With college knocking down your teenager’s door, she may need a nudge to get off the couch and get proactive about her college search. With the pressure of finals waning, and schedules free of homework, summer is a good time to sit down with your teenager and start planning their college search.
For parents, the summer months are also also a good time to start figuring out the complicated finances that go along with sending a student to college.
Here are some tips to make the most of your summer college search:
1. Do Your Homework
Summer is a great time to spend online looking at schools and making lists. Encourage your student to look at what the different programs have available and how schools are similar and different from each other. This will help them figure out which schools have the components they are the most excited about.
It can be difficult to ascertain differences from websites, so students may want to call and email professors and department heads for information and casual conversation over the summer. Faculty and staff generally have fewer classes over the summers which makes them more available for questions.
This is a great way to figure out how some programs may be different from each other. For example, if your student is interested in a school that has hands-on research opportunities, that may be of particular interest to them. They may also discover which schools are more competitive or which have larger programs with plenty of open spots.
Does your student play sports? Now is the time they may want to create highlight videos and email coaches at schools they are interested in. Unless they are extremely high-profile, students typically have to make the first move in contacting coaches.
2. Visit Colleges
Select a few local options to visit. If you’re planning any summer vacations, see if there are any colleges nearby or on the way. Even if the campus crowd has dwindled do to low summer enrollment, you and your student can still get an idea of the campus aesthetic and surrounding areas.
Campuses are very different during the summer. Fewer students means that the average university will feel, well – a little sleepy during summer break. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Want to meet with financial aid representatives or academic advisors? Summer months mean a reduction in duties for many of staff members and faculty. This is your chance to get some quality face time.
Call ahead to schedule a meeting with any employees you'd like to speak with, or ask your tour guide to arrange a meeting on your behalf.
3. Plan Ahead Financially
Summer is a slow season in the financial aid offices of most universities. This is a great time for you to look at your students' top choices and start asking questions about things like scholarships, grants, and work study in addition to the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE, and other forms that you will need to fill out soon.
Paying for college is a complicated process to navigate regardless of how much money you have (or don't have) saved. Starting the process early will help you get a handle on the situation and make a plan of action before the school year starts. It is also a good time to meet with college financial aid advisors, financial planners, and loan officers to make sure you are prepared for what is coming up in just a year or two.
For more information on paying for college, see these resources:
4. Enjoy Quality Time
Don’t get so caught up in planning for the future that you forget to enjoy the present! While visiting campuses with your student can be fun, make sure you spend some down-time together enjoying each other without the stress of college planning.
Using the summer to help your teen search for schools is certainly worth the time away from the beach. Convincing your students to sacrifice a few hours a week for their college success can propel them successfully into the next phases of their lives.
Start the easy way by building a list of college matches with your student.