I survived my son’s journey to college and lived to tell about it. You can too. I have thought about writing up a post with tips for parents because the journey to college is a stressful one if you aren’t ready.
Start talking early.
I find that the discussion about college can happen as early as grade school. We have always talked with our kids about college and what they want to do since they were young.
Even if they say they want to be an opera singer or ballerina that is a great opportunity to just talk. Talk about how an opera singer goes to school for singing. Starting the conversation early shows the kids that college is where you learn the skills you need for your chosen career. The type of career isn’t as important as the discussion of why college is important. It’s doesn’t have to be a pushy sales pitch, just a mention of how you get to be a ballerina or opera singer.
Once in high school, help them, but don’t push them.
When my son hit high school and the clock seemed to be ticking, he wasn’t ready to start visiting college in his Sophomore year like some of his friends were doing. We didn’t push that. We talked about schools and what he needed to do to get ready, but we waited for him to want to take the next step.
His Junior year was the most stressful. It was a difficult year for his classes and he came to the realization that he had one more year after his Junior year and then he was going to be an adult and in college. That can be very scary. Every time we brought up the subject of college, he got upset.
To try to ease the stress, we sat down with him and said, these are the things you need to do this year:
- Take SAT or ACT (he took both.)
- Choose a few schools that you are very interested in visiting.
- Keep your grades up.
- Think about your major. He always wanted to be a Theatre major which involves auditions for college which added another layer of tasks to accomplish.
- Continue to work on extra curricular activities that you love (Drama, singing lessons, etc.)
I wish we had this KapMap College Planner for him. I have a daughter who is a Sophomore this year, so I already printed this out and will be giving her a copy. Knowing what to do and when is so important.
In the meantime, I began researching Theatre majors and what schools excelled in Theatre. I knew he wasn’t ready, but there was no reason I couldn’t start the research and be sure I was knowledgable. This is a collaboration. The kids need our help and it’s best if we know the facts instead of making assumptions.
Study for the ACT and/or SAT tests.
Every test is different, so you can’t learn EVERYTHING, but you can be ready. Knowing HOW to take the SAT or ACT is important. Kaplan offers classes and self paced, classroom courses, tutoring and free online practice tests.
Check into financial aid and scholarships early.
We waited too long for these and most of the deadlines had passed. With many of them, it doesn’t matter what school, they go to they can start the process of signing up. The deadlines are often early in their Senior year, so start checking early.
Yes, this is a very important decision, but there is nothing that can’t be overcome. You are going to run into a lot of hurdles, but before stressing out, contact someone who can help you overcome the hurdle. Try to enjoy the journey too. Think of the college visits as adventures to see new things and explore new territory.
There are going to be times when your child will be disappointed by decisions that are beyond their control. You need to be there for them and help them to move on. It is tough, but you WILL SURVIVE.
Do not do everything for your child.
You may be tempted to write their essay, fill out their application, set up their appointments, but resist that urge. This is their life. You can guide and help, but do not do it for them. Schools will know when the parent has written the essay.
Nathan wrote his essay and then we helped him with grammar and adding in more information. He had a hard time “bragging” about himself. This is the time for them to show off. Tell all about the great things you’ve done and how that will be of use to the school. Most schools have prompts they want answered, but he was able to tailor his one essay for several schools.
Going through this process is a great life lesson. They set a goal, work towards that goal, may have to change the goal and eventually they attain a goal. What a great lesson.
Have a back up plan.
Most kids will have a school that they really want to get into, but I suggest you have a back-up plan. My son wanted to go to this one school close to our house so bad. He didn’t get in at first and we had accepted at another school which was his back up plan. Right before graduation, we got a call that he was accepted at the school he originally wanted to attend and that is where he is now.
It did turn out in the end, but I’m so glad we had the back up plan because it helped with stress. He knew that no matter what he was going to college. We even had a back up to the back up just in case.
You can follow Kaplan for more tips.
Please share your tips for surviving the journey to college. I still have 3 more kids to get into college and I can use any tips you have. I’m not an expert. I’m a mom who has survived it once and learned a LOT in the process. Please share!!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience