Handbook: Preparing Your Child for College

Preparing For College - Outside the Classroom

A student's interpersonal and leadership skills as well as outside interests and goals are all important for college preparation. Independent reading and study, extracurricular activities, and work experience will all help your child develop his or her skills, interests, and goals.

Independent Reading and Study

Independent reading and study will help your child to prepare academically for college. This is a good way to develop interests, expand knowledge, and improve the vocabulary and reading comprehension skills needed for college and the SAT or ACT. Encourage your child to read all kinds of books for funfiction and non-fiction. The school library and the local public library are good sources of books, magazines, and newspapers.

Creating a Good Place to Study

Your child needs a quiet and comfortable place to study. Here are a few things that you can do:

(1) Help him or her find a quiet place with some privacy.

(2) Set up a desk or large table with good light and place reference books such as a dictionary on the desk or nearby.

(3) Make sure your child studies there on a regular basis.

Extracurricular Activities

Many school, community, and religious organizations enable high school students to explore their interests and talents by providing activities outside the classroom. Colleges are often interested in a student's extracurricular activities such as school clubs, the student newspaper, athletics, musical activities, and arts and drama, especially if a student has excelled in one or more of these areas.

Work Experience and Community Service

Work experience-paid or volunteer-can teach students discipline, responsibility, reliability, teamwork, and other skills. A summer job may be a good way to gain experience and earn money for college as well. If your child works during the school year, he or she should not work so many hours that the job interferes with school work.

Some students also participate in community service activities such as tutoring elementary school children or volunteering in a local hospital. Such activities make valuable contributions to society and also help students to identify their career interests and goals, gain workplace skills, and apply classroom learning to real-world problem solving. Many colleges also view community service as a valuable experience that enhances a student's college application.

Some schools offer academic credit for volunteer work through service-learning. This is a teaching method that integrates hands-on learning (through service to the community) into the school curriculum. To find out if your child's school offers service-learning, talk to your child's teacher, guidance counselor, or school principal. For information on how to start a service-learning program, contact the Learn and Serve America Clearinghouse at 1-800-808-SERVE.

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