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Countdown to college: Timely tips to close out senior year

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I recently received a thank-you note from a former student, and it just made my day. She told me that she ranked number five among students in her college major and, thanks to some of the tips I had given her, she’ll be interning at City Hall this summer. Excited by the accomplishments she made as a college freshman, I thought I’d share some of those tips to help other students.

I have no doubt that prom and graduation hold the top spots on a pre-college priority list, but there might be room for a little more productivity. As we help students count down to college, here are some last-minute ideas that can help them in the future.

Create a professional email account

In this tech-savvy world, I bet students are using their school email accounts or something like [nickname]@gmail.com. They should update their professional image before they are off to the races of “real life." Even if they are assigned a college email account, they will need to lock in a professional email address that they control access to and can keep for years to come.

By the way, it’s wise to have them switch email addresses for services like College Board, FAFSA and PHEAA accounts. We don’t want them to miss important updates and messages once they are denied access to their high school email account.

Create an electronic portfolio

Using Google Drive, a USB/flash drive, or some other method, have your students request digital copies of documents that they are particularly proud of. Think about letters of recommendation, papers, or projects that earned distinguished honors, or even high-resolution photos of them working on a project.

Regardless of the path they have chosen, building a career will require more showing than telling. It’s good for young people to start to put together an electronic portfolio that they can build on in college and beyond.

Update or create a student résumé

As adults, we know that the résumé never goes away. Well, it’s a good time for students to learn to keep them updated and handy for the next opportunity. Keeping a fresh résumé means they are always one step closer to a job, internship, and scholarship.

Make sure that your students include their new professional email address, update any distinguishing honors or awards received, and check in with references to see whether they are comfortable remaining on their résumé.

Seek internships

You’ve probably heard that the plan for this summer is to hang out with their friends before everyone is off to college. For my students, though, I’d suggest they start to make new friends – in higher places! The sooner they expand their network, the better.

Why wait for their school or university to mandate an internship? Students can start this summer, by seeking internships with companies that are aligned with their career choice. Who knows, they might discover that they hate the field and need to change their intended major. An early internship could save students time, money, and headaches.

Search for scholarships

Sadly, many promising college students are leaving school each semester because they just can’t afford the cost. And students who work through college are more likely to have their GPA suffer over competing priorities. Hands down, getting into a habit of applying for scholarships is time well-spent. Students would have to work 125 hours with a take-home pay of $8 per hour to match a $1,000 scholarship.

Here are some scholarship opportunities that might be available to your students:

The Last Dollar Scholarship

The CORE Promise Scholarship

Philadelphia Foundation Scholarships

BMe- Notice 2 the POTUS

Do you have a countdown-to-college tip? Share it with us in the comments below.

Melissa A. Rowe, M.Ed., is founder of Capture Greatness! A Scholarship Writing & College Coaching Initiative. As a writer, education advocate, and college counselor, she teaches young people how to write effectively to fund their college educations. A Philadelphia native, with more than a decade of  experience in education, Rowe has held positions in schools, colleges, and out-of-school-time programs. Recently, she was recognized by WHYY for her work with students from under-resourced schools. 

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