College is a huge commitment. It is also a key time in your child’s personal development. For many students, applying to and attending college is one of the first steps in gaining independence and greater levels of responsibility and self-confidence. 

As a parent, it’s important to understand your role regarding college preparation. Oftentimes this includes creating a college savings plan and knowing how to motivate your teen as they apply to college. It may also include familiarizing yourself with how to study for the SAT, understanding financial aid award letters, and more. 

In this article, we will review 5 things to consider when helping your child plan for college. Not only will this help you organize your own efforts, but it may also help clarify which responsibilities should fall on your child. After all, applying to college is a great opportunity for teenagers to strengthen their organizational skills and gain greater levels of maturity. 

In addition to the following 5 tips, you may want to review our article on how to help your child with college applications, as well as our ultimate college planning guide for parents.

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Encourage good grades and extracurricular involvement

When your child applies to college, the two most important factors will be their GPA and their level of course rigor. This is why it’s important to be involved in your child’s high school education and effectively develop an college savings plan. Schedule meetings with their high school guidance counselor to learn answers to questions such as: How many AP classes should your child be taking? How many colleges should they apply to? Should they apply through an Early Action and Early Decision program? And what are the advantages of attending pre-college summer programs

Students who plan to apply to highly-selective colleges may also want to know how many AP classes should I take for Ivy League college applications? And is 9 AP classes enoughYour child’s high school guidance counselor will be your best ally, so make sure to meet with them consistently throughout the years to learn more about how to best support your child. You may even want to consider hiring a college counselor during your child’s junior or senior year, depending on their college goals and your financial means. 

Overall, high school is full of challenges. That’s why it’s essential to familiarize yourself with things such as how to prep for the SAT and ACT and how to understand financial aid once your child does apply to college. The more insight you have as a parent, the better you will be able to guide your child through the college application process. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of sending your child to college, rest assured, you’re not alone. Depending on your situation, you may want to consider the following articles: 8 things first-generation parents should know about college and challenges for international students.


Talk to your child about their college and career goals

It’s okay if your child hasn’t decided on a college major by the time they apply to school. That said, it’s important for your child to have a general idea of what interests them and what types of programs they might want to pursue. In fact, identifying academic interests is often key to knowing how to find the right college for you. One of the best ways to help your child reflect on their college and career goals is to encourage them to seek out internship opportunities, take challenging classes, and engage in meaningful extracurricular activities. 

Knowing how to apply to multiple colleges at once can feel overwhelming at times. This is why it’s important for your child to actively reflect on their goals for the future. Not only will this forethought help them decide on their college list, but it will also help them write engaging college essays. If your child needs more time to decide on their goals, you may want to explore gap year programs together.


Visit college campuses and meet with college counselors

Visiting colleges over the summer is a great step to take with your child. Not only will your child be able to see if they feel comfortable on campus, but you’ll be able to meet with admissions counselors, financial aid staff, and current students. Overall, visiting college campuses is a great way to prepare for college with your child, helping to contribute to your college savings plan. 

You’ll also want to continue meeting with your student’s high school guidance counselor. This is because, during your child’s junior and senior year of high school, you’ll likely start having more specific questions such as: How many colleges can you apply to on the Common App? How many colleges should I visit with my child? And is applying to 4 colleges enough? 

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with important college admissions dates and encourage your child to review our college planning checklist for seniors. Again, do your best to meet with college admissions officers, your child’s high school guidance counselor, and a college counselor to review your specific questions. That said, you’ll want to encourage your student to apply to 5-8 colleges.


Teach your child about budgeting and personal finances

One of the first things you should do for college prep is to talk to your child about money and their college list. Do your best to have an honest and thorough conversation about the financial realities of attending college. Realistically, what can you contribute to your child’s education? You may also want to explore how much the average financial aid package is for each of the schools on your child’s college list. This will help you both better anticipate potential costs and further contribute to your college savings plan. 

Overall, the sooner you and your child are able to talk about financial planning and expectations, the sooner your child will be able to grasp the importance of budgeting and saving for college. High schoolers are not always the most financially aware, so it’s important to teach them about budgeting and personal finances. One of the best ways to do this is by encouraging your child to get a part-time or summer job. After all, the best way to learn about the worth of money is to have a job!


Learn everything you can about the FAFSA and CSS profile

Understanding financial aid is crucial to the college application process. Likely, you have questions such as: Where does financial aid money come from? What is need-based financial aid? And how much does financial aid usually cover? 

To start, you’ll need to apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Every year, the FAFSA opens on October 1st. The FAFSA application deadline is June 30th. That said, each school has different priority deadlines, so it’s important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible; this will ensure that you receive the most financial aid that is available to you. You may also need to fill out the CSS Profile. These two applications will help colleges determine your financial aid package. Overall, financial aid packages are comprised of federal, state, and institutional aid. Check out our comprehensive guide to learn everything you need to know about FAFSA.

Key takeaways and moving forward

From AP classes to FAFSA eligibility, there is a lot to keep track of as a parent of a college applicant! Some of the best ways to help your child prepare for college include connecting with your child’s high school guidance counselor, visiting college campuses, learning all you can about financial aid, and encouraging your child to take challenging classes. Moving forward, whether you need help knowing how to help your child through a college rejection letter or have questions about how to get into an Ivy League, remember, here at Prepory, we have the resources to help your child achieve all of the college goals: Reach out to learn more about our services.