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How do I help my child apply to college?

QUESTION: I’m the parent of a high school junior. I know that a lot has changed since I applied to colleges decades ago. It seems so much more difficult now than when I applied. What are the best ways to help my child?
–Hopefully Helpful Parent

Dear Hopefully Helpful Parent: Your junior is soon to be a senior, which means it’s time to gear up for college applications. Summer is a great time to get ready and do all those things he or she has put off. Here are some things you should encourage your college bound son or daughter to consider:

1. Prepare for the SAT or ACT. If your student is a self-starter, then a good book and practice tests combined with a well-disciplined schedule should be fine. You can even administer a simulated test by being the timekeeper. If your child needs a little more discipline, then a solid test prep summer course is a good idea.

2. Visit some colleges. One challenge your child will face is choosing a college. Visiting schools and walking on their campus is a great way to get a feel for schools and their surrounding environment. A fantastic idea is to make a family trip out of the college visit. Traveling to several colleges and exploring their surrounding cities is a great way to combine a college tour with a family vacation.

3. Consider a summer job. A summer job demonstrates to colleges that your student works hard and can stick to something that is not necessarily enjoyable. Plus, it doesn’t hurt for your child to use those summer earnings toward his or her college savings.

4. Explore your financial options. Take a look at the costs of college and begin planning how to pay for it. Speak with an accountant, project how much you can afford, and look into financing options. Don’t wait until the last minute. The worst scenario would be for your son or daughter to work hard to get into a school only to be told that you can’t afford it.

This should keep you and your child busy. Also, don’t forget to reinforce those good habits – like brushing your teeth after each meal – since your time with your child is soon coming to an end. Get all of those good influences in now!

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.