Congratulations on making it to senior year! For parents and students, this is an epic and challenging time. Working hard to balance work, studies, extracurricular activities, possibly moving away and applying to college. There are some great tips below to help you and your family not only survive but thrive during this important time.
Enlist in a family calendar in a noticeable spot in your office or kitchen or use electronic calendar reminders to communicate important deadlines and goals. There is so much happening with schoolwork, projects, housework, sports, jobs and social lives that it can be easy to miss vital dates. Set yourself up for success by organizing the upcoming year during summer to be sure that you have reminders.
Prepare your financial documents. Your senior will need to fill out the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid to apply for most financial aid options. This requires recent parental tax forms and an FSA ID to be able to complete the FAFSA. This application process opens October 1st, so summer is a great time to get all your paperwork organized.
Visit potential college campuses together over the summer to narrow down the possibilities. Determine how much each place will cost to attend and other associated expenses.
Help your child finalize their college list by discussing how well each location will benefit their future goals. Make a pros and cons list about each place. For example, if your child will need to fly home each holiday, this will be a much broader expense compared to attending one within driving distance, etc.
There are additional costs that need to be considered for each campus, above tuition and books. Is there rent or dorm fees? Transportation costs via bus pass or personal vehicle or flights home? Will the expenses be so high that your child will be working on any holidays instead of returning home? Have a heart-to-heart about what both of you think and visualize for Thanksgiving, Christmas, reading break and summer holidays ahead of committing to a campus so that everyone is on the same page.
Early application is beneficial if your senior knows exactly where they want to go. Note that early applications are typically due in November; therefore, deciding now and starting the paperwork is wise to give yourself enough time.
Make an appointment with the school counselor early to have ample time to discuss the college application process. They will work with your child to answer any questions and concerns and offer details about the particular colleges they are planning to apply to. Inquire about scholarships and grants as they may have a list of resources to share.
Research a wide variety of grants and scholarship options to lessen your financial contribution. Use a calendar to keep track of submission dates and detail the requirements. Do not simply write one essay and send it to multiple organizations. This is a common mistake. Read each qualification carefully. Many essays need specific questions addressed in a customized format. Be sure to read the fine print to be eligible as missing any of the requirements or not following directions is a sure-fire way to be disqualified. There is a lot of free money out there if you can take the time to find it and apply properly.
College admission tests such as the SAT offer retakes in the Fall. If your child wants to improve their SAT score, help them prepare with extra reading, math and comprehension questions. Take practice tests for free online to help them get familiar with the different sections and time requirements. This will help instill confidence when they take their rewrite.
October 1st is the FAFSA application opening. Fill out your application as close to this day as possible for the best results. It has simplified over the years as it is now possible to transfer your IRS tax information automatically to the FAFSA online. Many applications are first come, first serve so be sure to fill it out on the opening date or as close as possible to ensure the best eligibility.
Speak with your senior about taking AP Exams in May. If they are taking advanced classes, now is the time to discuss with their teacher how to prepare for taking exams in the spring.
Talk to your senior about the benefits of taking SAT Subject Tests to determine their achievements and interests. This is great exam practice. Besides, numerous colleges recommend and even require applicants to complete a minimum of one or more Subject Tests. Planning for it now and completing this early will be another beneficial task to complete.
Research about different financial loan options with your child. See if your student qualifies for a low-interest federal loan. Speak with your banker regarding cashing in college funds and the timeline this takes as it may take a few days before any savings are available to be transferred. Talk to your bank about personal loan options to get a sense of which will have the best loan terms for your personal situation and the lowest interest rates. Completing these queries over the winter will give you ample time to make the best decision when the funds are required.
Have your child contact the college financial aid office where they are interested to determine which paperwork will be required. Getting the student forms organized and the deadlines in advance will make the application process less rushed and stressful. Remember, there is a limit to the funds offered; applying early will give your child the best chance of being approved.
Prepare for college responses to arrive. This is the time when your child will start to hear replies regarding financial aid and admission. These responses will require guidance and support about which options will best suit your family. Make a plan to sit down and discuss over a meal or during some quiet time.
Read through the financial aid offers together to ensure that each package is understood. This will be the best way to determine which package best suits your needs. There will be acceptance deadlines and important things to take note of. Use your calendar to ensure that you reply by the deadline and set reminders.
Work with your senior to fill out the acceptance paperwork for accepting college admittance. They will have to review the offer and submit specific paperwork to accept the offer and arrange a tuition deposit by mail. Help them secure all of the details to ensure that these items arrive at the school on time.