By: Rachel Fenton
University of Michigan 2015, B.A. in English
At Parros College Planning, we believe that it’s never too early to start preparing for college. However, some families will inevitably wait until crunch time to start seriously thinking about and discussing their college bound student’s future. At this stage, it is still important to have a plan. Tackling the hard questions and getting ahead of the game (even at the last minute) can save you stress in beginning both the financial and admissions process. In the long run, you’ll be glad you had a plan.
Here are three tips for how to begin this process:
1. Get Your House in Order
Even if you haven’t started planning, you’ve surely started thinking about where you (or your child) might like to go and what you might like to do after you graduate. Well, it’s time to put the pen to the paper and get all of those floating thoughts out of your head and into action. Getting serious about your options and compiling them into a physical list will help you take stock of your career, school, and social interests and get down to business with finding the right college and the right fit.
Once you have established general areas of interest, you can begin to research schools. Look for schools that have programs relevant to what you may want to do, that have the right size and environment that matches what you are looking for, and that have extracurricular programs that meet your interest. It’s great to look at a lot of options and try to imagine yourself as a student at each school.
2. Manage the Realistic and Unrealistic
Coming into the college game late can leave little time to drastically improve your GPA, pick up a bunch of extracurricular activities or service work, or start saving money. You are going to have to be realistic about your options both in terms of what you can pay for and where you can get in. Starting with the list of your dream schools and backup schools, it is crucial to identify where you want to be and where you can realistically be.
If your family has not been saving and you haven’t explored scholarship or financial aid options, a private university might not be a feasible option in your mind. There can be a strategy for you to consider regarding state and private schools, this is where we can really help you. The same goes for academics. If you haven’t taken any AP classes or participated in an enriching extracurricular activity, then an Ivy League school probably is not the right fit for you. There are a lot of schools out there and there is guaranteed to be one that fits both your dream and your situation. You will want to sit down as a family and talk about budget, funding options, and your academic fit to make sure you can move forward together. We can help you assess your needs and find that fit, so meeting with us at the key junction can be beneficial.
3. Don’t Waste Another Second
As soon as you have narrowed your list, it’s time to put it all in action. Use your time wisely to get ahead in school, go see colleges, get in contact with admissions officers, and apply for scholarships. Applications can be overwhelming and time consuming with essay questions and supplementary material, but being proactive about it will be the only way to complete them with accuracy and confidence.
Make the time to show the schools you are thinking of attending that you are interested. Get in touch with admissions officers and professors in your field of study and go see the campuses. You can’t truthfully talk about how right of a fit you are for a school in your application if you have never actually been there.
Most importantly, get started right away applying for scholarships and grants. Complete your FAFSA as quickly as possible to ensure you are awarded as much financial aid as possible. This is crucial because even if you get in, you can only attend if you have a way to pay for it.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started!
Feeling overwhelmed? We can help. We offer an array of services including help completing the FAFSA, admission essay assistance/editing, counseling, and more. Though being behind is not ideal, there are many ways to get back on track and we will do anything we can to ease the process.