School Starts, and So Should College Planning

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As students get into the swing of things amid the hectic first few weeks of school, there are a few things kids should  be considering this fall to look forward to college.

There are many things to think about this fall, said Jenn Curtis and Casey Emery, co-owners and consultants at FutureWise Consulting, a Newport Beach based business that provides expert and personalized guidance and mentorship for students preparing for college.

“We are really an advocate and resource,” Curtis said. “We’re there to help them strategize and organize, and we are also sort of a confidant and trusted advisor outside family system.”

FutureWise also recently launched new curriculum for their mentorship program. The new program will help students learn to make responsible decisions and teach them both academic and life skills.

A few tips for all students this fall: Get to know the teachers as early as possible, don’t be afraid to sit in the front of classroom, participate as much as possible, use the teacher’s office hours, plan ahead for projects, keep a calendar and stay organized.

Eighth graders should be working on time management, setting academic goals and figuring out their interests in extracurricular activities. This year should also be used to determine what kind of learner the student is and their best study styles.

Freshmen should continue the eighth grade goals and also start preparing an academic plan, develop a student resume, and explore extracurricular activities.

During their freshman year, students should try out a few activities, then pick one or two they care about, enjoy and can excel at, and commit to those areas for the next three years.

“When it comes to choosing where to get involved, find out what you’re passionate about and get involved there,” Curtis said. “Don’t do it because it looks good on application.”

The ninth graders should also work on their time management.

“That is a skill that needs to be worked at and mastered,” Emery said.

They also need to take time to get used to the pace of high school learning as well, Curtis added.

Students should also take the time to get to know their teachers.

“Building a relationship with them will not only help for a letter of recommendation (later on), but also in general in the classroom,” Curtis said. “Don’t be shy to raise your hand… or go to their office hours.”

Using the office hours shows that the student is wanting to learn and working to understand, Curtis said.

“Don’t wait too long if you are struggling in class,” Curtis said. “Don’t wait to talk to the teacher… or get a tutor… It’s better than having to make up a class later on.”

Emery suggested that freshman use their first year of high school to really hone a few key academic skill sets: Note taking, test taking, study skills, and reading.

If students develop those four academic skill sets, they can focus on understanding the material rather than figuring out how to learn. Those four areas can help them for their entire academic career, Emery said.

By sophomore year, students should be getting involved with summer activities, volunteer opportunities, internships and jobs. They should also start thinking about their college testing timeline.

If they were struggling during freshman year, make sure to troubleshoot what was causing the trouble and work to find a solution.

Sophomores should also think about taking the PSAT test for a practice run. It’s also a good time to start feeling out the college admissions process, Curtis said.

Starting a college list is also a good idea, Curtis said, which includes about seven to 10 possible college choices.

Visiting college campuses is a great idea as early as sophomore and junior year, Curtis said, and can help get the student excited about college.

Physically visiting the campuses really does make a difference, she added.

“There is something to be said about stepping onto a campus,” Curtis said. “You will know pretty quickly if you belong there or not.”

As a junior, students should continue all the goals from previous years, as well as start a college list, visit colleges and review their deadlines, take or review for PSAT, SAT, and ACT, discuss early action and early decision, and have an informal conversation with teachers about writing letters of recommendation.

Junior year is notoriously the most difficult and most important year, Curtis said.

There are several tests junior year, so students should start going though prep books early on in the school year and possibly take a prep course.

It’s really important for students to get to know their teachers that year as it is likely that one or more of them will write a recommendation letter.

Curtis also suggests having an informal conversation at the end of the year with the teachers the student is planning on asking for recommendation letters.

Leadership is really important during junior year, as well as demonstrating long-term interest and commitment to the activities they are passionate about.

Senior students need to chart out deadlines for college applications, financial aid, and other due dates, organize college admission requirements, and work on their writing and communication skills.

“For seniors, this is obviously big year and big time for them,” Curtis said.

Grades still matter during that important final year of high school, Curtis emphasized.

They should continue to take on leadership roles in their activities and organization is still extremely important.

It’s important to pay attention to scholarship or financial aid deadlines, test dates, college application due dates and college requirements. Those dates are fast approaching, so getting an early jump on everything can really help.

“They need to have it mapped out, in a clear way, what each school requires because they all vary,” Curtis said.

For seniors, it comes down to staying organized and starting early.

“On a personal level, it’s important to take some time to enjoy their last year at home… Amidst all the stress, remember to enjoy time with family and friends,” Curtis suggested. “It’s the last year before they go off on this big adventure.”

If they haven’t already, seniors should go out and visit as many schools as they can.

“They need to get an idea of what campus feels right to them,” Curtis said.

Curtis’ advice to parents of seniors is to empower their student to take responsibility for what needs to be done with guidance and support during the process.

“Don’t be overbearing about it,” Curtis suggested, “or the student will often take that as pressure and recoil.”

During all the high school years parents have their own role in their student’s success.

“The student should know that the parent is as committed to their success as they are,” Curtis said. “When parents are able to be involved that’s usually when students are the most successful.”

Parents should talk about academic expectations regarding daily routine, homework schedule, and other school responsibilities, with their student.

Parents should also look at each class syllabi and know the student’s goals for school year.

“As we go into fall, during the first few weeks of school students start to form a perception of how they will perform the rest of the year,” Curtis said. “It’s really important for parents to show their support, show they want to be involved and empower their student to succeed.”

For more information about FutureWise Consulting, visit

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