You may be wondering how you can help your high school student with their college search and career planning process. The advice and feedback you provide your student will vary depending upon what grade they are currently in school.
Keep in mind that there are several post-secondary options available – traditional four year college, military, community college, online college, career college as well as apprenticeship programs.
If your student has a few years until they have to apply to college then encourage them to explore extracurricular activities in areas they are interested in as this strengthens college applications.
If your student is in their junior or senior year and ready to go through the college admission and career exploration process it does require a large degree of independence as they will need to prepare for standardized testing, fill out applications, and write essays themselves. However, there are a number of ways you can assist in this process. Things that you can do to assist are first working with your student to determine areas of study that they may be interested in, they can take our quick career assessment for possible options and explore expected job salary and projected job growth. Or if they have identified their desired area of interest and would like to enroll in certificate programs or career colleges, find schools in your area or around the country by using our college search.
Then compile a college list of at least 6 - 8 colleges, guidance counselors suggest including 2 - 3 reach colleges, 2 - 3 target colleges and 2 safety schools. This ensures that your student has options in the event they do not get in to their top choice school.
Taking tours of the schools on your student's list can be immensely helpful in determining whether they feel like the school is a good fit for them. Nothing will tell you more about a college than visiting their campus and meeting with their admission staff. A lot of colleges offer the ability for students to sit in or audit a class for free. If your student is interested in doing this then try to reach out to the school 1 - 2 weeks prior to the visit to see if this is an option and to coordinate.
One of the main ways that parents can assist their children in the college admission process is by providing financial support. Most colleges consider the student's parents to be responsible for the financial costs (except for special circumstances). While financial aid, scholarships, and loans can assist with the cost of college, cost is a major factor in determining what schools may or may not be a good fit for your student. Our financial aid page provides information on financial aid and scholarship information.
It is necessary for you to be honest with your student about what you can financially contribute to their college education. If your student plans on applying for federal financial aid, you will need to provide detailed financial information by filling out the FAFSA (free application for financial student aid). While it is a difficult discussion to have it is necessary that you are on the same page when it comes to finances for college.
Your student's guidance counselor is often a great resource in answering questions and assisting with the college search process. You may want to schedule a meeting with them with your child and then possibly alone depending upon the nature of your questions.
If you would like to get a second opinion and would like to discuss your situation in a one-on-one basis together with a career counselor, you can schedule appointments with career counselors here.
One of the most important things to do is keep an open communication and dialogue with your student about the college search process. You can help in being their strongest supporter and champion as well as giving them balanced constructive criticism and advice when needed.
The college admission process is often times stressful and your help can assist your student in making good choices for both their college and future career path. We wish you and the student the best of luck.