The Art of Applying to College: How to Prepare Your Child For Successful College Admission

Finding the right college for your child is a process that begins before your child enters high school. Below are questions, with brief answers, that you should have in mind as you consider your child’s education. After the questions, you will find a quick guide to preparing your child with 21st Century skills. Please reach out to me at Raising Black Scholars if I can answer any questions for you.

1.When should my child and I start thinking about college prep? If your child is interested in STEM, they need to be in Algebra I, preferably by 7th grade, 8th grade at the latest.  Even if your child is not interested in STEM, 8th grade students should be on the path to write at a high level and on a college prep/honors/AP path.

2. What classes must my child take? It is best to have at least Calculus by senior year, AB Calculus if possible, BC Calculus is better.  AP Classes are becoming necessary for college admission: if offered at your child’s school, they should take them. Your child should take Chemistry and Physics if possible; 4 years of a foreign language; if your child wants to attend the UC schools in California (i.e. Berkeley and UCLA) they will need 1 art class.

3.  Testing: PSAT, National Merit, AP vs IB vs Dual Enrollment, SAT vs ACT, SAT II Subject Tests, College Placement Exams 

4.  Financial Aid: FAFSA, CSS, grants, loans, merit; “Ivy” tuition assistance for those making under $60,000 and $125,000, 529 college savings programs

5.  Affirmative Action, Sports & Legacy

6. Types of Schools: State Schools, Honors Programs, Private, Ivy, Public Ivy, HBCUs for liberal Arts vs STEM, 3-2 programs, Overseas (Canada and the United Kingdom)

7. Finding a School: College visits, demonstrated interest, college fairs

8. Timing: Early Decision, Early Action, Rolling Admission, Regular Admission, Instant Decision, College Fair Admission & Scholarship Offers, Fall Fly In programs

9.  Should my Child Take a Gap Year?

10. May I have a copy of the Naviance reports for the school for the past 5 years?



Reading – All children must be able to read chapter books by 3rd grade. Many children are able to do this by the end of kindergarten. Enroll in Honors classes in Middle School, AP or IB Classes in High School

Writing – 5 Paragraph Essay, Long Form Essays, Research Papers, Thank You Notes, Resumes, Cover Letters. Enroll in Honors classes in Middle School, AP or IB Classes in High School

Public Speaking – School Presentations, Oratorical Contests, Debate, Drama, High School, College and Job Interviews, Job Presentations, Grammar

Vocabulary – Read books, news, history, nonfiction, dictionaries, encyclopedia; flashcards

Self-Advocacy – Teachers, University Professors, TA’s, Advisors, Employers, Peers

Foreign Language Study – Spanish, Chinese and French are the most useful

Problem Solving and Analytic Thinking

Math in a Minute – all children must memorize + – x / up to 12 by 3rd grade

Math Progression to get into college
7th grade – Algebra I
8th grade – Geometry
9th grade – Algebra II
10th grade – Trigonometry
11th grade – Calculus
12th grade – AP Calculus (AB or BC)

Science Progression to get into college
Biology, Chemistry, Physics
These 3 classes are usually offered in 9th, 10th & 11th grade then they are offered again at the AP level, starting in 10th or 11th grade. Take the AP level if possible

Computer Science, Coding, Information Technology, Security Clearances, the Scientific Method, Philosophy, Chess

Academic group projects
School Newspaper
Public Service – Many schools now are looking for “kindness”

Student groups
Sports Teams

Art – Museums, especially the free museums in the DC region
Theater and Dance
Creative Writing
Architecture – The National Building Museum, The Smithsonian

Financial Literacy

All children must be able to divide their money into savings, philanthropy, discretionary spending. They must be able to calculate tips (percentages). They must know how to save in 401(k) plans, IRAs (traditional and Roth). They must be able to balance a checkbook, negotiate a salary, and understand a mortgage. They must understand debt and it’s uses and pitfalls. They must understand the value of various college offers and weather to incur student debt.

Helpful Websites

Getting Into College Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
MIT’s “What To Do In High School”

Summer Enrichment Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
College Prep Program at APL
Black Girls Code
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