For many of us, the thought of our children applying to college still seems so far away. And to some extent it is. For others, the start of that journey is right around the corner and frankly, you’re probably scared to death! Throughout my years in college admissions, I’ve noticed that the parents of prospective students are often times more nervous than the kids themselves. After all, it’s a huge transition for them AND you, and an overwhelming transition at that.
Today, I’ll be sharing some information and tips on helping your child get through the college application process. (There may even be a few tips on getting yourself through it too!) For those of you with children even as young as 12, this information is exactly what you will want and need over the coming years! No, it’s really not too early to start doing your research. For those of you who have a high school junior or senior, grab a cup of coffee, a pen and notebook! It’s time to take some notes! That’s right – this post is for you!
Apply to more than one school
Even if your child has said that they are going to the University of XYX since they were 5 years old, they should still apply to the University of XYZ and at least two other schools. Give them the ability to explore their options even if they don’t realize that they are. They might be surprised at what they learn.
Don’t assume they won’t get in!
One of the most common mistakes students make in the college application process is that they simply don’t apply to their first choice school. This happens when they believe they don’t meet the admission criteria. Here’s a little insider secret for you :: Many schools can still accept an applicant even if they don’t meet the admission criteria. For example, the state schools in Louisiana are each allowed to admit a certain percentage of students that don’t meet admission criteria. Don’t eliminate yourself! Let them tell you no first!
Applying early has so many advantages. The biggest one is that of course you will be able to make a decision earlier. But there are other advantages as well. Many schools will begin to award scholarships during the fall semester of the student’s high school senior year! Another advantage refers back to number 2 of this post. If you feel you don’t meet the admission criteria, applying early gives you a leg up on others that may not meet criteria, but want to be part of that percentage that get in through alternate routes.
Enter your information accurately
This one seems pretty simple, but you would be surprised at how much misinformation is received by colleges. One of the most frequent things that happens is mom and dad complete the application for their child. Guess who’s social security number or birth date they enter in the application instead of their child’s? You guessed it – their own! Pay very close attention to the information you provide on the application and always, ALWAYS double-check it for accuracy. It could be the difference between getting an acceptance letter tomorrow or getting it two months from now!
Take the ACT/SAT multiple times
We all know how much our kids dread those standardized tests, but this is one standardized test that can really make a difference. In fact, it could even be the difference between getting a scholarship or paying completely out of pocket. A good rule of thumb with the ACT and/or SAT is that you want to take it more than once. You can begin taking the ACT/SAT even before you become a senior and actually, I would recommend taking it for the first time no later than the second half of your high school junior year. Many students increase their score significantly during their second or even third time of taking the exam. For more information on the ACT test dates and locations, visit www.act.org.
Be prepared for the fees
Many parents are surprised at the fees that are associated with the college admission process. Prepare and save for this so that there are no surprises. You will mostly like, if not definitely, have to pay an application fee to each school. This fee could range anywhere from $5.00 to well over $100. (Another insider tip :: most of the schools in Louisiana only charge a $20.00 application fee as long as you apply by their deadline). Other fees that are common include orientation fees and housing deposits.
Know the application deadline
Each school will establish its own application deadline, and some schools will not have a deadline at all. Check the school website for application deadlines and pay close attention to late fees as well. Many schools encourage students to apply early by having one application fee prior to a certain date and another, more costly, application fee after a certain date. It pays to know that date!
These tips are just the tip of iceberg when it comes to the college admission and application process. There are still the topics of Financial Aid, dorm life, admission criteria, choosing a major….and on and on and on. We could even talk about the importance of preparing yourself as a parent for this change in your child’s life.
Another thing to consider when applying is housing. A friends daughter was planning to go to school closer to home to save on housing only to find that smaller school required all freshmen to live on campus for one year. Since she had to pay it anyway she opted to go to the larger school several hours away. When choosing schools to apply to there are lots of things to learn about each school so tour the campuses with our kids if you can to help them make the best decision.