Getting your son or daughter ready for college can be stressful. The process is more complicated than it was when you may have been preparing yourself for college. Here are just a few of the key items you should be concentrating on right now as your family prepares to apply to colleges later this year.
Assess Strengths Early On
Career and major exploration may be the most important part of the college planning process. If your family hasn’t set the goal for the end result of a college experience, then how can you be sure that you are taking the right first steps?
With that in mind, your son or daughter should consider taking a career or majors assessment test. For many students, a quick assessment test can help with decisions that affect major choices. For example, you know your son wants to pursue a STEM career but he’s considering everything from engineering to a career as a math teacher. An assessment test can narrow his options down considerably by focusing on what career allows for the best chance at success for your son.
TIP: Applying to the correct department within the best fit college from the beginning saves money on costly transfers — not only from one college to another, but also between departments in the same college. Your family will also save money when your son or daughter graduates on time!
Do Your Homework
You daughter loves the brochure with the lush lawns and smiling students. That college happens to also have the major she is considering — she’s in love. You want to give your little girl her every wish and immediately start the process for the application.
Slow down! Campus visits, conversations with admissions reps, meeting a professor in department, even taking advantage of an overnight experience with current students — these are all available to prospective students’ families for good reason. Your family really does need to find a weekend or two to participate in these activities for most of the schools on your list.
There is no substitute for an in-person experience with a college campus. Virtual tours, campus videos, rankings and articles — these are all great for narrowing down your list of schools to apply to, but they should never be the reason why you commit to attend any college.
TIP: You will know if this college is right for your son or daughter by watching their reaction to the campus and faculty in person. Encourage visits to every college you think you would say “yes” to.
Find an Advocate
Your daughter may be looking at career you have little to no knowledge about. Instead of nodding blankly every time she talks about her future career, help her find a mentor. An internship or shadowing experience will do wonders to help her make decisions about what she wants to do after high school. You’ll be setting her up for success in a field she is already passionate about.
As the parent, you also need a mentor. You do not need to prepare for college alone. There are opportunities available at almost every stage of the experience. Speak with experts or other families who have been there. Become a sponge! Attend workshops and community events where you can meet college planning and financial aid experts and ask questions.
TIP: Find mentors for yourself and your child as you plan for college. While Google is a great tool, getting expert help from people who want to advocate for you is the best option.
NextStepU is college-planning service that works nationwide to help families make educated decisions about finding and affording the best college. Visit NextStepUCenters.com for a current listing of free workshops or to work one-on-one with a NextStepU College Coach.
As seen in the Messenger Post College Guide.