A Parent’s Guide to College Planning in 7 Steps
As a parent, your time is limited and the task of planning for college with your child can become daunting. You want the best for your child; however, private college consulting services cost a minimum of $5,000 and public school counselors are often overwhelmed with advisees. At MyKlovr, we offer you a cost-effective, virtual counselor program to help you and your child get into the best colleges.
Here are 7 highly effective tips to help you navigate the college admissions process and improve your child’s chances of getting into the college of their dreams.
1. Choosing the Best Colleges
While the first decision for many is based on a college’s rank and prestige, this is rarely the best approach. Even if your child attends the top-ranked college in the nation, if he or she is miserable at the school their educational experience will be less than ideal.
Instead, start to narrow the field by having a conversation with your child using these questions:
- Are you attracted to a large student body or do you prefer a smaller academic environment?
- Where are you happiest? In a bustling city setting or do you prefer a more rural setting?
- Are you willing to move far away from home or would you prefer to be close? (If saving money on room and board by having your child live at home is ideal, talk about schools within a reasonable traveling distance).
- Do you have a good idea of what you want to study in college? (If the answer is yes, then focus on schools that offer the best programs in that area. If the answer is no, focus on more well-rounded schools to allow your child to find their chosen path).
In general, you should aim to create a list of 6-8 schools (2-3 difficult colleges, 2-3 target schools, and about 2 safety schools).
2. Visit Your Chosen Schools
If possible, plan a trip to as many schools on your list as possible. There is no better way to see whether a school is a good fit for your child than walking the campus, having dinner in the surrounding area, and getting an overall sense of the vibe of the school.
Insider Tip: Many schools allow prospective students to sit in on a class or two. This can be a great way to get a feel for a school and the experience will motivate your child to take the college admission process seriously.
3. Keep a Written Record
Once you have a list of schools, make a list of all the requirements for each college. This may seem like a lot of tedious work, but it will save you time, aggravation, and frustration down the road. All colleges have a list of required materials on their website, make sure you and your child work together to write a detailed list of what each school requires and don’t forget to write down the deadlines for applications and supporting materials.
This list will save you more than time. It will serve as a great reminder to motivate you and your child to meet the college deadlines together.
4. Request Recommendations Early
Almost all colleges require recommendations and well-written recommendations will increase the chances of getting into the best colleges. But keep this one thing in mind, the people you ask for recommendations are busy and you are asking them for a favor.
In all your communications, be polite, friendly, and helpful. Clearly, list out in an email what is required of the recommender. Do not make teachers and professional references go to the website to find out for themselves. If the recommendation must be mailed, provide each reference with a stamped envelope with the address filled out in advance.
Don’t be too pushy, but after a reasonable amount of time, there is nothing wrong with a gentle and friendly reminder if the recommendation still hasn’t been completed.
5. Request Supporting Material Early
It might sound simple, but having transcripts and SAT and ACT scores sent to colleges takes time. So give yourself some breathing room and make sure the supporting materials get in earlier rather than later. For example, SAT scores typically take about 2 weeks to send.
Insider Tip: The first step of the college admission process is simply collecting all the required material. Meaning regardless of the brilliance of your child’s application, missing components will hold up the whole process or, worse, result in missing an opportunity to apply to your chosen colleges.
6. Nail the College Admission Essays
College admissions selection committees often read through hundreds of applications. One way to have your child stand out is by writing a top-notch college admission essay to showcase their personality.
But start the process early. Most writers, no matter how talented, write terrible first drafts. For this reason, the revision process is the key to a solid and outstanding college essay. If possible, plan to have your child write a first draft, a revision, and then the final draft.
A Few Insider Tips:
Because college selection committees read hundreds of essays, make sure your child’s unique voice and experiences stand out from the pack. For example, instead of vague statements such as “I’m an adventurous person,” encourage your child to be more specific and use real-life experiences. Such as: “In 2016, I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail to build confidence and push myself beyond my limits.”
A Few Other Tips:
- Double and triple check all grammar and spelling.
- Have your child read the essay out loud (yes, this really does improve writing).
- Ask friends, family, and peers to read the essay if possible.
- Watch the word count, all colleges have length limits, make sure to follow them.
- Provide plenty of encouragement, most of us hate writing about ourselves.
After you complete the college admissions process, celebrate with your child. Visit a favorite restaurant, participate in a shared activity, or anything you both enjoy. You earned it!
We hope these 7 steps make the process of applying to college a little easier. If you need more help, be sure to visit MyKlovr, a virtual counselor platform providing high school college-bound students with personalized recommendations of goals, milestones, and resources to increase their chances of getting into the college of their dreams.
We wish you the best of luck!