Get Ready to Support Students on Their Way to College
College-bound high school juniors and seniors often require help navigating the college application process. Unfortunately, their counselors are overburdened, and many of their parents do not have the necessary skills or knowledge to help. Facing these obstacles, students with college aspirations often turn to their teachers.This article explores how you, as a teacher of high school upperclassmen, can help your students succeed in the areas of college exploration, standardized tests, college application essays, and basic organizational skills.
Junior year is the start of the college application journey. Though some students begin much earlier, those without parental support might never have seriously considered attending college before becoming high school upperclassmen. This moment is a key opportunity for you to help your students.
With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, many juniors feel overwhelmed the moment they begin their search, and with good reason. Finding the right college is a complicated process. You have the ability to help students start their search on the right foot.
- Introduce your students to college guides. All states’ English III standards require students to analyze complex informational texts. College guides are a perfect fit for lessons covering these standards.
- Have your classes take a career interest test. These tests reveal students’ interests, and make suggestions for their next steps after high school. Using the results, students can significantly narrow down their college search. 4,000+ colleges suddenly turn into a manageable few.
- Promote community colleges alongside the best universities. Many students do not have the financial resources to attend most colleges. By promoting local community colleges, you keep the college door open for everyone.
Improving Standardized Test Scores
For decades, standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have been a fixture of the high school experience. With the best colleges and universities becoming fiercely selective in recent decades, your students are under tremendous stress to perform.
- English III and Math teachers are crucial to test day success. English III teachers can do much to help their students improve their SAT scores (or ACT scores). By using the fall semester to stress many of the language mechanics topics tested on the SAT/ACT, teachers can prepare their students for test day. Math teachers have a greater opportunity to help increase their students’ test scores, as they can directly incorporate SAT/ACT math questions into lessons.
- Assist students with test-taking skills. Performing well on any standardized test has two components. The first is content knowledge. The second is test-taking skills. No matter what subject you teach, you can incorporate skill-building activities (e.g. time management) into your lessons.
- Stress the availability of guaranteed scholarships. Many states have guaranteed college scholarships for students who perform well on standardized tests. Students who know about these opportunities often have a greater desire to perform well on test day.
The fall semester of senior year is a hectic time for students, many of whom find it difficult to juggle maintaining their grades and applying to college. There are two areas where you can make a positive impact.
Crafting College Essays
The essay is a large part of the college application package, and many students need help finding their voice. No matter the subjects you teach, you can provide students an invaluable service.
- Offer to help, but set limits. At the beginning of the year, inform your students that you are happy to help them with their essays. One way to do this is to set up ‘office hours’ before or after school just for this purpose. In addition, be frank with them about what you are willing to do: brainstorming sessions, minor editing, feedback, etc. Finally, make sure to set limits. At the end of the day it is their responsibility to make their essays the best they can be.
Playing on their phones all day, your students may think that they can easily navigate the online college admissions process. However, even the most tech-savvy students may lack the strong organizational skills needed to keep up with college application materials and deadlines.
- Require organization in your classes. Many high school students, even seniors, lack basic organizational skills. By teaching and requiring the use of these skills in the classroom, you give your students the tools to stay organized as they apply to college.
- Introduce your students to organizational apps. Through using one or more organizational apps (e.g. Google Calendar, Dropbox, 24me) as part of your class, you provide your students another resource during this important time.
You play a critical role in your students’ college application success. If you and your peers apply the advice laid out in this article, your efforts will have a lasting impact on students’ lives.
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