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How to Involve Sophomores in the College Search Now

It can be tough to get sophomores interested in the college search right now. College is still years away, right?

It might seem like light years away, but the reality is sophomore year is the perfect time to start getting prepared for college.

How to Get Sophomores Interested in the College Search 

If you’re the parent of a sophomore in high school, here’s how you can help your child get started with baby steps.

Step 1: Start talking. 

See? Easy.

You don’t have to do anything beyond starting to open up conversations about college.

Talk to your student in the way he or she opens up best. Share where you went to college (or, if you didn’t, explain why). Share what you loved/didn’t like about your experiences. Explain that if you could do it all over again, share what you’d do all over again. 

Encourage your child to talk to his or her teachers, coaches, friends’ parents and others about where they went to college.

Encourage your child to talk to everyone about college.

Step 2: Beef up those extracurriculars.

Is your child involved in dozens of extracurricular activities already? If so, can he or she add leadership roles to those activities?

For example, let’s say your child attends Business Club meetings at the high school. Could he run for an office next year to get leadership skills into the mix? (Colleges perk up when they see lots of leadership skills.)

Step 3: Have a hearty talk with the school counselor.

If your kid says, “Oh, man. Another talk with Miss Jones? Again?,” you’re doing something right.

Feel free to join these conversations with your child so that you and your child can get on the same page for junior year.

Think of your past conversations with your child’s college and career counselor. Have the three of you had serious in-depth conversations? Really in-depth? Does the school counselor know what your child tentatively plans for college?

The more the school counselor knows about your child, the more she’ll make sure he or she gets on the right college path and a trajectory that fulfills every requirement for that particular school your child may go to.

Step 4: Start collecting scholarships. 

Yes, collecting scholarships.

That’s truly what it is—a journey to search, collect and earn scholarships. Leave no stone unturned and start helping your child look for your scholarships.

Do. Not. Overthink. This.

Look for scholarships everywhere—with Google searches, through the school counselor and here on Niche

Step 5: Set a monetary goal. 

Set a money goal, then have a family conversation.

For example, you may decide that you can help your child pay for college—but you can’t pay for all of it.

How much does your child have to earn in scholarships or through hard work to make it possible for you to pay for the rest? $10,000? $5,000? Will he or she need to come up with that amount every year or just for the first year of college?

Then, come up with a plan to start chipping away at that amount. As a family, you may decide: 

  1. Your child needs to get a job and work to contribute toward that amount. It’s amazing how much money she can earn over the course of two years! Encourage her to get that job at the mall or pick up a rake and head over to the neighbor’s yard.
  2. You may realize you need a side hustle. Making $10,000 is a snap if you work hard and find the right side hustle. Do you have a talent that can earn you more money than you currently make with your regular job? 
  3. Interested in real estate? The stock market? Tap into alternative ways to make money.

If you know you can’t help your child pay for college, communicate that early on. It’s tough when your child thinks you can help—then realizes you can’t—really late in the game, such as May of senior year.


All the Scholarship Resources — Right Here!

Other Tips (and Things to Put on the Calendar)

Put some solid steps in place moving forward. 

Tip 1: Put ACT and SAT dates on the calendar.

You want to put ACT and SAT dates on your calendar because you’ll need to take one of the tests—not both!—during junior year.

Now, it’s possible that colleges might not require ACT and/or SAT scores due to changes in their admissions policies post-COVID-19 vaccine. Colleges may go back to ACT and SAT testing requirements, though.

For a more in-depth account of state of standardized testing, check out our post, “Is Test-Optional Admissions Here to Stay?”.

It’s a good idea to put the test dates on your calendar so you know tentatively what to expect. Feel free to call up a few schools and find out whether the class of 2027 will need to take ACTs or SATs.

Also, don’t forget to talk through the PSAT and when that will happen as a junior—your child’s school counselor should have more information.

Tip 2: Write down some goals.

Help your child hammer out some goals for the rest of this school year and beyond, such as: 

  • Increase grade point average.
  • Apply for X number of scholarships by senior year.
  • Save $X amount of money for college (we already talked about that, but it’s worth mentioning again!)
  • Get involved in a certain number of extracurricular activities.
  • Any other goals before the end sophomore year

Tip 3: Learn how to write stellar essays.

Your child needs to get comfortable writing essays, particularly if she intends to apply for scholarships or fill out the Common App, for example.

Encourage your child to pay specific attention to her English teacher’s instructions on how to write essays. She may want to read samples of scholarship essays online, take an additional writing class junior year and do whatever she can to prepare for writing lots of essays.

Need tips to get started? Find some helpful how-to’s in our post, “How to Write the Common App Essay.”

Tip 4: Think about taking AP classes.

Look no further than AP classes for a fantastic way to prep for college.

They move lightning quick, cover more material and require your child to think like a college student. Your child could get college credit for them and many high schools give more weight to AP grades in the overall grade point average.

A score of 3 or higher on the AP Test can cut out college classes and save you money.

Tip 5: Research. 

Start researching various schools.

Learn more about colleges—the admission requirements, admission types, the rigor of the institution and more. The more you learn and the more you research, the more narrow your child can focus his or her search as a junior or senior.

Finally, find your fit on Niche

Get Ready for Junior Year

You’re all set with these steps!

One more thing: What would your child like to do over the summer to get ready for college? Work to save for college? Attend a science camp or engineering workshop?

Start planning that schedule now and remember that virtual events may still take the place of in-person events.

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Author: Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!