From the time they were infants, you were making plans. You had visions of them walking across a stage in a cap and gown, holding up their degree, and with a smile and wave directed at you. Maybe you were one of those parents who had their alma mater splattered across every piece of clothing they owned, “Go, team Go!!” Now they are preparing for that long-awaited, and dreaded, journey from childhood to adulthood; their senior year. If you have not begun to prepare, it is not too late. Let’s answer some questions for the parent riding in their first rodeo of the search for colleges and universities.
Colleges and Universities: How Do I Begin to Prepare? – Knowledge
Alexander Graham Bell said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
- Understand what God has planned for your child. There is planning your child’s’ future and planning for their future. One has little to with your teen’s involvement, and the other has everything to do with it. Here is the first and most crucial point a parent must learn: we cannot live out OUR dreams through them. They have their own aspirations of who they want to be. God has a different calling on them than He does for you. So, understanding God’s call on them is the first step.
- Talk with your child’s guidance counselor. Encourage your teen to meet with their guidance counselor frequently. These are authority figures who are there, well, to guide. It is their job to talk with students and help them find the right classes, help them assess the right colleges and universities, and advise them of requirements and deadlines. You can even meet with the guidance counselor yourself.
Colleges and Universities: How Do I Prepare? – Actions
- Research what is available. With the information at your disposal, work with your child to explore their options. Which colleges and universities best suit their career path? Where are these schools located? Are they near home, or across the country? Do you want to visit the school before deciding? What are their guidelines for first-year students?
- Determine cost and reinforce savings methods. Finally, the cost will always be a major factor in where your child will attend school. Very few are prepared for the day when the car pulls away for…or from the school. If you are among the handful who have saved since day one of Kindergarten, then you are truly blessed. For those of us who live paycheck to paycheck, we need to determine where the funds are going to come. If your child is involved in athletics, academic organizations, or a performing art program, then they may have scholarships they can apply for or even grants they may qualify for. This is another area of expertise for the guidance counselor. Other options for the soon-to-be Freshman are financial aid, an on-campus work program, or even an off-campus job.
What Paperwork Do I Need for Colleges and Universities?
Once you are ready to apply, your child’s guidance counselor can assist you in what you need to gather together.
- Transcripts – This is the overall report card of all your report cards for the four years spent in High School. Bear in mind that most colleges require a sealed and stamped version, often called an Official Transcript. These should not be opened. They are acquired from the high school and will be sent to each college applied for after final grades are tabulated; there also may be a fee for each.
- SAT/ACT scores – These can make the difference between acceptance and denial. For some schools, it is important, especially if the school has a lower acceptance rate. These scores are a screening process. With so many applicants, colleges and universities often select applicants within a specific threshold. It does not mean a poor score, or not taking the test will keep you from being accepted, but it does narrow down the chances.
Colleges and Universities: What Finances Do I Need?
- Applications and Fees – This is where you will spend most of your time. With the age of technology, many colleges accept online applications. Do be prepared for those that do not. During your research, you probably came across how to apply for each college. Be sure to include everything asked for because your application could be held up or rejected due to missing information. Remember, there are deadlines. Most colleges and universities require an application fee at the time of submission.
- Financial Aid/Scholarship Information – As you near the final stretch, you will have a better idea of what sources you qualify for. Again, the guidance counselor is there to steer you to the best financial payment options for your child. There are scholarships from the athletics they competed in, the organizations they were a member of, even extracurricular activity scholarships. Apply for as many as you can and be wary of deadlines; they often come early in the child’s Senior year.
What’s Next for Colleges and Universities?
After you set all your ducks in a row, now you just have to wait to see what’s next for the colleges and universities your child applied to. You will begin to receive letters in the mail, or emails, concerning acceptance status.
- Don’t force anything on your child. Parents again, let your child live out their dreams. Do not confuse their aspirations with your unfulfilled dreams. God made them who they are; who He wants them to be.
- Encourage their dreams. Here is a big surprise. You are not always going to agree with what your child wants to do with their life. However, you must be supportive of their endeavors. It must be sincere support; not half-baked support with the tagline of disapproval. Believe it or not, they do value your opinion and want to make you proud.
- Learn to let go. Finally, and the most difficult point of all, we all at one point, must let go. Just as we said goodbye to our parents when we grew up and left home, your little one is now grown up. It is their turn to fly the coop. To go make a difference in the world; to open their wings and soar.