Parents, are you overwhelmed at even the thought of your child going off to college? Eyes wide, heart beating and breath caught in your chest, we know you have anxiety thinking about that moment when you will drop them off, laundry basket in hand and the world in front of them. We also know as they step out into the world you will picture them as a 5-year old, 10-year old, 15-year old….it flashes before you and you realize the truth in the phrase “it happens in the blink of an eye.”
While emotions are an absolute part of students leaving the house, it doesn’t have to be a time of stress and worry. Lay out a plan that can help you walk alongside your child preparing them for this moment. From Elementary School through high school, here are some things you can do each step of the way.
Simply make your child aware of the possibilities. You can have conversations about “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What classes would you like to take?” Keep the dialogue open as you watch for your child’s unique gifts. Encouraging your child on their unique path will build their self-confidence, and fostering that growth will allow them to feel your support. Remind them that you are proud of them and their gifts!
This may also be a great time to start saving. Research some savings accounts or some unique ways to pay for your child’s education.
Middle school is a precarious time in a student’s life. It is a time of learning, growing and developing. It is essential for parents and teachers alike to walk alongisde their student to help them develop a solid foundation in biblical principles to help them distinguish truth from error and that all truth begins and ends with God’s word. Parents, allow your children to try different activities, continue to encourage them in their unique gifts and watch as God shapes their desires, passions and purpose. Pray together about what that purpose is and help them lean into that.
Eighth – Tenth Grades
Look into the ways that students may be able to take college courses in high school. That may be a fit for your student. Develop a plan with your student as they walk into high school.
At the end of 8th grade, it is time to investigate colleges. In 9th and 10th grades students will need to start preparing for the ACT or SAT. It is also essential to start looking into financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Visit career fairs, gathering information about schools.
Preparing for Eleventh Grade
At this age, your student should be taking the clear lead on their college preparation tasks. You (the parent) are there to support them when necessary, but they should take ownership of this journey and prepare for their independence.
- It is very important for students to register with the school to take the PSAT this year even if they took it in the tenth grade because this is the year that the scores are used to determine National Merit Scholars. In addition, this year is the last practice test before taking the SAT. When the scores and booklets are returned, students should use this information to determine where extra work and skill improvement is needed.
- Learn about colleges at www.collegeboard.com and www.campustours.com.
- Browse catalogs and guides and, if able, visit college fairs.
- If there is a particular college that interests you, call the admissions office and ask to be put on their mailing list.
- Pay particular attention to the college entrance requirements. Discuss these requirements with parents and the high school principal or counselor to make sure your high school experience will meet all the college’s demands.
- Students should plan a testing schedule for taking the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or the ACT.
- Students will take both the SAT and the ACT.
- Study for the SAT using the information from the PSAT.
- Students should register for the SAT and ACT in late winter or early spring. Information can be found at www.collegeboard.com.
- Visit some colleges in the spring while classes are still in session.
- Think ahead about possible AP or dual credit classes for your senior year.
- Visit college campuses and try to meet with admissions officers.
- Establish a professional, permanent e-mail address to use when communicating with colleges.
- Update your “Activities and Awards” file and create a resume of your high school accomplishments including activities, awards, work experience, and community service.
- Mark your calendar with key dates and deadlines for senior year. Use the online college application calendar and the financial aid calendar from the www.collegeboard.com.
- Look for scholarships. Most scholarship applications are completed during the first half of a student’s senior year.
Preparing for Twelfth Grade
- Update your calendar for the year with dates that include test dates, application deadlines, college visitation days, etc.
- Register online for the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or the ACT.
- Ask for recommendation letters from teachers, counselors, and coaches.
- Finalize your list of colleges and visit as many as possible.
- Work on application essays.
- Assemble all the application materials you need. Use My College List from the College Board website to manage your final list of colleges and universities online.
- Continue to research scholarships and grants.
- Complete and send in college applications (keep copies). You can also use the College Board’s “Apply to College” to apply online.
- Complete the FAFSA forms. These forms must be completed if you plan to apply for financial aid or scholarships. Submit the forms as early as possible after January 1 at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
- Complete and send in all scholarship applications.
- Admissions decisions arrive—note all reply deadlines. Do not make a final decision before making a college visit.
- Send your enrollment form and deposit to the college or university you will attend. Notify the other colleges of your decision.
Other Things to Note
- Students who want to go to college should work hard at making good grades each year. A student’s GPA is very important when applying to college.
- The College Board offers a wide array of college planning publications, including The College Handbook and The Scholarship Handbook. College Scoop magazine is designed for middle-school students. You can visit the website or call 800.323.7155.
- “My Road” provides comprehensive education and career-planning resources. This resource is available to every student who takes the PSAT, but he/she must sign up before the end of the school year.
- You will find many of the resources mentioned by grade level at: www.collegeboard.com. This is where students can search for colleges and scholarships, explore career opportunities, register for the SAT, practice SAT and AP exam questions, apply to college, and learn what they need to know and do to get “on the road to college.”
- Study tips and practice questions for the ACT exam can be found athttp://www.actexampracticetests.com.
- Resources: An Instruction Booklet for College Bound Students: Woodburn Press.
It can be overwhelming without a plan. But, putting together a plan will make all the difference. And, here is the bottom line – each student is a unique person designed for a specific purpose by God. That’s what this is all about. Don’t allow the plan to consume your life, allow it to be a tool that helps you and your child learn and grow toward that amazing purpose.