From the day your child stepped into class on the first day of kindergarten, you’ve heard a clock ticking. It’s been that roughly 12-year countdown until they spread their wings and head off to college. All those years ago, it may have seemed like a lifetime away. Now, here they are, ready to graduate from high school and start the next phase of life.
As excited as your kid might be, this is also going to be a huge change for them. As a parent, you may want to give them some guidance to make the transition easier. Keep reading for some valuable tips that can help you — and your graduate — maximize their last few months before college.
1. Take Some College Tours
There are nearly 4,000 degree-granting public and private universities nationwide. That’s a lot, so it’s OK if your graduate doesn’t know which one they want to attend right now. This is where the college campus tour comes in. Consider it your academic road trip!
To make your visit list, talk with your teen about what they want out of college. Do they prefer a small or large school? What about a rural or urban location? You can plan to visit as many schools as you like. Then, contact each admissions office and schedule a tour.
Most campus tours are led by current students, and sometimes you’ll have an information session with an admissions counselor. This is your chance to get first-hand feedback about the school. Put together a campus tour checklist of things to see and ask about. And come prepared to learn.
2. Apply for Financial Aid
Every college is a little different. They all have one thing in common, though. They cost money. Whether you or your child plan to pay for tuition, you should fill out the FAFSA. It’s the paperwork that allows your kid to apply for federal financial aid. It also gives you an estimate of how much aid you can expect to receive.
Even if you think your family makes too much to qualify for government assistance, fill it out anyway. There are plenty of other scholarships that may require the documentation. There are scads of scholarships and grants out there. Do some research and apply for as many as you can. There’s no harm in trying.
3. Talk About Majors
Your teen might be excited about college sports or joining a Greek organization. The college social scene can be great. Don’t let them forget, though, that the goal is getting an education. This is where a detailed conversation about academics and majors comes in.
Talk with your kid about what they’re interested in doing. It’s OK if they only know that they’re interested in science or music. Help them search for colleges that have strong programs in those areas. Your child is more likely to have a great experience if they choose a university with a program they’ll enjoy.
4. Practice Writing
Even if your child plans to focus on math or a foreign language, many colleges still require an admissions essay. If your graduate’s top choice doesn’t, a lot of scholarship applications will. The university may ask them to explain why they’re interested in the school or how a scholarship will benefit them. The question might even be more broad and ask them about a memorable, impactful experience.
It’s important to be ready for any writing prompt. So, work with your teen to practice writing about a variety of topics. Help them learn to organize their thoughts and encourage them to use descriptive language. It’s all right if writing isn’t your thing. Reaching out to one of their teachers is an option too.
5. Work with a High School Counselor
It can be fun to help your teen prepare for college. With so much to think about, though, you may feel slightly overwhelmed. If that’s the case, connect with one of the high school guidance counselors. It’s their job to help kids get ready for their next academic step.
Counselors have their fingers on the pulse of the college application process. They can offer tips about how your kid can improve their grades during their senior year. In addition, they can talk with your child about their interests and possible career goals. This can help your kiddo figure out where they want to apply.
6. Make a Doctor’s Appointment
Even if your child is in perfect health, you’ll want to consider making an appointment for a physical. Many colleges require a recent doctor’s examination before your child can enroll. There are several immunizations, such as meningitis and hepatitis B, that are often required for college attendance.
It’s also important for your child to have a copy of their most up-to-date medical records. A doctor’s appointment is a great time to ask for any prescription refills. That way, your child has all the medication they need before they leave home.
7. Go Supply Shopping
Now, for the really fun part! Purchasing what your child will need for college is school shopping at its finest. It doesn’t matter if they’re living at home or moving into a dorm. There will be plenty to buy. Keep in mind you won’t be the only one looking for items — so don’t delay.
Most importantly, be sure your child has the supplies they’ll need for class. Folders, notebooks, a backpack, and a planner are a few of the essentials. If they’re moving into a dorm, consider looking online for the university’s packing list. Encourage your child to contact and coordinate with their roommate, if they have one. That way they won’t have two of each appliance. Do your best to make your kid’s new room feel like home.
Starting college can be thrilling. There’s a lot that goes into making sure your kid is ready, though. If you keep these tips in mind, your new freshman will step confidently onto campus when classes start.