College Planning 101: A Crash Course to Help You through the College Process

It’s no secret that planning for college can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time going through the process with your student. But with deliberate planning and intentional action steps, the journey can be much smoother. Here are some helpful tips and reminders to help you guide your student through the college process.

  • Ditch the Helicopter for the Submarine
    You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘helicopter parent’ before. You know the type: the parent who constantly hovers over their child, and often tries to take control of things. Now is definitely the time to let your student take the lead. Be more like a submarine, stealthily observing from the background. As a parent, you are invested in the next steps your child is taking, and want to be present to help them follow through. But it’s important for your student to manage the process. This means they should be the ones to complete their applications, write their college essays, and communicate with college admissions offices. Believe me, there is nothing worse than a college rep reading an essay that is clearly written by a parent. With that said, continue to check-in with your student to ensure they are meeting application deadlines, or to help them revise their essay.
  • Communication is Key
    Keep the lines of communication open, not only with your student, but also with those who are critical to the application process. While your student may lead the conversation, it is important for you to be included. Don’t hesitate to reach out to their school counselor if you have questions or you want to clarify the next steps in the process. If your school counselor offers one-on-one college conferences with students, ask to be included. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Get Organized
    This might seem obvious, but there are many details and deadlines to keep track of. Use a chart or a checklist like this one from The College Board to help you and your student stay organized. Or have your student create their own, customizing it to their needs. Set dates to check in throughout the process, and make it fun like going to get ice cream!
  • Plan Ahead
    Some parents make the mistake of waiting until their student’s junior year to begin the process. It’s beneficial to begin educating yourself as early as possible! Keep an eye out for parent education nights sponsored by the counseling department at your student’s school. You will likely find a wealth of information from how to develop a list of schools and plan a campus visit, to understanding more about financial aid and paying for college. Don’t be afraid to familiarize yourself with price tags of colleges and be realistic with what is affordable, looping your student into the conversation. Begin checking out campuses from the comfort of your own home by visiting college websites and taking virtual tours.

You don’t need to be an expert, so remember to use your resources! Strong communication, organization and planning will help you and your student feel more prepared and successful in the college process.