by Emily Gunter

The new year is here! While 2020 didn’t go quite as planned, January brings the opportunity for a fresh start. Whether you’re a parent, a high school freshman, or a college bound senior, it’s never too early to focus on pursuing your college dreams.

What goals will you set to make 2021 your year? As always, we’re here to help you get on the right track. We asked our college admissions experts and test prep instructors to come up with a list of 21 new year’s resolutions for high school students and their parents.

New Year’s Resolutions for High School Students

1. Explore Your Interests

While students will still have plenty of time to think about which career path to pursue or what college major to choose, the high school years are the perfect time to do some soul searching and discover what you like and dislike. Take advantage of this time by exploring new hobbies and gaining life experience that will help guide you toward the path that will bring you the most happiness.

2. Get Involved

It’s no mystery that colleges care about a student’s involvement in extracurricular activities. We encourage our students to get involved in student organizations as early as possible. Your participation in sports, student government, band, or other extracurriculars will help you add depth to your college resume.

Pro Tip: Stay committed to your favorite extracurriculars. A long term commitment shows colleges that you are dedicated and reliable. Also, the longer you stay involved in an organization, the more likely you are to gain leadership roles like student president or team captain. Leadership experience looks great on your application and can help you learn how to stand out.

3. Focus on Your Grades

This year, aim to get your best grades yet. Keep up with your assignments and always strive to do your best. If you fall behind, remember to ask your teacher for help. Better grades will help you improve your overall GPA, moving you one step closer to achieving your college dreams.

Pro Tip: If you’re planning to apply to a highly competitive college, try to take the most challenging coursework available to you. Competitive colleges will review which classes you took and take this into consideration when evaluating your high school transcript.

This means that if you get all A’s in easy classes, you may not be chosen over a student who received B’s and C’s but took several AP® or honors classes. Learn more about Ivy League high school course requirements.

4. Set a Test Score Goal

College admissions tests can be challenging, and it often takes multiple attempts for a student to reach his or her target test score.

We recommend that students start taking practice tests for the ACT® or SAT® in 10th grade so that they can receive a clear picture of the areas in which they need to improve.

To set a test score goal, start by looking at a college’s test score ranges for the ACT or SAT test. This will give you a good estimate for what your target score should look like.

If you are a current KD student, we offer resources to help you determine your test score goal. To learn more, contact a director at your home campus.

5. Create a Test Prep Schedule, and Stick to It!

In the new year, try to make time to prepare for the ACT, SAT, or PSAT tests. These tests play a prominent role in the college admissions process, and an outstanding score can help you stand out in the college admissions process, earn scholarships, or earn placement in competitive degree programs.

At KD College Prep, we have 28+ years experience of preparing students for the ACT, SAT, and PSAT tests. We offer test prep courses live online or in person at one of our four DFW campuses. To learn more about our flexible test prep class schedules, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

6. Create a Clean, Distraction-Free Study Space

These days, students are doing the majority of their studying at home. Whether you’re attending live online test prep classes or studying for your next algebra test, it’s important to have a quiet place to focus on what you’re learning.

Make it a goal to create a designated study space. If you already have a place to study, make sure it’s clean, well-lighted, and free of distractions. You can even spruce it up by adding a positive message or reminder, like a motivational quote or piece of artwork.

7. Research Colleges

Make it a goal to come up with a preliminary list of colleges you could see yourself attending. Once you’ve established which colleges you like the most, research their admissions requirements, program offerings, student life, and what the campus is like. Many colleges now offer virtual tours to help you get a sense of what the college is like in person. You can also sign up for online info sessions led by admissions officers.

We recommend that students start researching colleges as early as possible. This will give you plenty of time to review your options and determine which schools appeal to you most. By the summer before 12th grade, a student should have a pretty good idea of which schools to which he or she will apply. Read on to learn about how to create a balanced college list.

8. Work a Part-time Job or Volunteer

If you have some free time after school or on the weekends, apply for a part-time job or volunteer position. Through working a few hours per week, you can earn hands-on experience while also learning about the professional world or causes that interest you.

Through working, you will learn how to manage your own money. If you already have a part-time job, set a savings goal for this year.

9. Build Relationships with Your Teachers

Try to get to know your teachers this year. If you have a favorite teacher, be sure to express your appreciation for them. If a teacher compliments your work, make a note of it. At some point, you may need your teacher to write a letter of recommendation for you. It will help if your teacher remembers you and how you stood out in class. Thus, a meaningful connection with a teacher will lead to a more meaningful letter of recommendation.

Also, make sure to get to know your high school counselor. It is their job to help you stay on track to meet your goals. High school counselors often write some of the best letters of recommendations.

10. Start Thinking About How to Tell Your Story

Depending on where you apply to college, you may need to write college essays. Writing essays can be a long and arduous process, and you don’t want to wait until the last minute to think about what you’ll write about.

Think of your life’s experience and how it’s shaped who you are today. Start thinking about potential essay prompts or how you can tell your story in a unique way.

If you get stuck, we offer college counseling services to help you find your voice and write compelling essays that college admissions officers will love.

11. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

If you’re early on in your high school years, you may not know what you’ll write about. And that’s okay! Instead, try to step outside your comfort zone. Focus on seeking new experiences this year that will add depth to your life and help you grow as a person. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. This will help you figure out what to write about in the essays to come.

12. Show Gratitude

As you start your journey through 2021, remember to reflect on your life and all the blessings that have come your way. Say thank you to everyone who helped you come this far.

This year may bring new blessings, or it may bring obstacles. Even in trying times, a grateful heart can help you appreciate the little things and press on toward your goals.

13. Stay Organized

High school can be a very busy time for many students. With all the things on your plate, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose track of your goals. Take some time to organize your planner, eliminate clutter from your binder or backpack, and create a list of priorities for the next couple of months.

New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

1. Teach Your Kids Basic Life Skills

College is right around the corner. Is your teen prepared for life on his or her own? In 2021, set a goal for teaching your student the basics on how to take care of oneself. Make time to show him or her how to cook, change a tire, do the laundry, shop for groceries, etc.

2. Set a College Savings Goal

College is a major financial commitment, and the more financially prepared you are, the less your child will have to pay in the long run. This year, set a budget that will allow you to stow away some money for college. Every penny counts, whether you’re able to save enough for books or to pay for your teen’s entire semester.

3. Show Interest

Raising a teenager can be a challenge, and sometimes the last thing you want to do is deal with a teenager’s bad attitude. We’ve been there. But in a few years, you’ll long for this time spent at home. Try to make the most of it while you still can.

This year, make an active effort to show interest in what’s going on in your teen’s life. Celebrate each small success along the way. And when you ask them how his or her day went, try to listen instead of criticize. These small acts will help boost your teen’s confidence and show that you are always on his or her side.

4. Attend College Planning Seminars

College admissions has changed a lot over the years. But luckily, we’re here to bring you up to date. Every year, we offer college planning seminars and free resources to help keep our families on the right track. To find out how to sign up for an upcoming planning seminar, contact your home campus.

5. Help Your Student Build Independence

Over the course of high school, your student will need to learn how to become an adult. You can help your student gain independence by encouraging him or her to take on more responsibility.
This can start with your teen becoming more self reliant. You can encourage your teen to set his or her own alarm for waking up in the morning. Over time, this trust can evolve to your student driving to school and back or taking on a part-time job.

One of the most impactful ways you can teach your teen to gain independence is to step back and let him or her take the wheel throughout the college admissions process. Let your teen decide where to apply, fill out applications, choose his or her own essay topics, etc. It’s okay to help when asked, but your teen always needs to be the one in control of his or her future.

New Year’s Resolutions for Both Students and Parents

1. Have a Conversation About How to Pay for College

At some point during the early years of high school, parents and students should sit down with one another to discuss how they will afford the cost of college. This will help establish a clear picture for how much tuition the family can afford, what scholarships and financial aid are needed, and which colleges a student can attend based on cost.

2. Live in the Moment

Remember, these moments won’t last forever. These are the years that you’ll look back on throughout the rest of your life. The time will pass before you know it, and it’s important to make memories and cultivate strong family relationships that will continue to grow in years to come.

3. Find Support Throughout the Admissions Process

At some point, you may find that you need help with improving your teen’s test scores or applying to college. Luckily, our team of test prep instructors and college counselors are here to support your family through the entire college admissions process.

Learn more about our test prep and college counseling programs.

Emily Gunter is a marketing and communications specialist at KD College Prep.