10 Way to Help Your Child on Their College Search

The last year and change has been quite challenging to say the least. You see, this is the crucial year where our daughter has embarked on her college search. The process, if you are new to this game, is daunting to say the least but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you have the tools to help your child succeed, find scholarships and help prepare them for standardized tests that could potentially help them earn merit money towards their dream school, as a parent, you can help be their guide as they navigate this exciting journey in their lives.
If you’re just starting the process, here are 10 tips you might want to keep in mind while you are helping your child on their search:
1. Make sure you are signed up for Naviance at their school. Typically, their guidance counselor meets with them to show them how to navigate the site but the best part about it is that as parents, you can be a part of the process and help identify schools that might be of interest to your child. Naviance also shows you whether your child’s grades and standardized test scores will earn them entry into the school or if it’s a reach. There’s a treasure trove of great information on Naviance and frankly, I’m obsessed with it more than my daughter is!
2. Order US News & World Report Guide to Colleges and sign up for their online service as well. If you haven’t yet been admitted to Naviance, this is the next best thing. It also gives you breakdowns of schools that match your child’s interests and academic achievements. Plus it connects you to the college websites and you can easily navigate your way around the site to find a wealth of information.
3. Sign your child up for an SAT or ACT prep class in the summer. When they aren’t distracted by other classes, the summer is the perfect time to get your child test ready. Our daughter took her first class in the fall and winter months and took the brand new SAT in March and performed very well. She’s taking it one more time in October and currently has a class every weekend and once during the week to keep her test skills sharp when it’s time to take the SAT. If you are in the New York area, we used Test Takers but you can even use an online service like Varsity Tutors if you are not in our area but want access to great tutors who can help with ACT and SAT prep.
4. Start searching for Scholarships! Visit Scholly.com to search for potential scholarships that can help subsidize your child’s college education. With costs skyrocketing, this is a great site that matches your child’s academic interests and talents with potential scholarships that they can sign up for.
5. Make sure your child is active in extracurricular activities. Whether they are an athlete, an artist or they are a star on the debate team, your child doesn’t have to do a ton of things to make them stand out, but they should be doing at least one thing that sets them apart or shows their leadership abilities.
6. Sign up for FAFSA — Need financial aid or want to see if you qualify? Then make sure you sign up for FAFSA so that when the time comes, your child qualifies for funds that will help support their education.
7. Get your child a Upromise credit card from Master Card. This is a great way for your child to pay for school supplies and pay down student loans at the same time. It’s a rewards card that truly helps a student while they are pursuing their education.
8. Be smart about scheduling college tours. If you want to see a specific school, like an art school or science program, make sure you schedule your tour on a weekday so that you can see it when it is open. Weekend tours while they are convenient oftentimes don’t give you the true flavor for what the school is about or whether the school has what your child is looking for.
9. Don’t travel all over the country looking at colleges! Wait until your child is accepted into a school that’s a plane ride away before wasting money on a trip to visit their dream school. What’s the point of visiting if you don’t get accepted? If you are vacationing near a school they are interested in, then definitely go and visit but don’t go out of your way until they receive a large envelope in the mail.
10. Find out which schools offer merit scholarships. Essaywise is a fantastic site offering great advice to parents in the thick of the college search. In fact, while perusing the site, I found this amazing article about 40 schools that offer scholarships based on merit. Luckily, my daughter’s dream school is on the list so here’s hoping she gets in and gets some money to help offset the cost of out of state tuition too!

When College is Just Around the River Bend….

When I was 16 years old and applying to colleges, I really don’t remember whether my parents were actively involved in the search process.  They just encouraged me to pursue whatever my heart desired and let me take the reins with the application and decision making process.  At the time, my ultimate goal was to pursue my love of musical theater and appear on Broadway.  But the more I auditioned for acting programs, the more it became crystal clear that I was going to need a back up plan.
I was always a straight A student minus a few hiccups on the math and foreign language front and was an absolutely awful standardized test taker. But with a ton of extracurricular activities on my application – I mean, who could turn down the only girl trumpet player in her school – I ultimately was accepted at UMASS, pursued a major in Communications with a minor in English and graduated with honors.  At 20, while working part time at a small PR firm, I attended graduate school and pursued a master’s degree in journalism at NYU.   While I didn’t land a job at a magazine or newspaper, I followed a more conservative path and became a publicist.  25 years later, I’m still here and I’m still working hard to make other people famous.  Not exactly where I wanted to be, but it’s still been quite an adventure.
In the blink of an eye, my daughter is now standing in my shoes and contemplating her future. It’s kind of insane that she’s the same little girl with the wide eyed expression who sang along with her favorite Princess Pocahontas at Disney World. Except this time, college is “just around the river bend.”
Next week, I’ll be taking my daughter on a tour of my alma mater and as much as I would love for her to fall in love with UMASS, I totally understand that it might not be the right fit for her.  I know she will ultimately attend a school that fits her personality and independent spirit .  What I have found over the years is that she and I don’t necessarily see eye to eye when it comes to her career path.  As parents, it is so hard not to point our kids in the direction we think they belong but in my case, the more I push, the more my daughter retreats.  I only want the best for her but there are times where I can tell she thinks I’m pressuring her to pursue something that she might not want for herself.  At 17, there’s no telling what she’s going to make of her life but I know in my heart that if she does what she loves, the sky is the limit.  She will just need to tune out the competition, the pressures and deal with the rejection in order to truly realize her destiny.  
Let the college journey begin…