In August, I shared some concrete tips for helping 16–18-year-old teens prepare for college. Now that the school year has settled in, it’s time to take a look at the moves teens need to make in the winter and early spring to stay on track with the college admissions process. While fall semester was mostly about seniors, spring semester is a great time to focus on setting younger teens up for success!
Early application deadlines have passed, but regular deadlines start in January, so take some time to check due dates for the colleges of interest to your teens, put them on a calendar in the teen space, and help teens complete the applications and essays required. Teens may also need to continue collecting letters of recommendation and discussing who might write a stand-out letter— this is a great way to spend some mentoring time. If anyone has not completed the FAFSA, they need to go ahead and do that now to make sure they maximize their chances for scholarships and grants that are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once teens have submitted those applications, they need to start searching for other scholarship opportunities and they should not overlook ANY amount—free money is FREE MONEY!
Teens should contact the colleges they’ve applied to and their school counselors for help finding scholarships they qualify for as well as the local Chamber of Commerce and their employers. The most important thing is to be proactive and apply for as much money as possible.
While seniors need to continue the work they started in the fall, juniors have a bit more work to do in the spring semester of their junior year. Diplomas 2 Degrees is an excellent program to run in the spring with sophomores and juniors leveraging modules on finding a college, planning for applications, and exploring financial aid. In addition, there are several companion modules on MyFuture to support youth.
In the winter, juniors need to register to take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring or summer if they have not done so already or if they want one more chance to boost their scores. If youth are eligible for fee waivers, they can take the SAT twice under the waiver and many people score better on their second try, so take advantage of this opportunity. Spring of the junior year is also an excellent time to enroll in an SAT or ACT prep course if their school has one. Diplomas 2 Degrees sessions 10 and 12 help teens think about and plan for tests. Again, you can leverage your mentoring relationships to have these conversations with teens but have this discussion early in January in case they need to change their class schedule.
Later in the spring, when college acceptances start to come in, seniors should consider their options including the entire financial aid package. Session 13 in Diplomas to Degrees has a session designed for juniors and seniors to help guide this exploration of financial aid options as well as Understanding the FAFSA on MyFuture. But with seniors, helping them understand the difference between grants, loans, and scholarships (and a general understanding of debt and how much their college is going to cost long term) will be important. Looking at the cost of college including housing, books, meals and other fees as well as looking beyond the first year is important as is helping them develop a plan to minimize student loans. Explore how leveraging gifts from family, work study, and income from jobs can help set them up for a financially healthy future.
In sum, spring semester is a great time to have college conversations with juniors, sophomores and younger teens to ensure that they have a plan for the future that doesn’t get derailed by missed deadlines. Planning for college and post-secondary training is also a great way to leverage mentoring relationships. Putting these things into practice in your Clubs will ensure every teen leaves the Boys & Girls Club with a plan for the future.
Learn more about how to prepare youth in the Fall months in this ClubX Blog post: