Helping Your High School Senior Apply to College

by on July 20th, 2010
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While high school seniors assume most of the responsibility for applying to colleges, they are many subsidiary tasks required of parents. There are also some supportive roles for a parent to play. As the senior year starts (or even as the junior year ends), take an inventory of everything that has to be done to complete the application process. Keep a list of deadlines, so critical dates are not overlooked.

Parents’ Physical Readiness

As a parent, you’ll be expected to:

*drive to prospective colleges;

* discuss family finances, giving a realistic picture of how much you will contribute;

* shell out cash for SATs or ACTs, Advanced Placement exams, and college application fees; and,

* provide prior year tax returns and financial documentation for income, assets, and household expenses, if applying for financial aid.

Parents’ Emotional Readiness

The college application process may cause premature separation anxiety for parents. Be prepared to deal with your feelings so they don’t get in the way of your senior’s success. Letting the senior choose the school that’s best for him means avoiding temptation to push for a school close to home or an alma mater to satisfy parental emotional needs. If you fear your senior won’t be able to cope with doing his own laundry or managing his spending away from home, spend time to teach him rather than using your fears to resist his inevitable growing up.

The Application Process

Filling out applications is primarily a student responsibility. Parents can help by proof-reading for completeness and correctness and critiquing essays. Keep in mind that college admissions officers are looking for a short, focused picture of what makes the applicant unique and how that applicant will fit in to the school. When it comes to activities, admissions officers hope to see that the student has developed a passion and applied himself to it.

Financial Aid/ Scholarships

* Try an EFC calculator to estimate your family’s expected financial contribution.

* Be aware of what the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), is and isn’t. There’s no place on the FAFSA to document compelling financial circumstances making it impossible for you to meet the expected family contribution (medical bills, dramatic changes in income, anticipated retirement or pending layoff, for example); give that information to college financial aid offices in writing.

* More scholarships are based on financial need than academic excellence. Find out about scholarships that are available through Family Connection if your kid’s high school participates. If not, use a free online service to find potential scholarships.

Decision Time

When decision time comes, all you may need to do is celebrate. If choice colleges passed your kid by, be supportive and help him generate enthusiasm for the options he has. If his choice means working extra hard to come up with some of the cost, help him make a plan.


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