Positive Parenting: The College Process

I didn't consider the college process until I was a senior in high school.  My parents, who did not go to college, inspired me to go to college from an early age.  Although when the time came around to apply to colleges, we didn't know where to start.

Now, I'm a parent living and teaching in a community with many college graduates.  I've listened carefully to the stories and strategies they've used when supporting their children's college searches, applications and choice.  I've considered their points of view related to my personal beliefs and ideals.  I've also done a lot of reading on college blogs, websites and Twitter to understand the process best.  I believe that a successful college choice is one that's a good match for your child's learning style, interests and passion. With this in mind, I offer the following college process suggestions.
  1. From an early age, notice your child.  What does he/she enjoy, choose, shy away from and gravitate towards?  Support your child's exploration of a variety of activities and endeavors. Help your child to develop his/her essential academic skills, knowledge, independence, responsibility and passion.
  2. Starting in 9th grade, begin a resume for your child.  Use a simple structure including name, address, phone, email (a family email is a good idea so messages aren't missed), work experience, volunteer experiences, academic courses/honors, athletics/extracurricular experiences/awards and interests.  Update the resume with new information as your child moves through high school.
  3. Listen to the stories and comments of friends, family and community members.  Think about the colleges they attended - do they remind you of your child, and might that college be a good match?  Keep a list of colleges that sound like they might be of interest to your child.  Research at leisure.
  4. Summer of sophomore year - plan/complete the following items:
    • Complete recruiting forms if your child is thinking about playing a sport in college.  
    • Look at the stats/sizes of athletic rosters - research which schools might be a sports match for your child.
    • Make a time line of college prep events for the next two years. 
    • Leisurely make and plan visits to a few colleges just to get a taste of what a college is, and take an SAT course and/or independent study if you think it's beneficial
  5. Junior Fall: PSAT (some take this earlier too--I think the PSAT is best for high performing test takers as they can lead to scholarships, I'm not sure that this is a benefit for modest students in the traditional sense), SAT (if you've taken a summer SAT prep course).
  6. Junior Winter/Spring:  college visits, contact coaches/leaders of special programs if you think you might be interested in participating in those activities - set up meetings during the visit; schedule interviews for schools you're very interested in; take SAT and/or ACTs.
  7. Summer of Junior Year:  Create college application strategy considering early admission, financial aid, college competition and other factors; complete applications; prepare reference requests; create a time line of when applications need to be sent; references collected, etc. Organize your application information so that it emphasizes the attributes that are most important to you and that college
  8. Fall of Senior Year:  Complete all application efforts.
  9. Spring of Senior Year:  Decide; follow enrollment directions; and politely notify colleges you are not attending that you've chosen a different college (you may be applying to those schools for a graduate program or scholarship later on).
  10. Summer after Senior Year:  Read everything you can about the college; create an online or offline notebook of all the important information sent to you from the school; call and ask questions about anything you don't understand well; organize your financial plan for college payment and registration plan for courses; and plan a signature, transition event, simple or complex, that celebrates a job well done and your transition from high school to college.
This is the college process summarized.  Every student and family personalizes this approach to match their interests and needs.  Am I missing any main ingredients?  Does your philosophy about what's most important differ from mine?  What did I leave out that you really want to know?

I hope this is helpful to students and parents embarking on this landmark event in a child's life.  

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