How to Stay on Track for College and Career During Senior Year

Posted by Texas OnCourse Leader Fellow Sal Acosta on Aug 8, 2019 2:18:55 PM

From the time our children are small, we teach them what we know. Soon enough, it comes time for them to learn things we don’t know, and that’s when we call in the experts: educators. Time flies, and soon our students are in their *gasp*  last year of high school! This is a crucial time when years of hard academic work and focus come to fruition. It’s also when senioritis might set in! It’s imperative that parents and guardians support their students in staying on course through high school graduation.

After high school, your child could pursue a multitude of paths, from higher education to technical training, military enlistment, or joining the workforce. Regardless of your student’s postsecondary path, there are things your high school senior can do to start the school year strong.

Establish healthy habits

Parents and guardians, you can do a lot to encourage your seniors to have a productive, fun, and enjoyable senior year. It starts with the basics! Encourage them to begin the year by trying to get enough rest. Sleep is very important for all of us, especially teenagers – the SleepCycle app is a free resource that tracks sleep quality and also wakes a user at the optimal time to reduce grogginess. Ensure that your senior has access to healthy foods, and remind them to drink lots of water. Seniors are increasingly independent, but the offer of a snack can still save the day! It's very difficult for a growing body and mind to function optimally without the right fuel. Once the basics are met, your student can focus on the cerebral part of academic achievement. 

Prep for tests

If your student has their sights set on a four-year institution, they’ll need SAT/ACT scores in order to apply. Whether your student plans to take the SAT/ACT for the first time or retake one or the other, preparation is key. Take a look at this handy sheet from the Texas OnCourse Pinterest account together if you need help deciding which exam is best. In addition, Kaplan offers a quiz that can help identify which test (SAT or ACT) to take. Now comes scheduling the exam. Because some college applications close Nov. 1 or Dec. 1, it's important for seniors to register for the earliest SAT/ACT exam of the academic year to ensure scores are in and sent on time.Once their testing is arranged, they should review their high school transcript with the help of a counselor. Double-checking that they have completed/will complete all the courses needed for graduation is crucial. And finally, it’s time to start studying! Devoting a certain number of hours a week leading up to exam time will keep students on track. Khan Academy offers free online test prep for all students.

Explore career and technical training resources

Whether your child has decided to join a certain sector of the workforce or is in need of some career inspiration, students can also explore Texas careers on this Texas Workforce Commission site, which makes projections of in-demand careers and salaries. Students should spend time crafting a one-page resume and cover letter that highlights their academic achievements, work history (if any), extracurricular activities, and soft skills. In order to acclimate them to the workforce, students may choose to get a part-time or full-time job in a retail or service setting. If this isn’t possible, then maybe for a day or two they could schedule a job shadowing experience with someone in an area that intrigues them. Reach out to colleagues and friends to find the right fit!

Start applying to schools and programs

If your student hasn’t decided which colleges they want to apply to, College Scorecard is a good place to start. The Texas OnCourse Applying to College page can assist with the application process, providing helpful tools and important deadlines. Next, your child will need to line up financing options. Nearly all roads lead to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). I probably sound like a robot when talking to my students, but FAFSA is a priority! It opens on October 1 each year, and students should apply early for a chance at the best financial aid package. Check out the Texas OnCourse Finances page for additional tips on paying for college. It's also a great idea to start on scholarship applications. Scholarships are a great resource to bridge any gaps in financial aid. Have your student ask their counselor for a scholarship list or create free accounts at the many scholarship sites such as Cappex or Unigo.

As a parent myself and lifelong educator, I know how important this final chapter of secondary education is. The world awaits your high school senior! I hope you’ll check out some of these helpful resources, and I wish you and your student the very best.

Topics: Applying to College, College Planning, Students and Families