College on your student’s horizon? It’s a daunting prospect for many parents, but there are ways to make the journey smooth and successful.
First, expose your student to different types of colleges and have open communication with them about it! You can start anytime…and it doesn’t have to be difficult. When you’re on a family road trip, stop by any colleges along your route. Also, there are many colleges around DFW - go visit! You can simply walk around, or you can set up an official tour with the school beforehand.There is no substitute for a student actually setting foot on a campus to see what it’s like. Small vs. large, public vs. private, close vs. far away, urban vs. college town - ask your student about their feedback and preferences, and encourage them to jot their thoughts down (make a note on their phone)! Even if your child doesn’t “like” a college after visiting it, they have still learned valuable information as they develop their collegiate list.
Along the way, have your student research the schools they’re interested in. They should look at the college’s official website (not a random result from a google search) and familiarize themselves with admissions requirements, merit scholarship criteria and application deadlines.These vary by college, so creating a spreadsheet is a great way to keep all information organized. Remember that your student is the one going to college (not you!), so they really need to TAKE OWNERSHIP of this process.
GPA is hugely important, of course, so students should work hard in school. Colleges value strong grades and rigorous coursework.
Standardized test scores are also a component of most colleges’ admission and scholarship decisions. Junior year is typically a great time to start taking the ACT and/or SAT. The tests differ in design and content, so students should figure out which test ‘fits’ them best and focus on it. Colleges accept either test equally, and many “superscore” results if a student tests multiple times. Some colleges are ‘Test Optional,’ but most colleges still require or encourage test scores. Preparing for the ACT or SAT can be very helpful! There are many different prep options (free vs. paid, online vs. in person), so you’ll want to find the best fit for your student.
College applications normally have essay or “short answer” requirements. Essays should be personal, specific and engaging.Remember, admissions counselors are reading hundreds of essays - your student needs to stand out! Look online for tools to write a great essay.
College applications typically open the summer before senior year. Apply Texas (applytexas.org) and the Common Application (commonapp.org) are used by many colleges.
Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which typically opens October 1 of senior year. This determines eligibility for student financial aid, and colleges require or recommend ALL families complete it.
Lastly, even after your student submits all their applications, there’s a good chance they can continue to take the ACT/SAT for higher scholarship opportunities. Scholarship deadlines vary, but many colleges will accept test scores through winter or spring of senior year.
Whew! The road to college has many checkpoints, but communicating with your student, staying
organized and taking one step at a time can make the journey successful.
Robi White lives in Trophy Club and has helped students prepare for the ACT for over a decade.
Learn more about her in-person ACT prep class at BoostMyACT.com.