Like the dad in the Disney movie College Road Trip, I am not ready to send my daughter off to college—let alone think about it. But I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer: It’s spring of her junior year, and it’s the recommended time to plan. Thanks to the Holland High School counseling team and to all of the moms who’ve been there and responded to my cry for help on Facebook, I have five tips that will help make this process a little easier.
Do your homework. Visit www.bigfuture.collegeboard.com to research colleges that offer the program your child wants to study. In addition to programs, you can drill down your search by location, ACT score requirements, housing, sports, and more. For scholarships, check out www.fastweb.com.
Narrow your list to colleges you can afford. Have an open conversation with your child about the cost of education. Your child may dream of attending Ivy League college, but the budget might dictate an in-state university. Don’t waste your time (or the school’s) by visiting colleges that are too expensive.
Block out time on your calendar. Book a personal or vacation day now, because before you know it, summer will be here and you’ve missed an important opportunity. High schools allow for a certain number of absences for college visits. Schedule visits geographically, so you can visit two or more schools in one day. Another option is to do a virtual tour at www.campustours.com.
Ask your child to create a list of things that are important to them … and help them develop questions to ask the admissions representative or student tour guide. Our high school has a list of questions to consider for both student and parent. One idea they shared was to develop our own rating system for each college we visit, to make sure we’re asking the same questions and evaluating our decision on the information presented, rather than by the number of “cute boys” on campus.
Seize the day! Use this time together as an opportunity to talk and bond with your child. If possible, go on a tour of your campus and take your kid down a walk on memory lane—you might find some new common ground with your son or daughter. Take photos. Go out to lunch. Make it an adventure! Soon enough, your child will be gone. Make the most of every moment you have together, because you won’t get the time back.
One final tip: Grab a glass of wine (and maybe a tissue) before you start all of this—and have your own little meeting with thing called reality.
Written by: Jennifer Reeves is the media sales director for West Michigan Woman. She’s also mother to a high school junior she affectionately calls The Teenager. When she finally lifts her head out of the sands of college denial, it’s most likely to partake in her favorite teenage drama relief program—a glass of wine.