It can be a bittersweet experience, sending your children off to a four-year college. It seems like only yesterday they were boarding the bus for kindergarten.
Now you are sending them off on a new adventure, and your worries have evolved. Still, you know a college degree is the best way to cement their future. It is a way to help them make their mark on the world with a job they will love and a paycheck that could support their hopes and dreams. But the whole college application process can be confusing, and it helps to know what to expect when senior year rolls around.
Tips For Parents to Understand the Admissions Process
We have put together a comprehensive primer for parents who want to help streamline the experience for their future college freshmen.
Tap Your Local High School
You are your child’s first advocate when it comes to the college application process, so arm yourself accordingly. The first step is to take advantage of the many resources available at the high school level. Most high schools offer multiple opportunities for seniors and their families to learn more about college. These include:
- Financial aid nights
- College fairs
- Speakers from local colleges
- Scholarship information
Follow your child’s high school on social media and make sure your email address is current with the office so you receive reminders for college prep activities, and then attend as many as you can with your child. Keep a file or a binder with important information such as deadline dates, contact persons, and course requirements.
Be Aware of Deadlines
Deadlines are important when applying for college, and one of the most important ones to remember is October 1st of every year. This is the official date the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, opens. The sooner your child applies, the more likely they are to receive financial assistance to attend college. It is free to fill out the form, and it can be done online in about 20 minutes or less, providing you have collected all your materials beforehand.
Most prospective college students should fill out a FAFSA and submit it by March 1st of the year they plan to attend college, but getting the application in much sooner is recommended.
Plan Visits to College Campuses
Do you know which colleges interest your child? If so, plan to tour them. Call ahead and set up interviews with admission personnel. If possible, talk to a representative from the program your child plans to attend.
If your child will be a transfer student, meet with representatives from both colleges, so you understand the credit transfer process. This will help your student better understand which classes will transfer. This is an important step that can help your student avoid lost credits, saving them time and money.
Gather the Materials Your Child Needs to Apply
Your child will need to stay organized throughout the college application process, so they do not miss any important deadlines, emails, or notifications. This is especially important for students who have applied for financial aid. As grants and offers come in, your child will have to sign to accept them. Some awards may be lost if they are not accepted by the deadline.
To begin the application process, your child will need to have some documents on hand. They must also know where and how to retrieve documents that must be sent between academic institutions. Examples include:
- High school transcripts
- Test scores
- List of extracurricular activities
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal essays
- Family tax records (If applying for financial aid)
If your child applies for scholarships, there may be additional requirements. NAVIANCE is a great resource for parents in the United States because it provides such resources as scholarship lists and college prep activities. Many high schools partner with NAVIANCE to help seniors transition more easily to college. Check with your child or their school counselor to see if they have a student log-in for NAVIANCE.
Stay in Touch with Your Child’s High School Counselor
This individual has a wealth of information and resources to share with you regarding how and when to apply. Make sure you build a good rapport with the school counselor and stay in close contact throughout senior year, so your student has a clear understanding of what they need to do and when.
How the College Application Process Works
It seems confusing, but applying for college is easier when you break it down into manageable steps. The important tasks include providing all the right information and meeting the important deadlines.
Fill Out the College Application
The first step is for your child to fill out the application for college admission to the school or schools they wish to attend. It is important that your student check and re-check their application for spelling and grammar mistakes and that they fill the application out completely and sign it. Some schools require an application fee that must be submitted with the application. The college will also need copies of your child’s high school transcript. Your high school counselor can tell you how to transfer them.
Attend Mandatory College Interviews
If your prospective college has an interview requirement, your child must attend. They should dress professionally and treat the meeting just like a job interview. Help them prepare for the day by staging mock interviews and helping your student prepare a list of pertinent questions.
If your child has applied before the required deadline, sent in all their materials, and completed all the requirements to be considered for admission, the next step is to wait patiently while everything gets processed. It may take 6 to 8 weeks to hear the final decision. Your student may be able to check the status of their application online.
Your student should receive a confirmation from the college that they have received the application. This may come through regular mail or email. If no confirmation is received, a call to the admission’s office is recommended, just to ensure the application was received and is under consideration.
Apply for Financial Aid
If your child has yet to do so, now is the time to apply for financial aid. Be sure to fill out the FAFSA by the deadline, along with any scholarship applications for which your child wants to be considered.
Register For Classes
Once your child has received their acceptance letter, it is time to register for classes. Your child will meet with their college advisor to help them plan a schedule that suits their needs. This is when it is most important for transfer students to share their plans with their advisor. In this way, they can choose electives wisely, so all credits transfer and none are lost.
At Post University, we are eager to welcome your new college student to our beautiful and exciting campus in Waterbury, Connecticut. Schedule your visit online today, or contact our admissions office to find your student’s program.
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!