Applying to college doesn’t just mean the next step in your child’s academic career, it’s one of the biggest steps they will make in their lifetime. Transitioning from high school to the college lifestyle will present a variety of different emotions and challenges; not only will your child be moving out of their comfort zone, they will take on new responsibilities and have to hold themselves accountable.
Of course, you want your child to embark on their academic journey feeling confident and ready to succeed, so you will want to start preparing your child for college as soon as possible. Starting with the basic importance of setting goals and objectives for continuing education, to the financial aspect of college, use this as a guide to ensure that your child understands the process of applying to college and feels prepared before they begin their first-year of college.
Here are Key Points to Cover When Preparing Your Child for College:
1. Understanding the Importance of Setting Short and Long-Term Goals
As we recently stated in one of our earlier posts,
5 Ways to Prepare for College While You’re Still in High School, determining and setting realistic goals is not only essential for planning out the next four years, but it will help your child stay on track when they are in the midst of studying, attending campus community events and planning out life after college. Consider this same strategy when your child is exploring their options for college; start by asking them a few basic questions related to their education. Here are some that you may want to ask:
- What type of education does your son our daughter want (a four or two year program?)
- Might your child plan on continuing their education after college with a higher degree or certification program?
- What does your child hope to achieve with their education?
Your child may not have all the answers to these questions, but if they have a foundation for what they hope to accomplish at school, you both will have a better idea of which colleges can help to fulfill that goal.
2. Review Admissions Criteria and College Application Process
Once your child has developed a preliminary list of colleges they are interested in, it’s time to jump into some extensive research and start touring college campuses. Taking the time to explore your child’s options together will help when it comes time to narrow down the college search and officially enroll in a college. It’s also important to review application guidelines to ensure that your child has met requirements – here is a preview of the University of Vermont’s guidelines for
UVM welcomes applications from students of diverse backgrounds. Through a holistic admissions review, we select students with potential for academic success who will contribute to our community. The rigor of an applicant’s academic program; class standing and grades; standardized test results; and trends in performance are considered among other qualifications. Essays, recommendations, and other evidence of each student’s life experience also assist our evaluation. Remember, admission decisions are made without regard to family financial circumstances.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the application process:
- Monitor the start of applications and set deadlines for your child: essays, recommendations and forms should all be completed in a timely manner for best results
- Stay on top of application deadlines and important dates. Consider deadlines such as early action, regular first-year candidates and acceptance notifications
- Delegate yourself (or a guidance counselor) as your child’s application editor and offer to proof all applications before they are considered final and ready for admissions
- Once your child has completed his or her application, don’t delay – you’ll want to ensure that you give plenty of time for delivery and processing
3. Consider the Financial Aspects of Higher Education
If you have spent some time planning for college, than it may come as no surprise that college is a very important investment. In order to be considered for all available sources of financial aid you and your child need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once successfully completed, students can go back to www.fafsa.gov and add the school’s code to their application.
Requirements and Specific Types of Aid
Depending on your school of choice, there may be additional financial aid requirements. For example, certain schools require a supplemental financial aid form, known as the CSS/PROFILE. Oftentimes, this information will be shared in the school’s application for acceptance and typically online as well. The University of Vermont requires students to submit the FAFSA, however, does not require or review any additional financial aid applications, such as the CSS profile. In order for state grants and scholarships to be considered, students will be required to submit a separate application.
Not sure where to begin? Below is a list of where you and your child can start to explore and apply for financial aid programs to alleviate the cost of college:
- Federal Student Aid Programs:
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
- Federal Work Study Programs
For more creative ways to pay for college, check out our article which provides a deeper dive on applying for national grants and college work-study programs.
4. Follow Up with Colleges
Once your child sends in their application you may be thinking, “what’s next?” – and rightfully so. While many students feel that once the application has been submitted all they have left to do is wait for a decision. However, many of today’s colleges and universities are likely to follow up for additional information. One thing to remember, is that even though the application has been submitted, this is not a time to slack off; your child needs to stay on top of their academic performance and prove that they are a desirable applicant. Colleges also encourage all potential candidates to check their application status to ensure that all application materials have been received.
This is also a perfect time to engage with the college or university your child has applied to. Even if an interview with admissions isn’t required, requesting an interview provides candidates with an opportunity to meet college representatives, demonstrate an interest and differentiate themselves from other applicants. If the college or university permits, encourage your son or daughter to attend college events or sit in on a class that aligns with their desired major. Taking the extra step will not only help your child when it comes time to pick a college, but it will prove to admissions that you’re a serious and passionate candidate.
5. Polish off the Details
Once all the college applications have been submitted it’s important for your son or daughter to recognize all of the support they received along the way. Thank you letters are especially important for school counselors, individuals who wrote letters of recommendations, college representatives (only if an interview occurred) and the people who reviewed and proofed their college essays.
All accepted students will also be required to submit a deposit to secure their spot in fall enrollment, so be sure important deadlines such as this don’t pass you or your family by. The best way to obtain information regarding dates and deadlines is to contact admissions or review admissions information online. Once your child has secured their spot, remind them to follow up with other colleges; even if they decide not to attend, it’s important to follow up with admissions and notify them of their decision.