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How to Prepare for College: Getting Your Kid Ready

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As the parent of a student, no one tells you exactly how to prepare for college. This time of transition can be an overwhelming one, but it’s also one of the most exciting times! But before sending your child off into the world, it’s important to make sure you are prepared for what’s to come.

Parents and children – it’s never too early to start thinking about college. If you can set goals early on, you guys can explore different options based on interests and passions. In addition, having extra time allows you to prepare yourself emotionally for such a big event. As you get ready for this new chapter of their lives, here are a few things for both of you to consider.

How to Prepare for College

Consider Potential Options and Fields of Study

As you may know, choosing a college or university is a time-consuming task. Should they apply to a liberal arts college? Or perhaps they want to go to a public research university? Either way, the options are seemingly endless when it comes to potential schools. But based on your child’s interests and goals, you’ll want to narrow down a list of possible options.

Here are a few factors to take into account:

  • Location
  • Student body size
  • Programs and departments of study
  • Clubs and extracurriculars
  • Private or public (state-run)
  • Cost and availability of scholarships
  • Transportation

If you’re still in the early stages of choosing a school, we recommend attending a college fair. You can also book campus tours (usually led by current students!) with your kids to get a better idea of student life.

Is your child still unsure if they’d like a career? Encourage them to take a course in it before they graduate to help them decide!

Focus on Acceptance Criteria

The college application process is highly competitive, and the admissions team will be looking for the best of the best. Throughout their high school years, your child should be taking the necessary steps to meet the college’s admission requirements.

Almost all colleges will prioritize high school grades (you can check to see the average GPA of accepted students). Your child should strive to do well academically throughout high school, especially during their sophomore and junior years, to fall in that range.

However, a good GPA isn’t the only thing that schools consider when accepting new students (but it’s still very important!). They also look at standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.), extracurriculars, skills, and sometimes a professional resume. Your child will also need to submit letters of referrals from teachers or professionals.

Plan Finances

Unfortunately, college is a major expense for many families, especially if you include housing, books, and school supplies. Planning ahead financially is almost as important as academically. Creating a budget or college fund early on can lighten the burden when it’s time to write expensive checks.

If you need financial assistance, don’t fret. Now is the time to start looking at possible funding options. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid can reduce your costs and make attending college more affordable.

Work Together on Life Skills

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Moving out and going to college will be a big change for you and your child. As a parent, you want to make sure they’re prepared to take on responsibilities and make decisions on their own. Certain life skills like time management, organization, communication, and critical thinking are invaluable, especially when they go off to college. Therefore, spend this time teaching them the skills they will be able to use in school and the rest of their lives.

Cooking is also a great skill for college students to learn before they move out. Eating in the cafeteria for every meal can be expensive and unhealthy, so now is the time to teach them how to cook. While they won’t have a stove or oven, they can learn how to cook meals in the microwave or toaster oven.

Plan the Application Process

Applying to college can be a long, complex, and time-consuming process. For many students, they will likely spend the better part of their senior year doing so. Not only will they need to gather and submit grades and scores, but they’ll likely need essays, referrals, and possibly a resume.

The key to staying organized is to make sure you know when the applications are due. If your child is applying to multiple colleges, then there can be multiple dates to keep track of. Using a calendar or spreadsheet can help you stay on top of what needs to be done and when. That way, knowing how to prepare for college will be easy!

Stock Up on Dormitory Supplies

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If your child is planning on living on campus during their Freshman year, they’ll likely need to bring some necessities with them. Dorms and student apartments usually provide furniture, they don’t supply bedding, towels, soap, etc. Or any other decor items to make the room pop! That means you should do your back to school shopping early to take advantage of deals during the year.

But the shopping doesn’t just stop at dorm room decorations! Your college student will also need school supplies as well, like a new laptop, headphones, and a TV (for their room). And depending on the location of campus, you might also need to invest in a car for your college student!

Provide Emotional Support

You know what they say! The entire college application and acceptance process can be an emotional rollercoaster. This is especially true if the kiddos moving away from home! But despite all the crazy ups and downs, providing your child with a strong support system will go a long way. Even though they might not show it, it’s common for kids to be sad and homesick during this strange new time.

Also, it’s worth saying: many kids become depressed or anxious while they’re in college. Before your children leave, make sure they are aware of the symptoms and know when to seek help. Tell them they can either do this for free at their college’s counseling center or get a therapist on their own.

Knowing how to prepare for college can make this transition easier for you and your child. Although there are a lot of factors to consider, it’s never too early to start prepping for this life-changing event! With a little organization and planning and a lot of love and support, you can set your mini-me up for a lifetime of success!

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