Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Tips for College Planning

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This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.

I am officially the mom of two high school students, a freshman and a junior. As excited as I am for my boys to return to school and its routines, I'm keenly aware that the clock is ticking. Next year is it for my older boy. Next year is the last time I'll shoo him out the door to make the morning bus or have a chance to take a first day of school picture*.

Our high school provides a meet and greet with 8th grade students and their assigned high school counselors. Admittedly, it's a short meeting and a bit overwhelming for first timers. In addition to helping students select classes for freshman year, they routinely ask the kids about their 8-year plans. That is, the counselors don't just want to know about freshman year plans, they want to know what college (or post-high school) plans the 13-year-olds have.

Like I said, it's a bit overwhelming the first time around. My baby is heading to the big scary high school and you want to know where he hopes to attend college?

I was tempted to bury my head in the sand and leave it there for up to 8 years, but as time passes, I see the wisdom of the school's ways. If you don't start thinking about college plans early, the admissions process can easily overwhelm you.

Here are three tips for college planning.

Start Early

It might feel scary, but the earlier you start, the more relaxed you can be about the process. Or, as in my case, the more time you have to freak out, calm down and do research. Repeat this cycle every few weeks or months. You don't have to dive in if your kid is a freshman or in middle school, but gently dip your toes in. Talk to friends who are going through the search or admissions process. This is what prompted me and my friend Jen to start a G+ discussion series on College Admissions. (New episodes coming this fall.) Talk to school counselors to learn about free resources available to you and your student.

Sometimes You Lead, Sometimes You Follow

If your child is grounded, determined, and organized, follow her lead. Which is not to say that boys lack focus and organization, I'm sure some boys have it together, but most of the parents of boys I know report that even if they are college-bound, they are rather hazy or noncommittal about their preferences and options. My husband argues to let our son take the lead, but I fear I'm certain that if we wait until he's ready to take charge of the process his application deadlines will have passed. It's a give and take process. As we get further into it I'm sure into I'll have more insights to share. For now, I'm a fan of the Fiske Guide because my boy can't complain when I ask him to read a mere 3-page description about a school for us to discuss.

Tests Scores Count

Although the number of schoosl that offer test-optional admissions, that is they don't require SAT or ACT scores, is growing, those scores still matter in a lot of ways. My brother pointed out that at some schools solid scores not only help with admission, but can also be the ticket to a merit scholarship. The higher the score, the heftier the potential award. The cost of taking a test prep class or taking tests a second or third time (which many schools now allow and supposedly only "count" the best scores) might pale in comparison to the money your child might save in tuition thanks to a merit award.

Those are a few of my current thoughts on the #JourneyToCollege. Follow the hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to see what other parents have to say.

This post was sponsored by Kaplan Test Prep and their KapMap College Planner. Download your free KapMap here and note that you can receive a $100 discount on an SAT or SAT course through August 28, 2014 with the code SHESPEAKS100.

*Who am I kidding. My boys haven't be willing to pose for one since 2008.

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

"Give and take" is so true. I worked
closely with my daughter as she submitted applications and narrowed down her choices.

We still laugh and remember the day a plumber was working in the kitchen while we were looking over scholarship lists. The plumber recommended she join the Army. He'd paid for his plumbing training thanks to the GI bill. Later that night, a recruiter called. It turned out to be a coincidence, but we still remember the incident because of the timing.