Steps Your Student Can Take Now To Get More Scholarships Later

For those that don’t know me so well, you might be surprised to find out that I have ADD and I’m not an organized person by nature. I can almost hear some of you saying, “But Anderson, you worked in an industry totally governed by deadlines and detailsand you want my family to trust you to navigate us through!” Here’s the thing, I learn (sometimes the hard way) to be organized, keep calendars and lists and set up automated processes in order to be successful.
So, it’s from a place of personal experience that I offer the single biggest piece of advice I can give regarding your student’s transition from high school to college: start early!

Take Hard Classes and Get A’s

If you want to know what the competition is like out there to get into flagship schools, Ivies and near-Ivies join a couple of Facebook parent groups and read the angst-ridden posts of frustrated parents whose high-stats students didn’t get admitted to their dream schools. They are often unaware of the level of competition their student is up against, but further reading in the forum paints the picture, My daughter was accepted to Texas, Michigan, and UNC. GPA: 4.6 and 1500 SAT. Very competitive high school. Varsity athlete (Track and Swimming). 7 APs. All state violinist. Started a high school club and good volunteer experience.”
High school grade inflation has become a real issue in the admissions world and selective colleges are looking for students that have challenged themselves with honors, AP and dual enrollment coursework. Even regional public colleges will have hundreds of students apply with weighted GPA’s over 4.0. To compete for the best schools and scholarships, your student will need take hard classes and get A’s.

Start a Resume and Update It Every Semester

Top students do, well, a lot. I can’t tell you just how often I have had a student in my office trying to list their bona fides only to have mom and dad add a whole extra section to the oral resume that the student forgot. The point is that life is busy and people forget. If you want to have a strong resume for the Common App, scholarships, and honors colleges, you’d better document as you go along.
Beside earning good grades, extracurricular activities will play the biggest role in your college and scholarship decisions. And there’s some good news – it’s not about the quantity of activities you participate in; it’s the quality of those activities. 

Pro Tip: Add emails from advisors, coaches and teachers to your running list so that you can locate them a couple of years from now for letters of recommendation.

Visit Lots of Types of Schools- Starting Locally

I’m consistently amazed that the number of families that do not visit any colleges until the end of junior year (or even later). Visiting colleges is easy and very low cost if you start close to home. Ideally, I would have students visit at least three colleges in their freshman year of high school- one public, one private and one community college. Doing so helps the student (and their parents) learn what their deal-breakers are- and prioritize them so that they can find that perfect fit down the road. Is it class size, campus type, cost, atmosphere? It also helps students and their families get comfortable asking great questions.

Pro Tip: When I ran campus tours, I always encouraged families to listen to each other’s questions. Make friends on the tours and ask other families what they’ve seen at other schools they’ve visited!

Make Time for College in Senior Year

Another reason students should challenge themselves early on in high school is so that they can take it a little easier for the second half of senior year. Mind you, I am not encouraging a senior slide or a cake semester. Rather, I am saying that your student will likely be writing college scholarships essays, completing applications, attending admitted student days and perhaps interviewing for money and special opportunities like honors colleges. Front-loading the high school career with AP’s and activities means they can dial back the difficulty during their last semester to allow additional focus on all the college-related activities.

Final Thoughts:

CCA is all about making informed decisions. Failing to start early means that you will limit your own options because you will have to rush— possibly missing the chance to explore all the possibilities. Starting in 9th grade will allow you to dive deep into researching potential colleges, considering factors like location, campus vibe, academic programs, and financial aid options. Download the Complete College Advising College Comparison Spreadsheet

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