LifestyleStomping the Yard

Stomping the Yard: When to Prepare for College

Getting into and preparing for college is one of the most exciting times of a person’s life. It is a time when parents, students, faculty members and extended family can celebrate and contribute to the success of a young person’s educational career.

As often as this milestone occurs, many aren’t aware of how easy it can be to prepare a student for the next phase of his or her educational journey. Below you will find tips for educators, parents and students to help your future scholar be the most marketable candidate for college and beyond. There’s also some very useful information on earning scholarships and even attending college for FREE!

1. Student Readiness

When does the student begin to prepare: NOW! It’s never too early to start working on your post-secondary future. I work with clients as early as 7th grade to begin to mold them to be the most successful, and the below guidelines serve as a blueprint for success.

Family Involvement: It takes a village! We need all hands on deck! There are never too many people who can help students properly prepare for college. Will they be the first person in their family to attend college? If so, there are scholarships specifically for this, so seek them out here.

ACT/SAT prep: Did you know that students can take the ACT test as early as sixth grade? You can buy an ACT/SAT prep book online with a DVD tutorial for your students to practice on their own NOW!

International Travel: Studying abroad is a great resume booster, but it can be expensive if you don’t come from money. You can host a fundraiser, start a GoFundMe and/or utilize programs like ACIS, which helps make the student travel experience a reality.

2. Student/Faculty Relationships

When it comes to educational excellence, the student/faculty relationship is extremely important. Both parents and students should make a conscious effort to get to know teachers, principals, counselors and other faculty members beyond the standard level.

You can cultivate a relationship with those who will play key roles in your/your child’s educational future by offering to volunteer for school-hosted events, attending report card pickups and parent/teacher meetings.

If you happen to be impressed by a teacher’s performance, writing a faculty recommendation is key. Your child will need letter(s) of recommendation at some point, and cultivating a good working relationship can only add to their experience.

3. Student Goals

A successful student is one that gets to do what they want to do on occasion. The best way to maximize a student’s educational experience is to play to their interests.

What are the likes and dislikes, interests and passions of your student? How can his or her interests be turned into a fulfilling, successful career? Knowing what gets your student excited is key. Play to that. Better Weekdays is a good resource for turning an interest into a career.

Help them think outside of the box.

Link a specific career to a school and/or scholarship. Your Free Career Test is a resource that I like to use.

4. Honors and Awards

The best motivator is being awarded for your hard work. Identify opportunities for your student to be recognized for their academic and/or extra-curricular achievements.

Parents and students, make sure that your student’s educational resume shows that he or she is active. Also ensure that you are aware of and taking advantage of each opportunity for your pupil to shine.

Who is tracking awards that each student has won? Students and parents both must work to do this. Educators should also keep track of students who go above and beyond.

5. Grade Point Average (GPA)

Everyone involved in a student’s success should know two things: his or her weighted and unweighted grade point average (GPA). A weighted GPA takes the difficulty of your student’s classes into account along with their grades. An unweighted GPA is solely based on grades.

AP v. Honors Courses are also very important. If you want to increase your GPA and child’s rigor then YES, take as many advanced placement and honors classes that your child can effectively handle. If they cannot earn Bs or higher, regular courses are better.

Freshman year is the MOST important year of a student’s high school career for GPA. Aim for Honor Roll/Straight A’s to start off with a strong GPA.

6. Colleges

The earlier you expose your student to a college campus, the better. Work to build relationships with admissions counselors by attending college fairs and setting up tours.

What scholarships do post-secondary institutions of interest offer? ASK and then apply for them all!

What types of students are they looking for? What is the average ACT score, GPA, etc. of those students who are accepted? Most colleges and universities have these statistics on their website. A good college matching resource is College Green Light.

7. Scholarships and Essays

Google is your friend!

Check with your student’s guidance counselor for a list of scholarships and qualifications.

Find out which students qualify for what scholarships. Play to their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses to ensure they are not overlooked for money.

Do a 500 word and 1,000 word version of a personal statement. This is the most important essay and is used for everything connected to the college application process.

Have a minimum of 1 to 8 essays per application. Start writing and editing them early! Have a teacher, parent, family member, or service look over and edit them. Also remember to save the documents in multiple formats: USB, Google Drive, email and on home computer so you never lose it!

Inez K  Jones pic

Photo: Adrian S. Burrows Sr.


Inez K. Jones has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Chicago, and a Masters Degree in Education from DePaul University. She’s a motivational speaker and entrepreneur who worked as an administrator for Chicago Public Schools for 5 years. Inez and has won $600,000 in scholarships including the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship and the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship. Inez has helped hundreds of students receive millions of dollars in scholarship money for college and is the published author of Chicago Public School’s “Freshmen On-Track Handbook.” She works with students domestically and abroad who wish to attend college in the United States. For more information, to book an appointment or speaking engagement, please visit,