Parent Checklists for College Preparation

While students are the main focus in terms of college preparation, their parents should be involved as well. Parents are the main support system for many kids, so involving them in the preparation for college can help ensure that the students are ready for this major transition. There are aspects of college preparation that students may need assistance with and providing checklists for parents can be helpful in breaking down all the requirements. 

While college preparation is mostly associated with the senior year of high school, there is quite a lot that can be started earlier. Prior to senior year, parents should begin discussing possible colleges as well as career options and potential majors. Colleges can be toured and things like cost, location, and programs should be considered. Early application should also be discussed and applications may be started. The student should be encouraged to take or retake the SATs and/or the ACTs, as well as update and revise their resume and get a head start on college essays. It is also important to evaluate how much independence the student has and adjust accordingly in order to adequately prepare them for the increased responsibility. In college, the child will be responsible for getting themselves up, transportation to and from classes, meeting deadlines, scheduling appointments, running errands, and much more. Life skills like time management and self-motivation will be crucial and should be fostered before entering college. It is also beneficial to discuss any concerns the student may have and brainstorm solutions in order to help them feel prepared. Speaking with professionals and other people in the field throughout the process can also be helpful. 

In the fall, the student may need support in narrowing down college options and finalizing their list. College counselors are a valuable resource for students and can help answer any questions that may arise. At this point, it is important to begin creating a calendar with all of the important deadlines and dates in order to help the student stay on schedule. It may also be beneficial to assist with studying for any tests, such as the SATs and ACTs. Parents can begin to help with finding and applying for scholarships, as well as filling out the FAFSA and other financial aid documents. This is also a good time to encourage students to set up college interviews and begin planning letters of recommendation which should be requested a minimum of two weeks before they need to be submitted. College application assignments should be started and must be completed by the student, but parents may offer to look over them. In the winter, it is important to be mindful of deadlines for financial aid, as well as scholarship and college applications. This is also the time to begin learning about different loan options. Students should be encouraged to take AP exams and SAT subject tests as well as maintaining good grades and extracurricular involvement. Spring is the time when college responses come out and decisions are made. Students may need assistance in processing college responses and coming to a final decision. Financial aid offers should be reviewed and considered, and paperwork will need to be completed in order to accept the offer of admittance for the school of choice. 

After high school graduation, final preparations can be made. A budget should be established, as well as discussing credit score and the importance of paying bills on time. A bank account and/or credit card should be set up for the student. Any necessary parent payment portals should be set up and housing and meal plans should be finalized. Once it comes time to move in, books, room supplies, and other school necessities will need to be purchased or rented, and the child may need help getting to know the city. It is important for them to know where to go for medical care and how to use their insurance. If the student is taking a car with them, the insurance company will need to be notified of the move. This is also the final opportunity to make sure the student is comfortable grocery shopping, cooking, picking up prescriptions, cleaning, getting their car serviced, using public transportation, and navigating an airport, among other important life skills. College can be a major life transition and having a good foundation and support system can make or break the overall experience.

Parents are the main support system for many students and have an important role to play in college preparation. It is helpful to provide checklists and information for parents in order for them to be able to offer the best support and assistance to the students. There is a lot to balance when getting ready for this major transition, so getting an early start and sticking to a schedule is imperative.