Preparing for college is a goal that both you and your child need to work towards. It’s vital that you take an active role during this process, to ensure your child succeeds! College life presents a number of new challenges for the high school graduate becoming a college freshman. Not only will your child be living on their own for the first time, in most cases, but they are also responsible for managing their own time and finances. At the same time, college entrance is not always a step-by-step process and students and parents must determine the steps they need to take.
If you have been asking yourself, “What steps should I take next to help my child move forward?” Here are 10 ways to successfully prepare your child for college:
1. Determine What Type of Education Your Child Wants: Students attending college should first determine what type of education they want. The types of jobs that are available will determine which college your child chooses to attend. There are two basic types of colleges that are available, these include:
- Community, Technical and Junior Colleges
- Four-year Colleges and Universities
If your child has a career in mind, be certain to research the exact course requirements that they will need to prepare for within high school as well as early in college. In addition, your child will also need to research the type of education that their chosen career requires so that they can select the appropriate type of college to attend.
2. Prepare for College Academically: While your child is still in junior high and high school, it’s time to begin thinking about college and how they can prepare academically. There are numerous ways they can begin preparing early in their high school career and these include taking college-level courses and standardized tests as early as possible
3. Selecting Colleges Successfully: The type of college your child chooses is a personal decision that is based on their individual needs and talents. When selecting colleges, it’s important that you and your child consider the following questions:
- Why do you want to go to college?
- What do you hope to achieve by going to college?
- Do you have an idea of a career you would like to prepare for?
- Do you want to stay near home, in the same state or move to a different state?
- Do you have a preference of environment, such as urban, suburban or rural?
- Would you be happier in a small college or large university?
4. Prepare for College Financially: There are several costs that are combined to create the final cost of college for a semester. These include:
- Other course expenses
There are several ways that you can prepare for college and the first one begins by saving money as early as possible. There are several savings accounts that offer tax benefits that parents can begin early in a child’s life. These include 529 College Savings Plans and many states have these available. It is also a necessity that you begin searching for scholarships that your child can apply for as soon as possible.
The FAFSA is a very important part of preparing financially for college. The FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be filed online at www.FAFSA.ed.gov. The FAFSA requires that you and your child have your taxes prepared as early as possible. You can begin submitting your FAFSA January 1st and the deadline is June 30th.
5. Setup A Long-Term Plan and College Checklist: By preparing for college as early as possible, you and your child should be able to set up some long-term milestones that they need to meet as they proceed through the college preparation process.
6. Apply For Colleges Effectively: Once you all narrowed down the college or colleges that you are going to apply to, you need to begin gathering some information that they will require. Applying for college is easy if you fill out your forms correctly, turn them in on time and provide them with the necessary documentation. When you apply for college you’ll need to send several items with your application, including:
- Official High School Transcript
- Application Fee
- College Admissions Test Scores
- AP Exam Scores
- Letters of Recommendation
7. What Your Child Needs For College: If your child is going to live on campus, which is something most four year colleges and universities require for your freshmen year, they will need to bring a list of important items along with them. Here’s a list of commonly needed items by first time freshmen:
- DVD player
- Refrigerator (small combo unit)
- Radio/iPod/MP3 player
- Cell phone
- Computer, preferably a laptop if possible with a printer
- 3 prong extension cords and power strips
- Desk lamp
- Alarm clock
- Laundry bag, basket, soap and some rolls of quarters
- Weather specific clothing.
- Umbrella, raincoat, jacket, shoes, etc.
- First aid kit with pain relievers
- Your health insurance information
- Iron and small ironing board
- Bike with a good bike lock
8. Financial Literacy: Teaching your child how to manage their money and set a budget early in high school is important. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get your child a checking account and teach them how to make smart financial decisions. Students should also be taught about credit card debt early. If your student must have a credit card, it is vitally important that you teach them to pay off the card each month and to only use it in emergency situations.
9. Register for College: Finally, the day has come! Your child selecting which courses they want to take at their new college. First and foremost, you all will most likely need to meet with a college advisor. They will be able to guide your child as to which courses they should begin with their freshmen year. Your first semester may also be a mix of the basics that everyone has to take as well as certain courses required for your degree.
10. Developing a Graduation Plan: The most important thing once your child enters college for the first time is to prepare a 4 year graduation plan. This will ensure that they remain on track to graduation within that 4 year time period. This graduation plan should include both their short and long term goals-for college and beyond graduation.
Following these simple steps, you will be able to prepare your child for college and set them up for success, not only financially but also teach them the life skills they will need for when they are on their own at college.
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