Going to college is a big deal, and it can be a confusing and expensive process. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are some tips to help you and your parents navigate the college application process and make it a little more fun.

In this post, we’ll cover some more tips to help you and your teen navigate this exciting but sometimes overwhelming journey. This post has EVERYTHING! Click the links to learn more!!!!

  1. Talk about Money

Money can be a touchy subject, but it’s important to talk about it early and often. Ask about your family’s budget for college. There may not even be one. Discuss how you’ll pay for college and how loans will be repaid. It’s also important to talk about how future incomes and debt will impact your life after college. Learn More. 

  1. Practice Decision-Making Skills

The college application process is a great opportunity to learn about making complex decisions with many variables and unknowns. Weighing pros and cons and working within certain parameters is a life lesson.

  1. Grades Matter

Colleges care more about the rigor of your high school classes and how you perform than any other factor. So, if you see your social life or extracurricular activities impacting your grades, remember that the grades and classes you choose matter the most.

  1. Visit Colleges

Visit colleges as time and money allow. But remember, you’re there to learn about the college more than your parents are, so take the lead and ask questions. Visit local schools to practice and uncover what you find important and not important to YOU in your college choice.

  1. Keep a Spreadsheet

Make a Google spreadsheet of college information and financial and academic deadlines.. Be aware of different deadlines for different departments or colleges within a university and understand if there are additional deadlines for scholarships and merit money. 

  1. Parents: Let Go of Your Issues

Try to be aware of the part of this process that reflects your issues, and things you wish you had done differently. Then let those things go and focus on helping your teen make the best decisions for themselves. This is no longer the 1990s- the college process and the admissions rules have changed.

  1. Parents: Tune Out Your Peers

Your child is not their child, and their information can be outdated or inaccurate. So, tune out most of your peers and focus on what’s best for your teen. You and your student are responsible for their college journey and for doing the due diligence to find out what is needed today.

  1. Read Actual College Admissions Sites-Look Out for Bad Info

Info will come to you like a firehose to the face. Curate this info. Many colleges write great blogs that can teach you much that is accurate and up-to-date. Be careful where you get your information from and learn as much as you can from experts about financial and merit aid, along with loans if relevant. 

  1. Start Test Prep after 10th Grade

Learn about SAT/ACT testing as the landscape changes quickly. If your teen is going to prepare for testing (and they may not need to), encourage them to start after 10th grade when they have time over the summer. Be prepared to test during junior year.

  1. Parents: Hire Essay Help

If your teen needs an adult other than yourself to brainstorm or proofread their essays, consider hiring or recruiting essay help. It can make a big difference in the quality of their application.

  1. Visit Types of Colleges Locally

If you cannot afford the time or funds to visit lots of colleges, visit “types of colleges” locally (a big public college, small liberal arts…) to get a sense of the types of schools that might interest you.

  1. Search College Websites

Use the college’s website to find answers to your questions. If you cannot find them, email your admissions rep for your area. Reach out!  It’s never too early to learn how to write professional emails.

  1. Parents: Listen More Than You Talk

Do more listening than talking. Your teen is learning what they want and need in the next step in their lives, and you need to know alongside them. Are they ready for college? Do they want to take a pause or Gap Year? Or start at Community College?

  1. Read Recent Books About College Admissions

Read some of the best recent books about college admissions. They can provide valuable insights and advice. The Price You Pay for College- Ron Leiber

  1. Find the Best Fit

You are finding the best school for your teen’s academic, social, and financial needs. Remind your teen and yourself that for a college to be a fit, it must work on all three dimensions.

  1. Let Go of the Past

Let go of what you learned about colleges in the ’90s. The college application process has changed a lot since then, and it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and requirements. Read a parent’s role. 

  1. Let Go of Old Ideas from Parents and Grandparents

Tell your parents/grandparents to let go of their ideas from the ’60s and ’90s. It is simply not the same.  The college application process has changed a lot since your parents may have attended, and it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and requirements. Here is a review of the 2023 application season.

  1. Pick a Time to Talk About College

Figure out the best time to talk about college so that your parents can discuss it with you, but also so it keeps college from being a constant discussion in your house. Pick an evening to catch up on the topic- like Wednesday nights only. Then keep a list of questions/topics.

  1. Be Prepared for Change

Be prepared to change your mind often. College admissions are a learning process, and it’s okay to explore different options.

  1. Create a Balanced College List

Create a balanced college list with colleges to which you are very likely to be admitted, some with a good chance, and a few less likely. Then fall in love with the colleges where you will likely be accepted and where you can afford them. 

  1. Be Realistic About Paying for College

Create realistic expectations around paying for college and admissions. Talk through scenarios with merit aid, financial aid, and loans, not leaving it all to the final month to consider. If you go in knowing what it will likely cost, you will save lots of time being upset later when you realize UCLA is $70,000 for an out-of-state student or that Yale does not offer scholarships no matter how amazing you think that you are. 

  1. Explore College Websites

Research is key. Spend some time exploring the websites of the colleges and looking at the virtual tours. It will allow you to ask more useful and informed questions when you visit or have good answers for any questions your parents may ask

  1. Don’t Be Influenced by Peers

“I have to look at _______! My buddy John said its amazing and I’ll get a scholarship.” Do not be influenced by the impressions and opinions of your peers. It’s important to make your own decisions based on your needs and goals. Think like Stephen Curry.

  1. Build a Good Relationship with the College Counselor

Meet with your counselor soon and often.  Have a good working relationship because they can provide valuable insights and advice throughout the application process.

  1. Choose College Recommendation Writers

Consider who they will ask for college recommendations during 11th grade. It’s important to choose writers who know them well and can speak to their strengths.

  1. Show Demonstrated Interest

How they you show colleges’ demonstrated interest? Visits. Tours. Signing up for emails. Following on Social Media. Reaching out to your Admissions Officer AO. Do whatever is possible based on how far you live from the school. If a school is over 6 hours away, they will not expect a visit.

  1. Follow Schools on Social Media

Follow the schools you are interested in on social media and have your parents do the same. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest news and events. And keep an eye on your own social profiles. Don’t post what you would not want anyone to see. 

  1. Watch for FAFSA Opening Date

Watch for the FAFSA opening date (usually October 1 or possibly later this year). It’s important to submit this form as early as possible to maximize your financial aid opportunities. Everyone should do this.

  1. Watch for Common App Opening Date

Watch for the Common App opening date of August 1. This is the platform used by many colleges for their applications, so it’s important to be aware of when it becomes available.

  1. Parents: Use the Net Price Calculator

Run the “net price calculator” on many college sites to understand your family’s potential EFC. You can start this long before you begin looking for schools.

  1. Check Emails Regularly

Open emails regularly; colleges send essential information there. It’s important not to miss any important deadlines or updates. And, some schools check to see if you open them!

  1. Can you get Merit Aid?

It’s important to consider all financial aid options when choosing a college. See what the different qualifications for these merit scholarships are at each school on your list. Some schools may need to be removed simply because they will not offer you Merit Aid. 

  1. Start College Essays Early

Get started on college essays during the summer before 12th grade. This can help alleviate stress and ensure that you have enough time to craft a strong essay.

  1. Shine Academically in Senior Fall

Senior fall is a time to shine academically, and having a good start on the admissions essays can help. Stay focused and motivated throughout the application process.

  1. Parents: Keep Thoughts to Yourself

Tell your teen they don’t have to answer the prying questions of friends and family about their college process. “My parents and I keep our thoughts to ourselves until I know more” works just fine. Not talking about college is not rude; it lowers stress, and that helps everyone.

  1. Parents: It’s Their Choice (within the parameters you set forth)

Remember that this is their choice, their life, and you are just here as their advisor and number one fan. Encourage them to follow their passions and make the best decision for themselves.

  1. Ask for help. We have been helping to lower family stress and assist in navigating the college application process for 14 years. Why hire a consultant? Check out our stats and great student/family recommendations on our website: www.annapoliscollegeconsulting.com.

In conclusion, the college application process can be a complex and confusing journey, but with these tips, you and your teen can make it a little more fun and a lot less stressful. 

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