Getting into college is a major milestone for teens–and for parents! If you’re going through the process the first time, here are five things to be aware of:
1. Deadlines and necessary documents
Deadlines are key during the college application process. Typically, students begin preparing for college during the fall semester of junior year, and some as early as spring of sophomore year.
To make the process manageable, try putting together a timeline with your teen so that they’re aware of what needs to happen and when. Include things like when to:
- Research colleges, scholarships, and make lists of choices
- Prep, register, and take standardized tests
- Write essays and ask teachers for recommendation letters
- Hand in college applications
- Submit financial aid and scholarship applications
- Any other important dates
2. Essays and tests
Many colleges require scores from standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, as part of their application. The most successful students typically prepare well in advance for these tests by studying, taking practice tests, or even enrolling in test-prep courses.
Colleges may also want your teen to showcase their interests and skills in a personal essay. Encourage your child to take the time to craft a well-written story that reflects their individuality and why they want to attend a particular school.
3. Campus visits
Touring campuses will let your student get a feel for the schools and the culture. It’s also an opportunity to meet professors, learn more about the programs offered, and see if it’s a good fit for their goals. It may not be possible to visit all the schools on your teen’s list. So, try for a mix of schools, including at least one target school, top safety school, and reach school.
4. Hearing back
It can take several weeks or even months to find out if your child has been accepted, waitlisted, or rejected from their list of colleges. And this waiting period can be nerve-wracking! Encourage your child to focus on the end of their senior year and to have a plan in place in case they’re not accepted to their top choice.
Early action and early response applicants typically receive answers in January or February. Regular college applicants usually hear back at the end of March or in early April. Here’s what to do when the letters arrive:
If they are accepted
Congratulations! Read the admission details carefully to find out the next steps and any deadlines for formally accepting or declining the offer.
If they are waitlisted
This means the college has filled all the incoming freshman spots and your student will be able to enroll only if one opens up. You may want to give the admissions office a call to find out the likelihood of that happening. Oftentimes, waitlisted students don’t get an update until August, which could be too late to enroll in another school.
If they are rejected
It’s okay for your kid to be disappointed, and rejection is a part of life. Try to get them excited about attending a different college. And, if after a year, your student is still set on going to their dream school, they can always look into transferring.
Financing and financial aid
Understanding the cost of the colleges on your child’s list and how much you can contribute to their education is very important. Your student should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile.
These forms will open your child to receive federal aid and institutional aid, including grants, student loans, scholarships, and other opportunities. In some cases, the aid is given on a first come, first served basis, so submit these forms sooner, rather than later.
Beyond scholarships and financial aid, consider how else you might pay college expenses. Will your teen take out loans? Will you use savings? Life insurance is another option to help pay for college. Permanent life insurance policies like whole life insurance offer lifetime coverage and can accumulate cash value over time. If you have an existing policy, you might decide to use a portion of the cash value to pay for tuition and other costs.
The college application process has many steps, but with proper preparation, you can help your child navigate the journey successfully. Good luck!
The primary purpose of permanent life insurance is to provide a death benefit. Using permanent life insurance accumulated value to supplement retirement income will reduce the death benefit and may affect other aspects of the policy.
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