TOP 20 Tips To Navigate the College Process

  1. CHECK EMAIL- kids simply don’t do this and the need to. Email is how you find out that you are accepted, where you are informed if you need more info or where scholarship offers may come in. We urge kids to get a NEW EMAIL for the college process. Their current email is full of spam.
  2. Discuss Finances: Start the conversation early about your family’s budget for college and potential loan repayment strategies. Understanding how future income and debt will impact post-graduation life is key. Check out our Paying For College blog.
  3. Develop Decision-Making Skills: Practice weighing pros and cons while navigating complex decisions during the application process.
  4. Prioritize Grades: Academics come first. Choose challenging high school classes and maintain strong grades. Here are the 7 things colleges look for from a recent talk to the PTO at a local high school.

Visit a variety of local colleges to identify what you’re looking for in your college experience. This is a crucial step in the college admissions process.

  1. Organize with a Spreadsheet: Track important dates and deadlines for each college using a shared spreadsheet. Our students use CounselMore to stay organized. We have an app tracker that keeps everything on track!
  2. Parents: Support, Don’t Project: Avoid letting your personal experiences or regrets influence your teen’s decisions. Remember, college has changed since you attended. This is a whole new ballgame!
  3. Be Cautious with Peer Advice: Take peer advice lightly; each student’s journey is unique. The sideline chatter is rarely accurate. No two students are the same, so please do not compare your kid to another.
  4. Seek Reliable Information: Rely on college admissions sites and expert blogs for accurate information on admissions and financial aid. Sign up for our blog, our Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Test Prep Timing: Begin SAT/ACT prep after 10th grade to allow enough time before testing in junior year. Testing is not optional. A good test score shows college readiness, qualifies you for merit aid, and may be needed for certain majors.

Consider Essay Assistance: External help can provide valuable feedback to improve application essays.

  1. Understand College Types: Visit different types of colleges (public, private, liberal arts) locally to gain insight into what suits you best. Check out our video from College Sharks on this topic.
  2. Parents: Listen More: Listen to your teen and understand their needs without dominating the conversation.
  3. Research College Admissions Trends: Read recent admissions guides to stay updated on current requirements and best practices.Here is a great video on 2024 Trends.
  4. Build a Balanced College List: Ensure your list includes a mix of reach, match, and safety schools where you’ll be happy and can afford.

Discuss Financial Realities: Have realistic expectations about costs and financial aid, considering scenarios involving loans and scholarships.

  1. Explore Virtual Resources: Utilize virtual tours and online resources for in-depth research before in-person visits.
  2. Meet Your College Counselor: Develop a strong relationship with your high school counselor for guidance and recommendations.
  3. Show Demonstrated Interest: Attend tours, reach out to admissions reps, and follow colleges on social media to signal your interest.

Check Emails Regularly: YES, I said it AGAIN! Stay on top of communication from colleges (and from your counselor and from us) to avoid missing crucial updates and deadlines.

These tips will help you and your family navigate the college application process more smoothly, reducing stress and making the journey enjoyable.

The team at Annapolis College Consulting and College Sharks are happy to help your family navigate the college application process. We can be reached at