Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

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Time to Apply to Colleges

 Schools are sending information to prospective students via email and snail mail.  It is such fun for your teen to receive all of these!  Now, it’s time to begin the process to apply to colleges. 

Where to start, you ask?  Have your teen throw away any packets from schools that they are not interested in.  This will eliminate over half of what they receive.  Your student needs to use both the trash can and their email trash.  Tell them to stay on top of this because the stack will grow, and their inbox will get to be overwhelming!

This is one job that you can help with.  I would go into my sons’ email inboxes (with their permission) and delete any that my boys knew were too far away or too expensive or too whatever…

Prioritize By Due Dates 

Some due dates will be immediate, others not for awhile.  There may be an early decision date which is binding, others have early decision which is non-binding.  Others will have rolling decision dates, which means that your child may have more time.  

Have your child look on each college’s website. What is the tuition package?  What sorts of scholarships are available?  Is there a tiered fee structure?  Where does your student fall in all of that?  

This might help to eliminate more schools.  Talk about a college budget, and learn the truths about student loan debt.

One more thing to look at as far as applications go, is whether or not the college charges an application fee. These can add up, so be sure that if you spend that money, it is really a place that they can see themselves going to for the next 4 years.

Fill out the FAFSA 

The FAFSA due date is October 1.  Do not wait until the first to fill it out!  It can take hours to get it filled in, double-checked and completed!  Read about what the FAFSA and what it actually is here.

Have tour child register for the ACT and/or SAT again, if those scores are something which they are wanting to improve upon.  They can still apply for colleges, and can just update the score for the college either yourselves or via the test center.  

Some schools ask for the ACT composite score.  This is the score of each subtest which is then divided by the number of subtests.  The composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) ranges from 1 (low) to 36 (high), and is the average of the four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up. 

Another ACT score that a school may ask for is the superscore.  This is made up of the best sub-scores regardless of test date. Be sure to send in all test scores for consideration.  This creates a new superscore using only the highest numbers.  Not all schools will ask for either of these, but look out for these options.

Visit campus if possible!

One of the best ways to know if a school might be a good fit is to visit the campus.  The best time to go is during the school year so that your teen can get a true feeling of what life is like during a school day.  Go anytime during their early high school years if possible.

A lot of people wait until junior year, which is fine, but by then most teens are super busy.  If you can take them for a visit during their freshman or sophomore year, it gives them time to think about things.  Your teen can start to make decisions and eliminate some of their choices earlier.

Visit small and large schools.  Visit state schools and private.  Visit one that is a little further away than is comfortable to them .  Visit the school that is in their hometown because it’s different to actually experience it, than to just think they know about it.

Try to visit one college from each of these categories to give your child a good variety to choose from.  They won’t know until they try what might be a good fit!  Plus, it’s fun to see all their different choices.

Write Essays  

Essays can be tweaked for each situation as needed. One essay that your teen needs to write is, “What are your plans for the future?”  Most schools want to know this information in some form or another.  It is a good way for your child to actually think about this, and get their thoughts in order.  

Tell them when filling out applications and writing essays that they need to be honest and thoughtful. There will be questions that will cause them to really think, and there will be others that seem ridiculous. Most questions are asked for a certain reason, so your child should think and answer carefully.  

Get Letters of Recommendation

This is a step that should not be ignored.  Go to teachers that have been supportive.  Tell your child to really foster good relationships with their teachers throughout high school, so that when they ask a teacher for a recommendation, it’s not a big surprise!

Search the College Website  

Go back to each college’s website.  Look carefully through each tab.  Search through student life, take a virtual tour of the campus, look at the available clubs and activities.  

Google the nearby town to find out information about the size and what is available to do outside of school since it is where they would be living.  Again, visit colleges if it is at all possible!  Some tips for visiting colleges are here.

Your child should do everything that that they can to inform themselves about each college as a possibility.  This way, when it comes time to really decide where they will end up, they can make an informed decision with all the pertinent facts.

 


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