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The college-planning process is an exhilarating yet challenging time for teens and the adults in their lives. From the dreaded standardized tests to the much-awaited acceptance letter, this foray into the world of higher education will most likely dominate the conversations of the older girls. Girl Scout leaders and advisers have the opportunity to support what the girls have learned in school and from their parents, and to supplement this knowledge with their own perspectives and experiences. To facilitate these discussions, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has partnered with organizations across the nation to create programs and resources that provide helpful information about this exciting time in the academic and social lives of girls.
In order to support girls, parents, leaders, and other adults who work with girls, GSUSA (with funding from the MetLife Foundation) created Route to Success: An Adult Guide to the CollegePlanning Process, published in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF), which is primarily directed to parents and guardians, who may know little about helping a girl prepare for college. These free guides provide information on a wide range of related topics, and the material is organized chronologically, highlighting important preparatory steps for girls to take during each year beginning in middle or junior high school.
By making applying to college a troop or group activity, girls can help each other, keep each other motivated, and share this important step in their lives. Girl Scout leaders and advisers will be key to inspiring the girls to stay focused, as well as helping them gain their parents' or guardians' support.
Many colleges, universities, private corporations and foundations offer Girl Scouts scholarship money for higher education.
Read a complete list of Girl Scout scholarships on our Scholarship page. Girls may also want to contact their chosen colleges or universities, as they may have a dedicated funding stream for Girl Scout scholarships.
The following tips were adapted from Route to Success: An Adult Guide to the College-Planning Process. The entire Guide may be downloaded, above right.
Middle/Junior High School
It’s never too early to start thinking about college. In most middle and junior high schools, there are specific classes a girl will need to take in order to begin her journey on the "college track." You may want to speak with or send a note to parents reminding them to speak with their daughter’s teachers, school counselors and/or administrators about the importance of her being enrolled in these essential courses during her pre-high school years. This is also the time to speak with girls about starting and/or completing their Bronze Award projects.
Freshman Year – 9th Grade
While applications are still years away, colleges look at everything students do for all four years of high school. Suggest that the girls speak with their guidance counselors to decide which classes they should take, and to discuss any testing accommodations they may need if they have special learning requirements. Encourage them to start a college preparation folder, which will contain application materials like report cards, awards, and lists of extra-curricular activities, paid jobs, and/or volunteer positions.
Urge them to continue their involvement in extra-curricular activities, and discuss their participation in community service projects that reflect their interests. All of these activities can be listed later on college applications, and are taken into consideration by college registrars. This is a perfect time to discuss their working toward the Silver Award.
Sophomore Year – 10th Grade
This second year of high school is often more comfortable for teens as they have gotten used to their new environment. Encourage them to set goals and suggest that they start investigating colleges by exploring school Web sites and looking at admission requirements. Remind them to update their college preparation folders.
Junior Year – 11th Grade
This is the year girls will begin the college application process. You may want to set aside time at the beginning of each meeting to discuss girls' issues, concerns or questions. This is also an important time to discuss their Gold Award projects and how schools look favorably at commitment and leadership in extra-curricular activities. This is a good time to introduce them to creating a résumé. Also propose that they attend college fairs and begin investigating scholarship opportunities, and bring copies of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to meetings for girls to review. As they begin to receive publications from colleges in the mail, offer a system for organizing brochures and letters, and perhaps create a crafts project to house this important documentation. Remind them to keep updating their college preparation folders.
Senior Year – 12th Grade
During this exciting last year of high school, remind the girls that their grades are still important; every year colleges rescind offers of acceptance because of poor senior-year grades. Discuss whom they will ask to write their recommendation letters, and expect that girls in your troop/group may ask you to write one. If you are chosen, ask the girl for a copy of her résumé (which should include her involvement, awards, and achievements within Girl Scouts, as well as other accomplishments, work experience, etc.) and speak with her about how her future goals fit with the college(s) to which she is applying.
Finally, celebrate graduation and the prospect of each girl attending the school of her choice! This is a wonderful time to enjoy the girls’ accomplishments and to congratulate them on their years of dedication and perseverance.
Resources to check out
Information about college preparedness is widely published in print and on the Internet. Below is a sample list of Web sites and books to help you and your troop/group with the college-planning process.
- College Board Staff. The College Handbook, Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Staff of Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group.
- Cohen, Katherine. Rock Hard Apps: How to Write a Killer College Application, Hyperion.
- The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the U.S. Department of Education, (Published annually. For a free copy, call 800-433-3243)
- Mosatche, Harriet S. and Karen Unger. Where Should I Sit at Lunch? The Ultimate 24/7 Guide to Surviving the High School Years, McGraw Hill.
For students with learning disabilities:
- Peterson's. Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADD, Peterson's Guide.
- Wax, Imy F. & Marybeth Kravets. K&W Guide to College for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder, Princeton Review.
Adapted from LEADER Magazine. © Girl Scouts of the United States of America.