Helping kids prepare for college is one of the most important things you can do as a high school counselor. Making parents part of the process early and often can improve the experience for everyone involved.
How do you do that? Having a simple checklist with key dates and specific advice can give needed relief to Mom and Dad as they prep for freshman year. Here are five moments1 you’ll want to make sure they don’t miss:
- June 1, summer break following sophomore year. Parents need to start talking about options. What universities are their students interested in? What majors might he or she want to explore? Agreeing on a short list at this point can make prep much easier in the months to come.
- September 1, junior year of high school. Students will have just returned to school, which makes it a great time to meet with the whole family. Ask them to bring a shortlist of target colleges. If they don’t yet have one, use the time to suggest some options and check which entry exams are required. They’ll need to register shortly after your meeting: SAT and ACT exams are usually administered between September and June.
- November 1, junior year of high school. Students and parents should have test results in by this point, and universities and scholarship-granting organizations may be taking note of those who scored especially well. Most others will need to start searching for relevant merit scholarships and gathering information for state and federal financial aid forms. Encourage parents and students to be thinking about who to ask for written recommendations and show them how to register for scholarship search engines, such as Fastweb and BigFuture.
- January 1, senior year of high school. Don’t let your students and their parents leave for the holiday vacation without warning them about the FAFSA, otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. States differ in their deadlines for submission of the FAFSA, although many allow for filing shortly after Jan. 1. You can help parents expedite submission with this short checklist of must-haves. They’ll use the information again in the months to come, when it’s time to apply for appropriate merit scholarships.
- March 1, senior year of high school. By spring, students and their parents will begin to receive responses from the universities to which they’ve applied. Most will get good news. In fall 2014, 64.7 percent of applicants were accepted to the top 100 universities ranked by U.S. News and World Report2. Yet that still leaves about a third of applicants being turned away. What do you do if the student you’re counseling is rejected? An appeal may be in order, especially if the student has new information to offer.
Sending a child off to college is hard for parents. As their student’s counselor and confidant, they’re looking to you to make the process of finding the right school just a little easier — and a good checklist goes a long way.
- http://collegeapps.about.com/od/admissionstimeline/tp/12th-grade-timeline.htm, http://www.questbridge.org/for-students/applying-for-college, http://www.questbridge.org/for-students/applying-for-college