By Cammie Jones


As a mother of a high school senior, we are in the midst of applying for college and all the senior year stuff that goes with that. It can be overwhelming at times. You get a list of upcoming deadlines from the high school and colleges are sending emails and snail mail brochures all the time. It’s difficult to navigate it all. The best advice I received from parents of older kids is to begin early. I’ve put together a loose guideline to help you organize your kid’s life once they hit 9th grade in preparation for college.

1. Keep a running list.
As soon as they enter 9th Grade, open a document that your child can also access with an ongoing list of sports, clubs and other extra-curricular activities. Make sure to include any leadership positions your child held. Be detailed in your explanation along with dates and years as this will help when applying for colleges.

2. Try everything, even if it seems little at the time.
Encourage your child to try different things in middle school to see what interests him. Never tried theatre? Sign up your child for an acting camp. Not sure if they want to play an instrument or piano? Sign them up for a lesson or two to see if this is something they would like to pursue.  Once in high school, it’s not too late to find that one or two things that your child has a passion for. Let them explore the many sports, music and arts, technology or any other activity that may be the perfect fit for your kid. Then, pursue those interests and see what blossoms.

3. Find that one activity or service project that speaks to your child.
Once your child has figured out what interests them and what they have a passion for, pursue that more than anything else. It doesn’t have to be a sport. It can be a community cause or a project at your church. Whatever it is that peaks your child’s interest and utilizes her talents is where you need her to focus. Plus, you won’t feel like you are forcing your child to go to this or that practice or function. If it’s something they love, they will want to do it.

4. Think outside the box.
There are so many causes and groups in our community and many of them are not the usual. Look for those “outside the box” organizations or clubs that would be a good fit for your son or daughter. See if your child wants to start their own club or organization using their skills and interests. Your child is a math whiz? Have him start a tutoring program for younger kids at a local elementary or middle school. A good artist? See if you can volunteer to help with any after school or summer art camps in our area.

5. Attend a college “nerd” camp.
Many colleges near Augusta have camps that your child can attend for a weekend or during the summer months that introduce them to college life. Some of these programs are voluntary and some are invitation based.  Look into various college websites and see what they have to offer. Talk to your child’s school guidance counselor who should be knowledgeable about these programs or have the resources to learn about them and guide you in the right direction.

6. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.
If all else fails and your child just can’t determine what he is most interested in, then volunteer everywhere.  Help at your church, hand out water at a benefit run or walk, volunteer at your local charitable organizations when they have events. Get out there and help. Don’t forget to record this on your running list — every little thing counts!

7. Be a leader.
Many colleges are looking for leaders. Grades and test scores are important but taking the lead as an officer at your school or organization shows that you have confidence and guts. By being on the Board of a student organization or council or holding an officer position at a volunteer group will look good on paper and more importantly, give your child the skills they will use in all aspects of their adult life.

8. Get a job.
If your child has some free time on his hands, have him get a job. He can get certified to become a lifeguard and spend the summer at the local pool or Family Y.  Your child can find an after school, holiday or summer job that will again be important when applying for colleges. It shows responsibility and a good work ethic. Plus, your child will be gaining experience that again will benefit him in the long run.

The most important thing to remember as you begin the college application process is to be detailed. Instead of just saying, “President of the Glee Club, 2018” for instance, add a little more information.  You could say, “During my year as president of the Glee Club we raised more than $1000 with our inaugural karaoke fundraiser.” Sounds a little hokey but anything that sets your child apart from others will hopefully grab the attention of the college admissions folks and give your child that little extra edge.

This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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