College Prep between Sophomore / Junior Years

My daughter will be working, but I was also thinking that maybe she should use some of her time this summer to do some college prep. Wondering if anyone had suggestions, for a kid who will be starting their junior year in the fall, of good things to do to kind of get a leg up on applications and what not. I hear the Junior year can be quite busy and my thought was that maybe she could get a little ahead.

I was thinking that maybe something like starting on some general essays to then tweek accordingly when she starts to apply to colleges, or SAT prep, or even practicing filling out some applications? Or am I going overboard? Are there any tutors or courses that would kind of work with someone as an almost junior to do this kind of thing? I had also thought about having her take a community college course, but with her new job, vacations, etc., I'm afraid that we might be setting her up for failure if she does too much. Any advice is appreciated.

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it is too early for her to start writing college essays or working on applications but she could research colleges she's interested in to narrow down which to visit during the school year. it's great that she is working, that will go on her college app. If she has time, she could start some SAT prep, but there will be time for that during the school year -- calm down Mom or Dad.

My daughter just finished her first year of college, the first semester at a school that I encouraged her to apply to and accept, and the second semester at the school that was actually her dream school and she applied to all on her own during the middle of her first semester (lol I never even saw the application or the essays). Thus, my advice is this: make all those options available to her, but as long as she has something to do for the summer and is generally a good student, don't push. At the beginning of my daughter's senior year, we used Alpha College Prep to help with organizing the application process (for that first semester), essays, and SAT prep, and having that knowledge really helped my daughter a lot and allowed me to stay out of it.

I got some very good advice when I asked a similar question, and the answer was, "Don't do anything."  Kids are under tremendous pressure concerning college these days -- it just seems to be part of the zeitgeist -- and explicitly asking them to worry about "getting a leg up" on applications when they've just finished their sophomore year would unnecessarily add to it, IMO.  The whole scarcity model of college acceptance -- the idea that our kids have to get into the "right" schools, the "best" schools, or else they and we are failures -- is so messed up.  (I don't mean to suggest that you have this attitude, but it is so pervasively implied in our society that it impacts even kids whose parents try to dial back the pressure.)  The fact is, every kid with decent grades and some kind of financial and/or organizational support will go to college, probably a college they'll enjoy and find success in.  If you feel you must give your daughter an assignment this summer, my advice is to ask her to think about what kind of college she might like -- in terms of geography, size, areas of excellence -- with no reference to GPA.  I highly recommend the book "Colleges That Change Lives" if a liberal arts college is a possibility for you (and colleges sometimes give big scholarships to students from distant states).  Best of luck to you both!

It sounds like you care about your daughter a lot and want to be supportive. For full disclosure my teen is going to community college next fall, so I am far from an expert regarding college admissions. It's also hard to give specific advice without knowing more about your daughter. However, based on my recent experiences parenting a high school student in a competitive academic environment, I can't help but think there is far too much emphasis on college prep. High school is no longer about what is being learned. It's all about getting into college and getting the best grades and taking AP classes. Same thing with things like jobs and sports/clubs, which are encouraged less because our teens enjoy and benefit from them and more because they look good on a college application, As I thought of your daughter's summer, I couldn't help but think she might benefit from a reprieve from school/college prep. It sounds like vacation and work will offer her some interesting and positive life experiences this summer. Junior year is pressure packed - there will be plenty of time to focus on college applications and SAT prep. If you think she might need extra academic support, maybe start a "game" of daily vocabulary words that she can try and stump you with. Whatever you do, I would emphasize the joy of learning rather than prepping for the end goal of college. With that said if she has a goal of getting in to a competitive school (although make sure it's her goal and truly important to her, rather than your goal for her or because she thinks she has no value if she doesn't go to a great school), there may be some advantages to starting early. I think the pressure teens are under these days regarding college admissions is terrible, but it does seem to be the current situation in the high achieving Bay Area. As an aside, my community college bound teen is happy. He's got great friends, enjoys traveling and outdoor activities. He is physically active. He works and is responsible with money. He may not be going to an Ivy League school, or even a four year school, but he's really happy and well adjusted - and as the parent of a teen, I'm more than happy about that.

My son is a junior now and started with his college counselor in sophomore year. He’ll be prepping for essay writing this summer. He took the SAT twice this school year and had tutoring before his first go at it. I’d recommend SAT prep just before your daughter is scheduled to take it. I believe there’s one in August. If I were to have my son do it differently, I wouldn’t have had him take it the second time the week prior to AP testing. 

As far as summer plans, having a job is a great thing to put on college applications. If she has a particular field of interest yet, she would benefit from pursuing that in the way of work, volunteering, precollege programs, etc.