As the parent of a high school student, it may feel like time never slows down.
Next thing you know, you’re watching your child walk across the stage and gearing up for an emotional send off.
Preparing for college can be an overwhelming and emotional experience for both you and your teen. However, there are steps you can take in the months and years leading up to graduation to make the process easier.
If you’re kicking off your child’s college search, here are four simple ways you can help your child prepare for college:
Offer Support Through the Admissions Process
Deciding where and when to apply is a daunting process for soon-to-be graduates. As your child weighs their options, you can offer guidance by helping them to research and compare colleges and create a list of schools they might be interested in applying to.
Sit down together and list their desires in terms of factors like location, academic programs, and campus life. Once they’ve narrowed down their list, help them lay out a timeline for when they should plan campus visits, take entrance exams, and submit applications.
Remember, the final choice is ultimately theirs, so you should avoid taking over the process and rushing them to make decisions before they are ready. Instead, help them with the college decision by identifying academic opportunities, encouraging them to pursue their extracurricular interests, and reminding them that you believe in their potential.
Plan for College Preparation Resources
There are several educational resources available that high school students can leverage as they navigate their college search and the application process. For instance, a personal tutor might help them improve their academic standing, write their college essay, or better prepare for entrance exams.
In addition, online study guides and courses are valuable investments to ensure college readiness. However, while these resources can improve your child’s chances of admittance, they can also carry significant costs.
While most families focus on saving up for tuition, you shouldn’t overlook the cost of preparing for college. These costs may vary, but you should still factor them into your own financial planning.
To help cover the costs of these resources, parents might need to tap into their child’s college savings or use a personal loan, which can be used to offset college prep expenses.
Discuss Your College Financing Plan
As you already know, college is no small investment. Sorting out the financial details and creating a plan can grant peace of mind to both students and parents, as you’ll know what expenses you are each responsible for.
Start by discussing the cost of the schools they are considering to determine whether or not you can afford to enroll. To avoid future disappointment, you may also want to discuss any financial limitations with your child that would disqualify certain schools.
As they narrow their list of schools, be sure to take time to explore financing options together. Research scholarship opportunities, financial aid you may qualify for, and work-study programs. In addition, help them fill out the FAFSA to access grants, work-study funds, federal student loans, and state-based aid.
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During this time, you should also start holding conversations about their personal finances, and encourage them to develop sound money habits that will carry them through school and beyond.
Manage Your Own Emotions
You may have dreams of your child attending your alma mater or getting accepted into a prestigious university. Or, you may want a specific college experience for your child.
While it’s okay to have these dreams, it’s important to keep your emotions in check during the college planning process. Chances are your child is already stressed, and adding the pressure of your wants and dreams could stress them out even more. Instead, focus more on practical logistics like school location and cost.
You may also want to prepare for the possibility of rejection. Even the brightest students aren’t always accepted to every school they apply to, which is why you should maintain a positive and supportive attitude, even if your child isn’t accepted. Don’t equate a college rejection as failure, but rather reinforce the idea that they will have a rewarding experience wherever they attend.
Graduating high school and going to college is an exciting milestone. With your support and guidance, you can ensure both you and your teen are prepared for the next stage in their life.
Image Credit: prepare your teen for college by twenty20.com
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