A 6 Step Guide to Help Students with College Planning

Planning for college marks an imperative turning point for your child. As such, whether your child is just starting to think about applying to college, or they are already sorting through college resources and filling out applications; they’re going to need a helping hand. So how can you create a helpful and fun planning experience for your son or daughter? Follow this 6 step guide as a roadmap for the initial planning phases all the way to college enrollment.

6 Steps for College Planning

1. Make a Plan

Start planning everything, from touring college campuses, to practicing for the college admissions interview. The initial planning phase is also a great time to delegate responsibilities. For example, encourage your son or daughter to attend college fairs and develop a preliminary list of any colleges that interest them. Meanwhile, you could potentially take responsibility for booking hotels and developing sample questions that you can quiz your child on to ensure that they feel prepared and confident to ask any questions on the college tour.

Planning for college is also an opportunity for your child to develop new skills, like managing new responsibilities and completing important, time-sensitive tasks – a skill they will value immensely once it’s time to start college.

2. Finding the Best Fit

Applying to college can often feel overwhelming for a number of different reasons – and there are various factors that come into play for finding the best fit, from the location and campus environment, to the available majors and cost of tuition. In order to be certain that your child is enrolling in the right school, they should start by asking themselves a few basic questions:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What are my short and long term goals?
  • What learning environment do I perform best in?
  • What career do I see myself in?

It’s okay if your child doesn’t have an answer to every question right away, though. For example, if your child is unsure of the career path they would like to take, perhaps they can use their first year of college to do some self discovery and try out different courses before they declare a major.

3. Practice for the SAT or ACTs Together

Once it comes time to prepare for the SAT or ACT, your child may feel like there isn’t enough time in their day – especially if they are already balancing extracurriculars and hobbies on top of a challenging academic course load. Fortunately, you can help set them up for success when it comes time to prepare and take the test.

Start by creating a practice schedule that enables test score advancement. Whether you both practice with flash cards after dinner or taking practice questions prepared by CollegeBoard on the weekends, there are a number of different ways you both can prepare together.

4. Familiarize Yourself with College Applications

The college application is absolutely essential to whether your child is accepted or denied into a college or university. Since some colleges and universities differ from what they expect and require on an application, it’s best to start to get familiar with all of the colleges your child is considering. It’s also important to pay close attention to deadlines, especially if your child is applying for early-decision or early-action.

Here are a few tips for preparing the college application and staying on track

  • Start early and notify the school counselor so they can send along any requirements, like student transcripts
  • Have your child practice writing and shaping their college essay – the more topics they can get comfortable with, the better
  • Mark any deadlines on your calendar
  • Get conformation from your mail provider that the application has arrived

5. Practice Interviewing

Even if your child isn’t required to interview with admissions, prepping for what an interviewer may ask is an opportunity for your child to develop communication skills and hone in on a conversation around their skills, aspirations and how they have overcome obstacles. Admissions will likely have questions around skills, challenges, goals and character – if you decide to assist your son or daughter with preparing for the interview, be sure you ask strategic questions around these topics. The interview is also an opportunity for your child to ask questions, so be sure that you develop questions for admissions too.

In the event your child isn’t required to interview with admissions, it may be beneficial to request an interview regardless so you both can express your interest in the college and ask any necessary questions.

6. Narrow Down the College Search Together

One of the most helpful activities you can do with your son or daughter when you’re in the midst of planning for college is helping them to organize their schools and start narrowing them down. To start, organize the list of colleges your child is either applying to by:

  • Safety Schools
  • The schools your child will likely be accepted
  • The colleges that may be a challenge getting into

Once your child has been accepted to a few colleges you both can start narrowing them down. Start by:

  • Making a pros and cons list
  • Taking a second trip to the campus
  • Comparing financial aid awards
  • Gathering even more information

Deciding where to go to college is likely going to be one of the biggest decisions your child will ever make, so be sure that the college they enroll in can help them to achieve their goals. Most of all, don’t spend too much time on the decision process; your child will want to respond to each college and let them know of their decision so they can make the appropriate next steps.