My darling daughter Samantha just completed her junior in high school. This means that she is now a senior. This year will be her last year of high school. Possibly just as much as she is, I am looking forward to the coming of her final year of high school filled with a mixture of pride and despondency. My firstborn, my only daughter, is nearly a woman.
However, she’s not quite a graduate yet. Ahead of us looms the whirlwind that is her senior year. Even now, in the summer before her senior year, preparations have already begun. Senior portraits are being scheduled and college tours are being taken. Proper planning before and during her senior year is critical to making the transition into college smooth and relatively painless for us both. In light of that (and because I am a natural-born planner) I have created an action plan. This action plan serves to help me, help her as she enters her final year of high school. Hopefully, this will help some of you as you look forward to your children entering their senior year.Proper planning before and during her senior year is critical to making the transition into college… Click To Tweet
Action Plan for Parents of Rising Seniors
Prepare Your Student
- Check your child’s graduation requirements. Each district is slightly different. Make sure your child has taken all of the classes they need to graduate. Also if your child is planning to go to a University after high school there may be some additional course requirements. This is the time to check to see if anything is missing. If you find a class missing, make sure your child gets enrolled for it during their senior year.
- Encourage your child to study for and take, or retake the standardized tests. Most universities require a minimum score on a standardized test. The two most common US tests are the American College Test (ACT) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Encourage your child to take one or both of the tests as early as possible. This way if they receive a low score they have time to retake the exam. A high score on the ACT or SAT can help your child as she begins to look for scholarships. Both the ACT and the SAT cost money to take, however financial aid is often available for those who qualify.
- Talk to your child about possible career paths. This is the time for your child to start seriously thinking about their future. The career path they choose may make a difference in the type of post-secondary education they look for. Perhaps a trade school is a better option for them, or perhaps only certain schools will offer the type of degree they need to work in their career. For example my daughter wants to get a dual degree in Music Education and American Sign Languages. There are very few schools that offer an ASL degree. This limits her choices when it comes to her college search.
- Help your child narrow her college or trade school choices. If your child has a career field in mind, this step is easier. Encourage your child to narrow her list of choices to the top 5-10 schools. Send off for information or talk to a recruiter each school. Once she has her top 3-5 picked out, schedule a tour. Many schools now offer a virtual tour for those potential applicants who live further away. Find out if there are any schools that are high enough on the list for your child that they want to consider applying early.
- Help your child create a resume. A resume will help your child both in applying for colleges and in trying to get recommendation letters and financial aid. A high-school resume should include:
- Any relevant coursework
- Work experiences like a job or volunteer work
- Extra-curricular activities
- Community service
- Encourage your child to start planning her college essays. At some point during the application/financial aid process, it is likely that your child will need to write an essay. Taking the time to plan and polish an essay is crucial to success. Now is the time for your child to start brainstorming essay topics and fleshing out ideas.
- Encourage your child to begin asking for recommendation letters. Like the essay, it is likely that your child will need to submit one or more recommendation letters at some point. She should begin thinking about who she will ask to write one now. This will give the person writing the letter plenty of time to write a quality one. It is also a good idea to give the person a copy of her resume when she makes the request for a recommendation.
- Give your child more responsibility. Pretty soon your child will be out in the world on her own. This can be a huge shock for someone who is used to being under the shelter of her parent’s roof. Start giving your child some more freedom and responsibility to get them used to taking care of themselves and making their own decisions.
- Create a to-do list and calendar for your child. The next year will be filled with due dates and events. Create a calendar for your child that will remind her so that she doesn’t accidentally miss a critical deadline.
Prepare Your Finances
- Check into scholarships and grants. College is expensive. Trade school is expensive. Pretty much no matter what your child decides on for their post-secondary education you can guarantee that it’s going to be expensive. Luckily there are resources available. Start now looking for grants and scholarships to help pay for the next step in your child’s education. Fill out the Federal Application for Student Financial Aid (FASFA) and check Scholarships.com. If your child is interested in trades, head over to MikeRoweWorks.com and check out their work ethic scholarship.
- Gather financial documents. Unless your child is married, or a parent or over 25 your income will be used to figure any need-based financial aid. Make sure you know where your financial documents are when the time comes to start filling out the FASFA and other applications.
- Prepare your budget for the senior year. I thought being a band parent was expensive. Enter the senior year. Below is just a taste of all the many things that are traditional parts of the senior year experience but that cost money.
- Graduation announcements
- Cap and gown
- College Application Fees
Prepare your family
Perhaps your senior is your eldest. Maybe she is your baby. Perhaps your senior is one of the kids in the middle. No matter where your child falls in the birth order when a child graduates and goes off to her own future the dynamics of the remaining family will change. Now is the time to start preparing the rest of the family for that eventuality. Plan family bonding activities. Think about how you will prepare your other children for their sibling leaving.
This is your baby – all grown up. Your child’s senior year is bound to be full of emotions. Let yourself live the moment of this time. Celebrate the accomplishment of getting your child all the way to adulthood in relatively one piece. Allow yourself to grieve over your baby growing up and becoming a woman or man. The emotions a parent feels during this time are natural. If you let yourself experience them a bit at a time all throughout her senior year, they will be less likely to bowl you over at the graduation ceremony (although, if you are like me, you will probably still cry through the ceremony. She IS my baby after all).
Your child’s senior year is one filled with first and lasts. These are the last days of her childhood and this is the first step into her future. With a little bit of preparation and encouragement from you, each first and each last can be something magical. Having an action plan to help guide you through this exciting and important final year of high school can put you and your senior on a path of joy and success.
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