College admissions procedures, financial assistance and available grants, testing requirements, and campus visits are among the important topics you and your child must confront if college is on the horizon. Preparing for college an exciting, rewarding and challenging time for students and their families.
It’s important to know that teachers and school counselors work closely with students and parents, and offer ideas and resources for college-bound students and their families.
During the fall semester of your child’s senior in high school:
- Help your child gather and organize all necessary information and paperwork, including transcripts, applications, essays, recommendations, test scores, and financial aid applications.
- Visit any schools you have not yet seen or would like to see again. Many school districts allow seniors to take a day or two from school (excused absences) for college visits. Check with your child’s counselor to see if this is possible.
- Encourage your child to retake the SAT or ACT, if needed.
- Help your child choose the school that is the best fit for him or her and for your family.
During your child’s junior year in high school:
- Encourage your child to continue to take challenging courses and do well in all classes.
- Help your child narrow the list of potential colleges and universities.
- Visiting campuses can be helpful in decision-making. If such visits are possible, create a list of schools to visit with your child.
- Encourage your child to seek recommendations from teachers, administrators, coaches, etc.
- Download and review the Common Application as well as the necessary applications for schools that do not accept it. Determine what information is needed and how to obtain that information, including transcripts and financial information.
- Encourage your child to begin drafting essays that may be required by colleges and universities.
- Work with your child and his or her counselor to determine which standardized test is required and which is the best fit for your child, the SAT or ACT. Encourage your child to sign up to take the test in the spring.
Be sure to visit the Prepare for College section of the U.S. Department of Education website for college admissions and important financial aid information at: www.studentaid.ed.gov.
And, teachers and counselors are quick to remind everyone that college is not the right fit for every student. Other post-secondary opportunities, such as career and technical education, are an essential component of quality education and should be readily available in order to help meet the needs of all students. More information about career and technical education can be found at the Association for Career and Technical Education website.
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It’s also important to remember, for a variety of reasons, not every student is suited for a four-year institution immediately after high school. Community colleges are another good option and offer numerous programs that lead to different degrees and certifications and prepare students to transfer to a four-year institution. More information about community colleges can be found at the American Association of Community Colleges website.
It's never too early to start planning for college.
It ‘s Never Too Early
While the primary focus of college planning is the last two years of high school, it's important to keep in mind that the college admissions process is not just for juniors and seniors in high school. More and more, parents need to begin planning, thinking about, and saving for college and post-secondary preparation, even when their children are entering elementary school. With good planning and active participation in your child's education, you can help put him or her on a path for opportunity and success. Here are some suggestions for the earlier grades:
While your child is in elementary school:
- Read with your child.
- Encourage him or her to do well in school and take an active role in your child's education.
- Discuss with your child the importance of education and the opportunities it can afford.
- Explore different activities, sports, and career concepts to find out what your child enjoys.
- If possible, take advantage of state college saving plans or prepaid tuition plans (many still allow your child options when the time comes to choose a college).
While your child is in middle school:
- Encourage your child to take challenging classes, especially in math and science.
- Continue to read with your child and encourage him or her to explore interests and hobbies.
- Encourage your child to become active in school and community groups, sports, and service organizations.
- Participate in career days at school to share your experiences with students or help start a career day if your child's school doesn't already have one scheduled.
While your child is in 9th and 10th grades:
- Encourage your child to take challenging classes, including AP/IB classes, and to do his or her best in all classes.
- Work with your child's guidance counselor to make sure your child takes four years of English and four years of Math, including.
- Ask your child's guidance counselor if your 10th-grader should take the PSAT and/or the pre-ACT, also known as the PLAN.
- Encourage your child to continue to participate in school and community activities.
- Participate in career days.
- Use time during the summer to explore colleges and universities with your child (online or in person).
- Encourage your child to speak with teachers, counselors, and administrators about their college experiences.
- Develop a list of characteristics you and your child are looking for in a college or university (for example, two-year or four-year, location, cost, size, major areas of study, urban/suburban/rural, etc.).
- Check out the College Board website www.collegeboard.org, and a special College Board website to help families prepare for college, BigFuture: www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org.