This time of year is every counselor’s nightmare.
You just get finished administering the PSAT (which, with some of its changes, was not an easy task), and suddenly, your office is flooded with questions from juniors and junior parents:
“When should I take the SAT?”
“What else should I be doing to get ready for college?”
“When will I start meeting with you about my college plans?”
It’s easy to see why the PSAT turns all thoughts to college; what’s hard is trying to get juniors and their parents to understand you’re still working with seniors right now, but the juniors’ turn is coming soon.
One easy way to do that is to give juniors the old 1-2.
1. Introduce them to the concept of the 20 minute meeting. Administration of the PSAT is the kickoff of the college search for juniors, and the key to a strong college search is clear communications, especially between juniors and their parents. This means parents really shouldn’t pepper their junior with college questions at importune times—like in front of their friends, or as they’re pulling away to go to homecoming.
At the same time, juniors need to realize they need to keep their parents informed of their college plans, even though this is naturally a time when they want to do their own thing. Parents can help with things like setting up college tours, paying for application fees, and making sure you wake up early Saturdays.
Most college-bound families have discovered the 20 minute meeting as the key to keeping everyone college informed without driving everyone college crazy. By establishing the same 20 minute time to meet every week, students will know when they’ll be expected to share college plans and ideas, and when they can relax. Parents will value the meeting time, since they will be able to get their questions answered and know they aren’t making their child look “uncool.” It can take a week or two to get a feeling for how the meetings work, but families who have used the 20 minute meeting swear it helps with the appropriate flow of college knowledge. More important, it keeps families from driving each other crazy.
2. Give them something to talk about. Most families will buy in to the idea of talking college once a week, as long as they’re sure the meeting will be worthwhile. If the first three meetings are nothing more than exchanges of “What do you want to talk about?”, participation in the meetings is likely to fall off on either side.
That’s why it’s important to give parents and students something to talk about. If you have a junior newsletter, be sure to add a list of 2-3 topics each week (or 4-5 each month) that parents and students can discuss. By providing the topics, you’re making sure the conversations flow in a way where they build on previous conversations—and that they do so in a way that is timely. November topics can include registering for the ACT and SAT, planning college visits, and starting to talk about senior year schedule, while topics in March could include attending a college fair, reviewing plans for the summer, and thinking about building a first college list.
Providing timely topics gives you the chance to help families reinforce your college counseling curriculum with discussions at home that are tailored to individual student needs. If you don’t use a newsletter, a program like Remind can be used to communicate topics. Either way, it engages families as families, and that helps college plans