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High School Graduation Next Year? Start Preparing This Summer!

Is your child a high school senior this fall? Here’s a quick summer read for parents of next year’s graduates. (This post is a good one to share with your child!)

Your son or daughter’s senior year of high school isn’t just a whirlwind of applications, activities, and celebrations – uncertainty and anxiety seem as much a part of 12th grade as personal essays and senioritis. The summer is your opportunity to help prepare your future college freshman and you can do a lot to reduce the stress in getting your child college-ready.

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Here are five ways to make the most out of the summer before senior year – without going crazy.

1. Get a head start on the Common Application essay questions

Start early, start today, start yesterday! The Common Application essay prompts have already been posted, and writing responses now will cut down on the stress of senior year as well as provide plenty of time for editing. Of course, you don’t want to write your child’s essay yourself, but you can provide encouragement and serve as a sounding board for ideas. You could consider coaching services that help with college applications, or, a general summer writing course to help your child hone her writing skills – so critical for success in college!

You can also run the essay drafts by someone outside the family – maybe a current college student at your child’s dream school or a former English major – and your chances of finding a willing reviewer are higher in the slow months of summer. (Check out Meemli’s offerings for help with writing and reviewing college essays!)

2. Calculate the cost of college and review your financial situation

Increasingly, students and parents are realizing that sometimes, the most expensive universities may not be the best. Sit down with your child and calculate the total cost of in-state, out-of-state public, and representative private universities, and figure out how much help you can realistically expect from scholarships.

Then, review the family’s financial situation together (this is a great time to talk about household budgets in general). How much will you be contributing to her education, if anything? What does that mean in terms of student loans, and how will those loans impact her choice of major and career down the line? Be forthright and realistic to set the parameters of your college search.

3. Target potential teacher recommendations

Does your child already have an idea of which teachers will write the best recommendations? If so, encourage him to stay in contact with those teachers over the summer. Don’t be too pushy, but make sure he’s still on the radar.

You can also work with your child in drafting a recommendation “cheat sheet” that highlights key achievements, important projects and major extracurriculars. This will make the teacher’s job a lot easier, and shine a spotlight on what he’s accomplished outside of the classroom.

4. Do important household tasks with your child

When your kid’s off to college, she’ll be flying solo on a number of new household tasks: managing money, doing laundry, cooking. If you haven’t already, begin to transition those tasks over to her. This will give her plenty of time to ask questions and make mistakes in a low-risk setting, as well as (hopefully) provide some quality bonding time.

5. Set the right tone: have some fun!

Finally, don’t forget that summer isn’t just a time for padding extracurriculars, volunteering, interning, or academic enrichment for getting a jump-start on next year’s classes. It’s also about relaxing, recharging and just being a kid. With all the pressure of getting into The Right College, just being a kid sometimes falls by the wayside.

Encourage your child to relax, do an activity that’s fun but not necessarily college-essay-worthy, and generally lead a healthy teenage life. Then, make sure your actions are in line with your words. Don’t just ask about how his essays are coming – talk about his life beyond what’s shown on college applications.

Finally, lead by example. Raising a teenager is no easy task, and the stresses of senior year affect the entire family. Take time for yourself as well, and make sure that you’re as happy and relaxed as possible. Your child will pick up on the value of self-care.

You’re probably already knee-deep in applications, tours and brochures; next year, you’ll be sending your child off to college. While using this summer to get a head start on your to-do list, make sure it is an enjoyable time too – it’s the last one you’ll have with your child as a high-schooler!

What do you and your high-school senior plan to do this summer?

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