A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Summer To Do: College Prep

Posted by Jessica Smith on May 1, 2017

College prep 1-794761-edited.jpgYes, summer is a time for students to relax, enjoy, and rejuvenate but also an important time for your teen to stay on track with their college prep. Wondering how to do this and where to focus your energy?  Here are a few simple reminders for you and your teen.

  • Grades count. Please don't believe the myth that grades don't matter until junior year. Colleges will look at applicants’ grades from freshman year onward, and the stronger the grades, the more choices your child will have. It's not just about having a good grade and looking good to colleges. Students need the skills they learn on the way to achieving those grades in order to do well in future courses. At the same time, remember that their best may change as they progress through high school. We are all hoping for authentic effort, not perfection.
  • Summer reading for both of you. Here is a list of our suggestions for students and parents. There's no test at the end, but if you want to know more about college preparedness or the development of high school students, this is a good place to start.

  • What should your teen do over the summer? We love to see students work, travel, babysit, explore hobbies, play or condition for your sport, go to camp, start a small business or volunteer. Please note, you do not need to spend a lot of money on special pre-college programs. Colleges know that not all students can afford them, so they’re not very meaningful in a college application. If interested, it’s fine to take high school or local college classes for credit, but it’s not a must. Encourage students to do what they love or need to do. It is all part of learning more and becoming an adult. Definitely make sure they have some down time, and spend lots of time having fun, but also keep busy with a project, job, class, or hobby - something. Let them pick!

  • What should your teen NOT do this summer?  They should NOT stress out about college or worry about their grades. They will be done for this year, and not yet started for next. They do not need to do endless test prep. Rising juniors should consider test prep but rising sophomores don’t need to yet. In any case, it shouldn’t consume their summer. They do not need to visit every Ivy League college, or start working on their college essay. If they are not ready for college visits yet, that's fine. If they want to visit colleges, great. Make sure they are looking at a wide range of places, not just the most selective. In New York, visit Marymount Manhattan, Pace, City College, Fordham, and Hofstra - not just NYU, Columbia, and Barnard. In Washington D.C., visit Catholic University, American, Howard, or George Washington, not just Georgetown. In Virginia, visit Mary Washington or Roanoke, not just UVA, VA Tech, and William & Mary. You get the idea. If you can't travel far, pick out two different colleges in your area and look at them. Encourage them to keep an open mind and look at big and small, city and country, near and far.

  • What's coming next? Our basic message to students is: work hard, learn a lot, get involved in some activities, enjoy high school, and take on leadership roles as you get more experience. Consult with your college or guidance counselor if questions arise. In the fall of junior year, most high school counseling offices begin college programming. Have your child work with their counselor to develop a tentative list of colleges to research.

  • Explore college fairs. College fairs provide a great opportunity to have conversations with experts in the admissions process while getting to know more about many colleges and universities. For those of you in the West Chester area, save the date for the Westtown Multicultural College Conference and Fair.  All families are welcome to attend. There will be  conference sessions in the morning will offer valuable information on all aspects of the college process, with expert advice from college admissions representatives and counselors from independent schools. Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 21, 2017, and plan to attend.

As always, be in touch with your school counseling office with any questions or thoughts. The college process can be a fun and interesting way for you to get to  know more about your teen. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enjoy the ride!

Summer Enrichment at Westtown 

Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens

Jessica Smith

Written by Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith is Director of College Counseling at Westtown School. Previously, she served as Associate Director of College Guidance, faculty co-clerk, English teacher, and English department chair at Wilmington Friends School. She attended Mount Holyoke College and earned her M.S.Ed. at the University of Pennsylvania.