How do I help my kids get into college? With back to school around the corner, you may find yourself asking this question as graduation day approaches. Your child’s senior year of high school is the prime time to begin the college search process in earnest. At Post University, we offer a wide range of academic programs to suit every interest. If your teen is ready to begin thinking about college, we have tips to help you make the most of your role as parent.
Realize the Process May Be Overwhelming for Your Teen
Figuring out how to search for college is always a bit stressful. After all, the prospect of leaving high school and starting a new academic life may feel overwhelming to your teen. Children between the ages of 16 and 19 may still be struggling with who they are and what they want out of life. Hormones are at play, and emotions do not always match the situation. And the college search process just adds more stress to the mix.
The more you can do to help your teen navigate the ins and outs of deciding where and how to apply to college, the more uncertainty you can save them. As a parent, there is a lot you can do to lead the way, including being involved from beginning to end. But if you notice your child becoming more and more anxious as high school graduation day arrives, do not be alarmed. Just because your child is interested in pursuing a college education does not mean they know how to get the ball rolling or what to do next. This is where you can help.
Familiarize Yourself with the College Admissions Process
If you earned a degree yourself, you may have an idea of how the college search process works. But if it has been a while, or if you are not sure how to begin, take time to familiarize yourself with the routine. You will also want to visit studentaid.gov to learn more about finding money for college, such as grants, loans, and scholarships. Collegeboard.org can also help with information regarding college testing requirements, locations, and programs of study.
Encourage Your Child to Talk to Their High School Counselor
Your student’s high school guidance office or guidance counselor is another prime resource to help you and your child learn more about the college search process. Watch for family-night events over your teen’s junior and senior years during which representatives of local colleges visit the school to pass along information. Also encourage your teen to attend any upcoming college fairs that may take place at the school or community locations.
If you have not done so already, schedule a meeting with you, your teen, and their guidance counselor. There may be programs in place at the school to help ease your child’s transition from high school to college. Some schools allow students to earn college credits for classes taken on the high school campus. It is also important to know which colleges have prerequisites, such as minimum SAT scores. Your child’s guidance counselor can help with questions like these.
What is most important to your child about their choice of college? Before you begin the search, ask your teen these questions:
- Would you rather live on-campus or commute from home?
- Which programs of study interest you?
- Are you interested in applying for scholarships?
- Do you plan to attend full-time or part-time?
- Are you interested in college extracurriculars such as sports, band, or community activism?
- Does it matter whether your choice of college is public or private?
- Do you want to attend online or on campus?
You might be surprised at some of the answers to these questions. As a parent, you may envision your teen living at home and driving to and from college. But they may want to partake in the whole dorm-life experience. You may assume they want to pursue their interest in computers, but they may surprise you by mentioning other programs of study such as science or mathematics. Ultimately, it is your child’s decision regarding which college they wish to attend and what they plan to study. You can help guide them in their search, but if you want them to be happy with their choice, it is important to step back at some point and let them take the wheel.
Once you and your teen are both on the same page regarding their goals, it is time to begin the college search process in earnest. There are many ways you can help.
Be Aware of Deadlines
Every university has its own rules and regulations regarding application dates, interviews, transferring of transcripts, and more. There are also set deadlines for applying for financial aid. Read the college catalog and talk with the admissions office to make sure you know when information is due. Typically, earlier is better. This means your child should submit their required information as soon as possible to give them the best opportunities.
Help Them Prepare for Standardized Tests
Some colleges require SAT scores and entrance exams. Others, such as your local community college, may not. Your child must find out which tests are necessary and when and where to take them. Khan Academy offers great online practice exams for the SAT. In fact, Khan Academy is officially endorsed by CollegeBoard as a good resource for SAT preparation. Other tests your prospective college student may want to consider include:
- Advanced Placement Exams (AP)
- American College Test (ACT)
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) — for non-native English speakers
- GED (General Education Development) — for students who have not earned a high school diploma
The best way to prepare for these tests is to use test preparation manuals and websites. You might also encourage your student to take a course in test prep at your local community college to help them get ready.
Post University recommends, but does not require, that freshman applicants submit the results of an official SAT or ACT test. However, athletes planning to participate in a NCAA Division I or II athletic program must submit SAT or ACT test scores.
Encourage Your Teen to Participate in College Fairs
Local college fairs are solid resources for teens who anticipate going to college. At a college fair, you will find representatives of nearby universities and institutions of higher learning. They bring literature such as catalogs and financial aid information for students to browse. They will also sit down with you and your teen to answer any questions you may have. They are also usually willing to schedule an appointment for a more in-depth discussion at a later date.
Plan College Tours Together
Taking high school seniors on college visits is a rite of passage for many families. It is an ideal role for parents to play because it shows support without overreaching. Schedule ahead with the school to arrange your teen’s tour. This way, you can talk with representatives, students already enrolled in your child’s chosen program of study, the school financial aid office, and admissions. You can tour the campus and visit areas of special interest, such as the dorms, cafeterias, lounges, classrooms, labs, and libraries. You can also ask if your child can observe a class in session or if they are attending online, a demonstration of software needed.
Research Financial Aid Options
There are probably more opportunities for financial aid for your college student than you realize. To begin, your child must fill out the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) that is available from the U.S. Department of Education. The form can be filled out and submitted online, or it may be downloaded and mailed in. Be sure to adhere to the annual deadlines.
Help Your Child Stay Organized
It is important for your teen to keep track of where and when they have applied and which forms of financial aid they have requested. Create a specialized email account for the college application process. This will make it easier to keep up with specific deadlines and requests for more information. Encourage your child to open and respond to college mail promptly.
Encourage Them to Network
Networking is another good way for your child to discover colleges, programs, and opportunities that interest them. Encourage them to attend college-prep events at school and to talk with classmates and friends regarding their future plans.
Help, But Do Not Do All the Work
While it is fine to help your child decide how to find a college, the best role for parents is that of guide. Help them discover resources and be available for discussion and to provide things such as transportation for college visits. Do not, however, take on the primary role. Encourage your teen to fill out their own forms and monitor their own email for communication. If you accompany them to interviews with admission counselors and other professionals, take a back seat and let them steer. Your child’s college education is something they must experience for themselves. As a parent, this is your time to be supportive from the sidelines.
Post University would love to answer your teen’s questions regarding admission to one of our academic programs. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a tour of our scenic campus.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!