A College Planning Timeline & Action Plan for Parents

college-planning-timelineIf your child is about to embark on their senior year of high school then we can venture a guess to say that you’re helping your child balance a multitude of activities. Between college applications, schoolwork, extracurriculars and social outings; it’s bound to be an overwhelming time for families – but the good news is, you can make it easier by taking on different responsibilities each month, instead of all at once.

College Planning Timeline & Senior Year Action Plan for Parents

Stay Organized & Ahead of the Game

The best thing you can do to stay organized during your child’s senior year of high school is to plan everything as soon as possible. Whether it’s scheduling a day trip to visit colleges your child is interested in, or registering for the ACT and SATs, find a day that works for you and your family so you can start to check things off your list.

If you haven’t already started touring college campuses, use as many weekends as necessary during the fall semester of your child’s senior year to explore colleges of interest. Taking the time to tour different campuses will give your child a first-hand experience of what the academics, environment and activities are like; ultimately helping them decide whether or not the college is a right fit or not.

If you make college visits a priority in August, you’ll still have time to go over your child’s options for early decision and early action in the same month. Once they have successfully narrowed down their search, they can start submitting applications. For early action the application submission date is typically the start of November, while regular notification is typically mid-January. Be sure to mark these dates on the family calendar so you never miss an important date or deadline.

Practice Makes Perfect

For many students, the college essay and admissions interview is one of the most dreaded parts of the application process. While it’s certainly not the most exciting part of applying to college, it’s an opportunity to showcase a student’s ability and demonstrate a unique interest in the college.

Use the summer before your child’s senior year, as well as the start of their senior year to practice writing for college admissions and scheduling practice interviews. Since the length of the essay is typically pre-determined by the college, be sure that your child practices writing essays with those guidelines in mind. When it comes time to practice for the interview, challenge your child by asking them a few basic questions, such as:

  • Why are you interested in the college?
  • What do you do in your free time?
  • What will you contribute to our campus community?

Practicing for an interview will not only help your child feel more confident speaking to their interests, but will provide them with a time to analyze their own goals and aspirations for furthering their education.

Keep an Eye on the Calendar

Another important aspect of planning for college are the critical dates and deadlines. Everything from early decision and regular notification to the SATs and ACTs should be marked on your calendar at the start of the school year. Once you have the dates in place on your calendar, you and your child can start mailing out or submitting important forms, like the FAFSA, college applications, scholarship and grant applications.

And, don’t forget to make copies of everything and file them in a safe place!

Important Dates & Deadlines to Consider

  • Submit the FAFSA application by January
  • If your child applied for early decision, submit required forms as soon as possible and notify the other colleges your child applied to
  • Deadlines for college applications will all depend on the college your child has applied to but can be accessed on the school’s website

And of course, a lot of work goes into preparing your child for college, so don’t forget to celebrate as a family!