The last years of high school can be an exciting, yet stressful time for students–especially if they plan to go to college. And whether parents are hands-on, hands-off, or somewhere in between with all the college prep, knowing these six things can help them better guide their teens.
Which campuses to tour
Campus tours are often a great way for students to get a sense of which school is the best fit—but seeing every college in person might not make financial sense. Before booking those plane tickets or hopping in the car, families might choose a balanced mix of top safety schools, target schools, and reach schools to narrow down their to-visit list.
What the college selection process looks like
Most college admissions officers want to know that a student will fit in academically and make positive contributions to the campus community. Here’s what they might look at:
- How hard the classes were
- Standardized test scores (Some colleges no longer ask for this. However, they can be important if a college requires them or gives students the option to submit them.)
- Extracurriculars & leadership
- Letters of recommendation
- Writing samples
- A strong interest in the school
How to manage the deadlines
Building a timeline of what to do and when to take action may help make applying to colleges easier. Below are some general ideas:
Spring of Junior Year
This might be a good time for students to . . .
- Research and make a list of colleges
- Take some campus tours (virtual or in person)
- Start looking for scholarships
- Take the SAT or ACT for the first time
What students might do in . . .
- Take the SAT and/or ACT, if needed
- Request college applications
- Go on more campus tours (virtual or in person)
- Ask for recommendation letters
- Begin work on college applications & essays
- Finish up campus tours (virtual or in person)
- Take the SAT or ACT again, if needed
- Apply for any Early Decision or Early Action schools.
- Take the SAT or ACT, if needed
- Start financial aid (FAFSA) and scholarship applications
December & January
- Submit college applications in December
- Submit FAFSA due in December
- Receive any early acceptance letters around December
- Last chance to take the SAT or ACT
February & March
- Receive financial aid awards
- Get first responses from colleges, though most will come in April
- Choose which college to attend
- Notify the schools they’re not attending
Their financial strategy
A financial strategy might involve saving for college over many years. Parents may choose to use a tax-advantaged account designed to help save for education expenses, such as a 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. Perhaps parents plan to use the cash value of a permanent life insurance policy, like universal life insurance or whole life insurance*. Applying for financial aid, grants, scholarships, or student loans could also be options. Whatever the strategy, planning early for the cost of college can be helpful.
Their move-in plans
Sometimes parents and teens have different ideas about how the move to college should go. Parents might want to drive their teen to school and help them settle in. Some students may see themselves unpacking, meeting new friends, and adjusting to college life on their own. Clear communication can set expectations so that there are no surprises on the big day.
How to embrace boundaries / that their relationship will change
Transitioning from parenting a child to parenting a college student can be tough. Parents often worry about their teens being away from home and miss them, too. Calling, texting, or visiting a lot could seem controlling to a student trying to live independently. And it could cause tension in the relationship. Here are some tips to help parents keep it solid:
- Understand that the relationship is changing
- Give kids the space to grow
- Let them know you support them
- Remember that you raised them well
*The primary purpose of permanent life insurance is to provide a death benefit. Using permanent life insurance cash value to supplement retirement income or for other purposes will reduce the death benefit and may affect other aspects of the policy.
Source: Northwestern Mutual
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