It's Never Too Early for College Prep
Tomorrow night is “College Night” for students in Guilford County. Think it’s too early to be thinking of sending your teen away to the dorms? Think again. Not only is it a great idea to bring your high school senior to this event, I’d recommend attending with your juniors as well.
It takes a couple of years to prepare for attending college. In addition to earning good grades and being active in a variety of extracurricular activities, high school students must also take SAT and ACT tests — multiple times to ensure a competitive score. They have to complete applications, which includes writing essays and gathering recommendation letters from teachers and mentors. And, they need to apply for financial aid, which requires an understanding of the FAFSA system. If they are going to enhance their college fund with scholarships, they have another round of applications, essays and recommendation letters to tackle.
For parents who are first timers, this process can seem overwhelming for your and your student. To get through it, you will need patience, organization and resources.
Patience is key because applying for, affording and preparing for college can be a monstrous task. There are many moving parts to the process and, while it seemed like your child went from kindergarten to high school senior in the blink of an eye, getting him or her off to college can feel like walking through a mud bog with twenty-pound weights strapped to your ankles. Take lots of deep breaths and take it one step at a time.
Set up files for your student so you can keep up with all of the information related to college. You’ll files for the following: college applications, testing, financial aid and scholarships. While technology is a great tool, I highly recommend these files be actual manila folders with pieces of paper in them so you can easily and quickly put your hands on the information you need when you need it.
Attend college nights, FAFSA meetings and college open houses. Gather as much information as you can—create more files if needed. And befriend a parent who has already been through the process. They can help you avoid some of the pitfalls associated with the learning curve of a first timer. College Night for Guilford County Schools high school students will be held October 6 from 5-8 p.m.
Have your student set up a CFNC.org account. This makes it much easier to apply for multiple colleges. Basic information only has to be entered once for all applications. Essays can be customized and uploaded for each individual application. The student can also apply for financial aid, research scholarships, participate in webinars and more. Parents can use CFNC.org to save for their children’s education. And it’s never too early to sign up at CNFC.org. The site offers information for middle school students to prep for high school, too. My personal favorite aspect of CFNC.org is College Application Week, which occurs November 2-6 this year. Mark it on your calendar and make sure your child is prepared. This is the week that your student can submit his or her college applications to a variety of participating colleges and universities for free — the application fee will be waived.
Relish these frustrating, confusing college prep moments. Soon enough, your high school senior will be headed out the door with a mini-fridge and deep pocket twin-size sheets. And in that bittersweet moment you leave him or her behind in that drafty, tightly packed dorm room, you will be overwhelmed with the kind of pride reserved only for parents.