How-to Guides: Preparing Your Kid for College

college apartment preparation

Rising high school seniors are not only preparing for a new academic school year, but also for their final hurrahs as high school students. Friday night football games, homecoming court, and senior prom are on every senior’s radar, but so is life after graduation. Once they walk across the stage and collect their diplomas, many students will start to prepare for college in the fall. According to NCES, 65.9% of students enroll in college immediately following graduation.  

What can you do as a parent to help? Here’s our list of top-priorities to prepare your kid for college:

Explore the variety of schools offered

With such a large amount of college-bound freshmen, it’s time to prepare now for the road ahead. Before starting the applications, discuss with your child about the kind of education he or she is after. You can do this by exploring the different schools offered, such as community and junior colleges, technical colleges, four-year colleges and universities. Be sure you both do your part to determine the best fit school. Students that already have a career field in mind should make sure the schools in which they're applying to offer courses related to that profession.

Talk about adding college-level classes to school schedule

The classes your child takes can be beneficial to his or her college career – and to your wallet! College-level programs like AP or IB may count as college credit. Passing these classes and exams can exempt your child from retaking them in the fall, which saves you money on books and fees, and can shorten his or her course load for freshman year. These levels of classes will stand out on a student’s resume and college applications.

Look for the “free money”

Who doesn’t love free money? Because now is the time to research and apply for “free money” options. By “free money,” I’m referring to scholarships and grants, but a birthday card from grandma with a check inside isn’t bad either.

There’s a scholarship for everything nowadays, and if your child is awarded a scholarship, it lessens your fiscal contribution. You may also want to check out FAFSA for federal grants and student loans.

Prepare a “College Milestone Guide"

Don't call it a timeline, because timelines can stress a person out. Instead, refer to it as a "college milestone guide." This guide will lay out the stepping stones to graduation. Milestones to consider include joining an organization, becoming a teacher’s assistant, obtaining an internship, making the Dean’s list, etc. Discuss when you both would like to see these milestones achieved, as well as the ways to make them happen.

Gather all documents for college applications

Because this part of the process does have a timeline, it can be the most hectic for parents and students. After your child chooses the schools he or she will apply to, begin collecting all the documents needed to complete the applications, including:

  • Official high school transcript
  • Application fee
  • Immunizations
  • SAT/ACT official test scores
  • AP/IB official test scores
  • Recommendation letters
  • FAFSA/Financial Aid
  • Application essays

Start shopping for dorm supplies

Living on campus is a big deal, and it may cost a pretty penny, too. There are tons of dorm room supplies your child will need for their freshman year. Click here for a list of common items needed for an on-campus home.

Have the talk about financial responsibility

College is the opportune time to talk with your child about personal financial responsibility. A checking account can teach them about saving for the future, and be used as a place to deposit money earned from their on-campus job.

Speak with a college advisor and register for classes

Doing these simultaneously can really be beneficial; your advisor can guide you both on which classes are best suited for your student’s interests or major.  College advisors can also answer questions about financial aid, study or student organization programs, and help to determine the course load your child needs (or can handle) to be successful their first year.

What tips do you have for parents that have kids going to college? Share with us, below.

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