My daughter is a high school junior and attends a large public high school. She is a good student but I'm worried that with only two guidance counselors for the whole school, she won't get the help she needs applying to college. How can I help her?
You have asked a great question at a perfect time! Junior year is one of the most hectic years of high school and there is a lot of planning and major test taking to attend to. If she hasn’t already started looking, get a good updated college guide to get a feel for different types of schools. If you're planning any family vacations, try to fit in a college visit or two within the area. The more schools she looks at, the more comparisons between programs she'll be able to make. If she can't visit in person, look at schools’ websites together and view the online campus tours (the next best thing to being there). Also, help her navigate the school choices available to her by looking through descriptions of previously accepted students and their grades, test scores and class rank. This will help her determine which schools are a reach, easy to get into, or right on target for her ability. Get a two year planning calendar that will take you right into her senior year and have her begin marking important test and application dates.
On her calendar be sure she enters the SAT and subject area tests she may want to take, as well as ACT dates. It's a good idea to encourage her to take these tests more than once as most colleges will accept her highest scores (or subject area scores within a test). I'd suggest taking these tests once in her junior year and again at the very beginning of senior year. If she needs extra help she'll have the summer in between tests to take a course, get a tutor or just purchase or borrow study guides. This SAT guide covers everything she'll need to know.
Help her create folders on the colleges that interest her and help her create a requirement’s checklist for each college. As she completes the various application requirements she can check them off. She should also add all the dates and requirements of individual college requirements to her master calendar as an additional safeguard so as to avoid missing crucial deadlines or requirements. Finally, make sure she spends the summer before senior year writing and perfecting three good essays to submit to colleges (make sure she gets ideas and resources from her school counselor in her junior year). Senior year is so busy with classes, events and applications that there won't be time to write really well thought out essays. After visiting different types of schools she should have a feel for the type of applicant that stands out and is accepted there. A variety of essays will give her more of an edge in showing various faces of her personality to different admissions committees that may be looking for different traits.