Kids grow up fast. Remember their first day at school? Or how helping with their basic grade school arithmetic made you look like a genius? And then, high school happened. Everything got harder, especially their becoming independent and not needing you as much. It’s healthy, though. Kids grow up to be their own person. Their independence is a sign you did good work because soon they will be out there in the world on their own.
But no matter how old they get, they will always need your guidance. Right now, it’s with their college applications. The application process is pretty straight forward, but it’s something entirely new for your child. It’s also an anxiety-filled process because it is a momentous period in their lives.
How to Get Your Child Prepared for College in High School
The college application process requires both the student and the parent to be organized. The process is a whole lot easier if you prepare in advance, then every step becomes more of a habit then an uncertain action. Parents, this is what every student should do:
- Take challenging college-prep courses that yield more than minimum graduation requirements, for example, honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB). Focus on core academics like English, math, science, history, HS/college dual enrollment, and world languages
- Focus on maintaining good grades. A distinctive high school transcript will be necessary for a strong application.
- Colleges are interested in more than your academic record, so explore and commit to extracurricular and leadership activities.
- Summer volunteer opportunities/jobs/internships beef up applications.
- Meet regularly with the guidance counselor, preferably starting freshman year. Guidance counselors are a great resource in planning out high school and college careers.
- Understand the costs of college and who’s responsible for it. If the family is helping out, it should be determined how much parents are willing to spend.
- Tour several college campuses.
- Register, then study and finally take a college admissions test.
- Complete the college application process, which includes essays, questionnaires, and sometimes interviews.
- Apply for available scholarships.
Where You Come In
While each of the items on the checklist above is critical, some may require more help from a parent than others. For instance, number four—summer volunteer opportunities/jobs/internships beef up applications—might require you to taxi your child around until he or she gets their license. The same goes for number seven—tour several college campuses. As well as number six—determining who’s paying for the degree.
However, number eight—Register, then study, and finally take a college admissions test—requires further assistance from a parent. There are two common college admission tests and your child needs your help to determine which he or she should take, if not both. You should help them decide. But first, you have to understand them yourself.
The ACT is a national standardized paper-and-pencil test for colleges and universities to assess applicants. The test consists of four mandatory sections (English, math, reading, and science) and an optional section, Writing. Students are given 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete the mandatory section. If they opted to include the Writing section, then they are given an additional 40 minutes for a total of 3 hours and 35 minutes.
The SAT is another option that only tests math, reading, and writing. Meaning, if your child is better at science, they might have a better shot at scoring higher on the ACT.
The primary reason to choose one or the other is reliant on the student themselves. Here are the differences between the SAT and the ACT:
- ACT is less complex than SAT, and so the ACT test has a shorter time for each question.
- The SAT does not have a science section.
- The SAT reading test is much longer than the ACT.
- ACT allows students to use a calculator throughout the test. The SAT has sections wherein the student is not allowed to use a calculator, while there is also a section where they will be allowed to use one. If your child is not great at math, the ACT might be better for them.
The ACT could be a good alternative to the SAT if your child didn’t do well on the PSAT. If this is the case, you can find the ACT test dates for 2020 here.
How Else Can You Help
As you help your child through the college admissions process, keep in mind the following:
- Being emotionally and financially prepared for it.
- Before they leave your nest, get them to be comfortable with taking responsibility for their lives.
- Teach them basic life skills like cooking, driving, etc. so that they can take care of themselves out there.
- Help with researching colleges and universities.
- When they arrive on campus, set communication guidelines with your child.
- Create a financial plan and be specific about who will be responsible for which expenses.
- Have a serious talk about safe sex, drugs, and alcohol.
- Be encouraging. It’s a scary new phase for the child.
- Not everything will work as planned, so always have a Plan B.
- If you are anxious about anything, especially finances, then be mindful that you don’t place too heavy a burden on your child.
- Prepare to have an empty nest and the emotions that come with it.
Get it done, let go and have faith
The entire admission process can seem like a huge task. Although this might be the heaviest burden your child has had to bear, you have dealt with worse. Your guidance, encouragement, experience, and wisdom will be essential throughout the process. But somewhere along the line, your child will have to step up and lead the process. They will have to make definitive choices and take decisive action. The process should be seen as teamwork, rather than one party doing everything. After that, you are going to have to let your little bird fly.
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