Simple steps can ensure success for college-bound students

By Lynne Conner For Chronicle Media

Kate McCarthy, an Illinois State University regional admissions counselor, chats with a prospective student and parent at a college information fair. McCarthy said college-bound students should complete some simple steps this summer to make their fall transition easier. (Photo provided)

School may be out for the summer but recent high school graduates can still use the time to jump-start their college careers and prepare for success. 

According to Jeffery Hohn, college counselor at Rockford’s Boylan Central Catholic High School, and Kate McCarthy, regional admissions counselor at Illinois State University, students who complete simple tasks this summer will have an easier transition in the fall. 

One of the most important things that a graduating high school senior can do is to order their final transcripts and have them sent to the college or university they will attend,” Hohn said. While colleges love their incoming freshmen, they also need proof and verification that a student completed all eight semesters of high school and graduated.”  

First-year students start fall classes without their final high school transcripts at most colleges, but issues with class registration can arise.  

It’s far better to get this step done in the summer than to be caught unprepared in the fall,” Hohn said. 

He also recommends that graduating seniors change their school email addresses to personal ones.  

Updating your school email address to a personal one makes future communication with your high school easier,” he said. There’s always a chance that community college students will need their high school records sent to a university once they’re ready to transfer. 

Students who have taken AP (advanced placement) courses in high school need to send AP scores to the college they plan on attending,” Hohn said. Many colleges will give credit for an AP score of three or higher, and it would be a shame to lose out on that credit or retake a class because those scores didn’t get sent in.”  

AP scores are usually accessible in a student’s College Board account by July. 

The same procedure applies to high school seniors taking dual credit classes and earning college credit before graduation.  

Most likely, dual credit classes won’t show up on your high school transcripts,” Hohn said. So contact the community college where the credits were earned and have those records sent on to the college you’ll be attending.” 

Taking placement tests in the summer is a proactive way to make college class registration easier.

From left, Boylan High School senior Ryan Starck with college counselor, Jeffery Hohn, and fellow seniors Nolan Coen, John Kerestes and Aiden Hocking. Hohn said college-bound students should send their final high school transcript to their college or university. (Photo provided)

According to Hohn, many community colleges have testing centers where incoming students can take placement exams. Four-year institutions typically place students based on their high school classes but offer online testing options for math placement tests. 

Researching and deciding on technology options for college is another vital summer task for recent graduates.  

We recommend that all of our incoming students have a laptop computer; that’s pretty much a given,” said McCarthy, who is based in Kendall County but is responsible for a large territory in Chicago’s suburbs. Since homework, papers and many tests are done or submitted online, having a laptop is important. 

At Illinois State, we can offer technology recommendations based on a student’s major,” she said. Of course, the needs of a computer science major versus the needs of an education major would differ, and the technology should reflect that.” 

McCarthy, who is the daughter of Chronicle Media Suburban Editor Jack McCarthy, added that software specific to a student’s major is typically discussed in class.  

Usually, professors will advise their students on software recommendations during the first weeks of classes, so this isn’t something to be concerned about before the fall,” she said. 

Whether a student is attending a community college or a four-year university, both Hohn and McCarthy advise using social media to learn about events and activities around campus. 

If you are going to a community college, try to get a summer job there, which will help you learn about the school and possibly meet people before classes start,” Hohn said. Joining social media sites for the Class of 2028 will also help you meet people and discover groups, sports, and organizations you may want to join once fall classes start. Be open-minded and investigate several extracurricular activities you might want to join.” 

McCarthy said social media platforms are one of the main ways students find roommates.  

ISU has a roommate profile program that students can access to find roommates with similar interests,” she said. “We also have admitted student Facebook groups that help suggest possible roommates, and some students meet their roommates through our orientation days.” 

Becoming familiar with your school’s website before arriving is another of McCarthy’s suggestions.  

Searching your college’s website gives you a better idea of what activities you may want to pursue once you arrive in the fall,” she said. “Considering how many activities are available at a four-year institution, doing this investigative legwork in the summer is very beneficial.” 

Attending a summer orientation at your school is also crucial to fall success.  

At Illinois State, orientation is a two-day experience where students register for their classes, get familiar with the campus, learn about their major and spend an overnight in one of the residence halls,” McCarthy said.  

Following these tips before attending college can help alleviate the uncertainties of beginning a new educational journey.  

Be focused, get to class early and get to know your professors and classmates,” Hohn said. Practicing good time management, having a positive attitude and being kind will definitely help you find your niche in college.”