College Prep Talk: Early and Often
Our kids are off and running in this 2014-15 school year. Regardless of what grade your child is in, it’s never too early to start exploring the possibilities available to them post high school and how to navigate that road to college. Getting them to that day where they wave goodbye to you from their over-stuffed car as it’s pulling out of your driveway takes forethought and a considerable amount of focused planning.
For expert advice on this subject I contacted Sandie Price, a parent and educator with a master’s in early childhood education and a master’s in school counseling. Price worked as a High School Guidance Counselor in the Poplar Bluff R-1 School District from 1984 to 2013. She knows a thing or two about helping parents and students prepare for college both as a counselor and as a mom whose two sons have graduated from college.
When asked when a student should have his/her career path in mind Price said, “Ideally, students should be exposed to career paths in their elementary years. When they are in junior high they should really begin thinking about what interests them so that they can focus on classes in high school that would help them in their career path. This certainly doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind, but that is truly why they need to begin investigating early to narrow out what doesn’t interest them after all.”
Price said that as far as college prep is concerned, that begins in infancy. Stressing the importance of exposing children to “books, books and more books” along with experiences and challenges that stretch the child’s abilities and potential, she also encourages parents to set high expectations for their child’s education.
Price said, “Children need to be challenged. They should be in as high a level of coursework as possible. They learn that they are expected to work and there aren’t easy solutions. By the time they are at the junior high level, they should be in advanced classes (unfortunately, if they aren’t in the advanced ‘track’ they miss out on pre-req for the next level class). Once a student is in high school they should continue with as high a level class as possible (which ultimately leads to college prep coursework). Advanced classes are the beginning of college prep.”
Part of investigating what type of post high school education model suits a particular child, parents need to inquire of colleges, junior colleges, trade schools, etc., that interest them, to understand the requirements that will need to be met academically for admission into that institution. Price said, “Many four-year institutions require three years or more of algebra 1 and higher; two or more years of foreign language…. It really varies from institution to institution.” High school classes need to be chosen wisely and strategically to prepare for what’s possible for the student post high school.
College admission tests, the ACT and SAT, are offered throughout Missouri. Price said that the dates they are offered are listed on their websites – actstudent.org and sat.org – and that students can sign up and pay online. The cost to take these exams is listed online. Price explained, “Cost varies depending if the student takes the test with the ‘plus writing.’”
“Some schools even offer test prep study classes,” offered Price. Price said that her sons did online prep, studied with and did practice tests in the book The Real ACT as well as took test prep classes. She also recommends that students take the first ACT their tenth grade year, then take it again their junior year. “It is important to do something to prepare to improve their score,” said Price. Both of Price’s sons took college prep coursework, each taking dual credit while in high school. Price believes that college prep and dual credit helps prepare students for college and the rigor.
Price said there have been several changes in testing. The registration process is a bit more involved for security reasons. Students must submit a photo online and present it at time of tests. It is imperative that the tests are secure since many scholarships are based off the results.
So passionate is Price about the need to prepare a child for college early in life and in encouraging college prep work as a means to greater success along that winding road to college, she ended our conversation saying, “Maybe I’ll start giving ACT Prep books as baby gifts.”