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Basics to College Preparation

written by: Natasha Stiller•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 5/13/2010

Preparing for college can seem chaotic, especially to parents encouraging their childrens success. Cooperation and collaboration are key to ensuring the preparation process flows with ease.

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    Start early

    It is essential when dealing with college prepration that students start early. Success does depend on planning well, including successful class scheduling, early submission of college applications, acquiring letters of recommendation, and completing scholarship applications. The first step in starting early should be scheduling a meeting with your school guidance counselor. They can give you some incredible tips and resources to making college entry a success. Along with parents, students, and a reliable counselor, students will be able to easily prepare for college and acquire all materials needed in a timely manner.

    By the start of 10th grade, students can be looking at schools that they would like to attend based on academic programs. Students at this point can research school programs, financial aid, tuition expenses, etc. to formulate ideas about where they want to be in a few years, as well as what they can realisticially afford. Often it takes this time of research to understand that they might need to stay in-state for school, or stay at home with their parents while they complete their college education.

    Parents can be upfront about the expectations that they have for their children when it comes to their college life. Is it okay if they live at home? What financial expectations or contributions might be expected of them? The more information that is shared during this time of study, the better able students will be at creating a plan for their college success.

    There are multiple resources about careers and schools, tests and personality quizzes that can help students access their goals, their abilities, and their interests to help them choose a suitable career. Many students in 10th grade might not know what they want to be when they grow up -- but these tools can help them realize what careers they will succeed in and research colleges based on these criteria.

    Once students know this, they can jump into academics that are popular for this career choice, scheduling classes for the remainder of their high school that fit with their career goals. They can also start acquiring information for scholarships and perhaps even start to volunteer in an area of interest that will help provide them with relationships and community service hours that will benefit them when applying for scholarship. Helping encourage students in these relationships and connections within the community or job interest is essential. They will be able to figure out if they enjoy this line of work and even what type of activities they really know they are well at.

    A lot of college preparation involves study of self. Students need to determine what their strengths and weaknesses are (which will help them when writing their college essays), as well as what they can do with their strengths.

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    Have fun!Enjoy the process of seeking colleges and learning how to research and study careers.
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    Parents need to be supportive

    Parents: be supportive of your young adults as they embark on the entry to college. If they don't know where to turn, help provide them with opportunities. Perhaps helping them get a job or internship will help them explore new opportunities and introduce skills into their lives that they've never had to perform before.

    Help find a suitable mentor for your young adult. Let them know that you care about them and want to be as encouraging as possible for the next arena in their lives. This will mean a great deal to them and they will be able to turn to you for guidance and support. Many of the hurdles that students will learn will have to be done on their own, however that does not mean that as parents you can't be involved and help your loved on out in this incredible time in their lives.

    Be open and honest with them about what you can and cannot do -- and what you're willing to do to be supportive in their college lives. If you do not have the ability to pay for school, let them know what you can do. Can they still live at home? Students need to know what they can count on you for and what limits they might have to their future. Every family dynamic is different - but all situations can be planned for with open communication.

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    Have fun

    Have fun in this process. If you start early and take the time to invest in planning, this process can be exciting and fun. I remember when I was looking into colleges the experiences that I had that gave me such excitement. I was so eager when planning what schools I wanted to look for and possibly attend that I would get giddy.

    Visiting schools to see the environment, checking out local towns and the environment can help set the tone for this excitement as well.

    Decision making doesn't have to be quick, and it certainly isn't always easy - but the time invested will seriously impact the future and can be a fun, engaging experience.