders about any January or February application deadlines and have your child confirm that teachers and guidance staff are up-to-date with reference forms. Also make sure that transcripts are being sent to all short-list colleges.

3. Celebrate early
Usher in the New Year with a family toast to the future, whatever it may bring.


1. Remember "parent" deadlines
If you have everything you need, file your income taxes and begin filling out financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA. Finish and mail these forms as soon as possible — and never late! Keep in mind that many schools list earlier FAFSA filing dates than that which is listed on the form itself.

2. Finish up applications
Encourage your child to complete all of his or her applications, even those with later deadlines. Make copies of everything and save them! If SATs are being taken this month, find out if "rush" scores are required for any of your child's choice schools.

When the last application hits the mailbox, CELEBRATE!


1. Follow up
Unless confirmations have arrived, your child should consult colleges by phone or online to check the status of applications. They should keep track of who they speak with and find out if there are any materials that still need to be sent in.


1. Stay cool
Resist the urge to open letters addressed to your child. Also, don't despair when thin envelopes show up — that doesn't always mean it's a rejection letter. Some schools send out enrollment forms later.

2. Remain supportive
If your child is accepted, cheer and applaud! If a rejection letter arrives, try to put things in perspective with a comment like "It's an extremely competitive college and your math test scores must have hurt." (Don't say something like "The admission folks at that school seemed like a bunch of Bozos from the get-go." Even if that's what you think!)

3. Follow up
Was your child placed on a waitlist? Make sure to return any waitlist cards and follow up with the admission offices regularly. Send updated records and other information, if available. Encourage your child to write an upbeat "Please take me, and this is why you should" letter. It may make a difference.

4. Take a deep breath
If you and your child have made a final decision about which school to attend, then congratulations! Now, make sure you send in any required deposit. Be sure not to dawdle and miss the May 1 deadline or your child may lose their spot to some other hopeful student. Last but not least, notify the schools that weren't chosen that your child won't be attending, particularly if an aid offer was made.


1. Remember P's and Q's
Encourage your child to write a thank you note to anyone who may have been especially helpful in the college-planning process. Guidance counselors are often unsung heroes, as are teachers who write recommendations, scholarship agencies, admission counselors, financial aid officers, secretaries, tours guides, or other students. Of course this isn't obligatory, but recipients are sure to be pleasantly surprised.

2. Buy some extra-long sheets
Stay on top of housing plans in case there are any forms that need to be returned. You and your child may also consider alternatives to the dorms, if there are any. Find out the dates for freshman orientation, as some schools have them in spring or summer. And of course, make sure your child knows when course registration is.


1. Give your child (and yourself!) a pat on the back
Help your child organize a file to keep track of summer mailings from the college. Categories might include orientation, housing, course registration, and finances.

2. Attend to the details
Your child may want to consider summer courses to accelerate or place out of required courses, but make sure the college has confirmed that it will accept the credits. Also have your child confirm that the high school has forwarded a final transcript to the college.

3. Ready...set...go!
On a less stressful note, take your child shopping for supplies and dorm décor. Don't forget about suitcases for packing clothes!

4. Give yourself some well-deserved credit
After everything is done, sit down and have a good cry while you go back over all the masterpieces your child has created over the years. And remember, this is a good thing and you've done a GREAT JOB!