College Prep During the High School Years


High school can be overwhelming. No, I mean for parents. With an incoming junior, an incoming freshman, and an incoming kinder (God bless), it can be a lot to keep under wraps. Below is some advice we’ve received and heeded along the way. Praying it helps you get a grasp on all things high school and college prep.

Ninth grade: Visit at least one college fair.

Visit at least one college fair during your kiddo’s freshman year. Have them stop by various college’s tables, ask the colleges what makes their programs and campus different, and pick up/bring home brochures to go through.

Start to think about and question what size school is desired, public or private university, and what are the costs of tuition and living expenses?

At the beginning of freshman year, we have found two resources helpful: a Naviance and RaiseMe (app) account. Both are described below and helpful for long-term college planning. For your freshman, add colleges of interest to the list of “Colleges I’m Thinking About” in Naviance.

Naviance: A comprehensive college and career readiness solution that helps districts and schools align student strengths and interests to post-secondary goals, improving student outcomes and connecting learning to life. Naviance offers ACT prep course (student accounts only), Aspire Score Reports, PSAT Score Reports, and lots of resources for personal assessments and college research—seniors & juniors use it extensively.

RaiseMe: An app available to earn micro-scholarships as early as 9th grade. I’ve used this app to track grades, awards, community service, and sports achievements. It’s a one-stop spot for keeping track of everything you’ll need during the college application process, and bonus: it automatically updates micro scholarships available for schools of interest.

10th grade: Go to at least two area college fairs.

(Register in advance; it saves time at the fair)

With your kiddo, visit the information tables of a handful of colleges of all different types. Listen to them describe their college. Take home literature and brochures. Every time they discover a college of interest, add it to the list of “Colleges I’m Thinking About” in Naviance.

PSAT: The PSAT is typically taken sophomore year and the scores will be recorded and kept in the Naviance account. These scores help guide study habits for the real deal testing which happens as early as the summer prior to junior year.

Summer: We’ve signed our incoming junior up for the SAT and ACT this summer. The goal is to get a baseline score, hire a tutor based on those scores, and retest the beginning of the next calendar year (spring semester of junior year). Our thinking is that this allows for enough time to retest, if necessary, to get desired scores before the college application process starts in October of senior year. Thinking ahead here is key!

11th grade: Campus visits.

Campus visits are the best way to get a feel for college life. These can be arranged through the school’s admissions office, and should you be able to visit at least five colleges during junior year, I feel like you will be well prepared to make an informed decision during the application process.

While visiting campuses, fill out information cards or give them your registration code to get on their mailing/contact list. Continue to add colleges interested into the list of “Colleges I’m Thinking About” in Naviance to receive alerts for their visits, programs, scholarships, and more.

Spring Semester: ACT and SAT testing typically begins. Click on both for the testing dates and link to register.

12th grade: Identify and apply to colleges of interest.

The application process starts in October of senior year. The best advice from a school counselor we’ve received is on the three types of colleges you should apply for. I love this!

  • One Safe School—Where you know your application is above all their average admission criteria; admission is fully expected
  • One Reach School—Where you are around their average admission criteria (grades, test scores, rigor of coursework, major); admission is hoped for, but not certain
  • One Dream School—Where you would love to gain admission to, but realize you have a lower chance of being admitted

If you applied for early decision, you should be notified around December 15. If you applied to colleges where there is rolling admission, it generally can take six to eight weeks to receive a decision. Regular admission deadlines are around the first of the year and those decisions are revealed in March and April.

Ya’ll, the days are long, but the years are short…as much as I don’t usually cling to cliches, this could not be closer to the truth. Hoping this breaks down the process so you can spend more time lovin’ on those littles and less time living in the details. God knows it’s a lot to take in and even more to live through knowing it’s leading to one more step closer to letting go.

Summer Butler
Summer was born and raised in the NTX area, went to college in Kansas City, and returned to TX to earn a MA in Counseling. After spending many years managing non profit programs focused on mental health, Summer left her career to be a SAHM after meeting her husband and two bonus boys. From single to stepmom, Dallas to the ‘burbs, career life to PTO prez, having a blended family would later spark a life calling to spread hope and healing. Summer now lives in McKinney TX with her husband, two bonus boys, and son Eli. Traveling, writing, and livin’ life in the crazy fill her days with the most joy.