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College Action Plan for Sophomores

Sophomore year is a time when high school students have settled in. They know the drill and how high school works. At this point, they will start to think about life after college in a very generic way. Their path is starting to take shape. What are some things your clients should be thinking about now?

High School

Now that freshman requirements are out of the way, sophomores can start to have a little more flexibility in their course selections. They can start to choose electives that help them explore future career goals and courses like AP which will be more challenging. With college getting closer every year, sophomores need to continue to dedicate themselves to doing their best on their school work. If they set goals, they will maintain their focus and determination.

In the second half of the year when sophomores are choosing courses for their junior year, they may consider College Credit Plus, AP, IB, or additional classes that suit their abilities and goals. Your clients should be sure the student is taking the courses that will fulfill their graduation requirements. Encourage their student to stay in touch with the guidance counselor.

Career Thinking

In all the talk about finding a college and taking the right courses, thinking about a potential career can get lost in the shuffle. Students often kick that down the road. However, students with specific career goals in mind will find the college search so much easier and will avoid extra semesters of college costs which can really add up.

Students find success in identifying a college major when they know things about themselves–their interests, skills, challenges, values, etc. Students may need help with this thinking. Sometimes interest surveys can help but don’t be discouraged if they don’t. (At The Core is a valuable resource to help with this thinking starting the second half of sophomore year.)

Something else for your clients to consider…Do they know that nearly 80 percent of the jobs in the military are non-combat occupations? If the student is interested in the military, your clients need to do their research and meet with recruiters. Read more about paying for college with military service by clicking here.

Preparing for College

Students have many decisions available to them for life after high school–career, trade school, community college, military, 2-year or 4-year degree. All are excellent choices depending on the student and their future goals.

Now that the student is a bit older, they can focus and commit to their extracurricular activities. Colleges like to see growth within an extracurricular rather than joining dozens of clubs. Students should participate in volunteer activities as well. If the National Honor Society club is an option, they should check with their school to see how many hours will be required in their junior year to become a member.

Keep track (or work on assembling) all the details about honors/awards, activities, community service, extracurricular activities, and leadership positions in the student’s high school years. Your client’s student will need that information when they apply to college.

At this point, sophomores can wander a campus with their families to get a feel for it and explore a college fair which happen in the fall and spring. Having one “official” college visit during the sophomore year is a good idea. Look for schools that offer the student’s major and match their interests and preferences. Students can work on narrowing down the types of colleges they are interested in based on their preferred criteria–big vs small; urban vs rural vs suburban; etc. Our blog about college visits can help.

Paying for College

When students start thinking about colleges, your clients start thinking (maybe worrying?) in earnest about how to pay for it. Your client needs to make it a priority to have the college money conversation with their student. It is so important (and will avoid much heartache) if parents and students are on the same page about how much college they can afford! We have seen too many parents who struggle with telling their children “no” when a college is too expensive.

Get the facts about what colleges cost and gain the knowledge your clients need about financial aid, scholarships, loans, work-study, etc. Clients need to understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together. What aid is available and how do they qualify for it?

While most merit aid or scholarships are awarded by the colleges themselves, searching for private scholarships can be something ongoing your clients and their student can start thinking about. Remind your clients that their guidance counselor as a great resource. Be sure your clients pay attention to important deadlines as college application approaches. (FYI, students will apply to college in the fall of their senior year.)

Testing – PSAT, ACT, & SAT

Testing, testing, testing. Sometimes it seems like a never ending testing cycle for students. The PSAT/NMSQT is an exam offered to all juniors in October. Sophomores may be offered the option to take the test for practice. (Some schools may offer the PSAT 10.) In the junior year, the primary purpose of this test is to identify candidates for the National Merit Scholarship awards. Taking the test in the sophomore year, can be practice for the SAT. (However in our opinion, a better way to “practice” for the SAT is to take the actual SAT exam itself.)

If a student has an IEP or 504 Plan, your clients will want to speak with their student’s guidance counselor about accommodations for the ACT and SAT. This process is lengthy so get started as soon as possible.

Ideally, students should take the ACT or SAT as close to the completion of Algebra II or Geometry as possible. Students can quickly forget what they learned in Geometry so try to schedule an exam when the material is still fresh in the student’s mind.

Taking the actual exams early is great practice to understand the topics covered and the timing involved. Students should try to take each one once. Identify the preferred test for the student, and then take it again 2 or 3 times in the junior or senior years.

Summer Before Junior Year

Clients should use the summer before junior year to visit a college campus–stir up a little excitement about college! Summer is also a great time to do that money talk we mentioned above. No school responsibilities are hanging over everyone’s heads–a good time for family talk.

Rising juniors may be driving now. Clients should encourage their students to get a job over the summer. Working is the only real way to see what the working world is like and will help them understand what kinds of work environments they prefer. Summer is also a great time to explore interests and learn new skills at meaningful summer camps. This summer is when the student’s high school career is half over. Where did the time go?! Encourage your clients to enjoy their time together as a family as the journey to life after college begins to race towards the finish line in their junior year.


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