It’s that time of year again. May 1 is approaching and for parents of seniors it’s THE DAY that their student’s hard work is finally realized. National College Decision Day is the day your student has to decide which college they will attend. For some, it will be an easy decision. For others, like my daughter, it will be an excruciating one.
My daughter waited until the last minute—the very last minute—to decide. She was torn between two very similar colleges: one in her home state of Texas and one thousands of miles away in Massachusetts. Both offered the same financial aid, the same course curriculum, the same campus setting, and Greek life (#1 on her list). The final dealmaker was location. She had always wanted to attend college in Boston and that’s what tipped the scale.
Once your student has decided which offer of admission to accept, it’s time for celebration. It’s a time to look ahead, savor all the hard work, and prepare for the next few months. Here are ten things you should do after the decision is made:
Prepare for buyer’s remorse
Even if your son or daughter is sure about their college choice, buyer’s remorse will set it at some point during the next few months. It’s that overwhelming feeling that perhaps they choose the wrong college or made the wrong decision. It’s that feeling that perhaps they don’t want to leave home after all because of a) their friends, b) their boyfriend or girlfriend, or c) they are terrified to be on their own. Don’t react, just listen. They have to work through their anxiety.
Plan for orientation-both student and parents
It’s time to get the calendar out and look at student/parent orientation dates. This is one event neither you nor your student want to miss. Parents learn valuable information at orientation and students make much-needed connections with other students. Orientation will help your student ease into college life and help you cope as they make the move from home to independent living.
Keep looking for scholarship money
You may have a financial aid package in line, but you should never stop looking and applying for scholarships. College is expensive and even those $500 awards will add up. All throughout college your student should continue applying for scholarships.
Prepare for fall registration
It’s time to pour over the course catalog and academic requirements. Check out the college’s AP policies, which vary quite a bit from college to college. Your child still has time to sign up for May or June SAT II tests in preparation for fall registration. Official scores for these tests, however, will need to be sent to the college so they will have them on record when registering for classes.
Expect your emotions to be all over the place
By the end of the summer, you may be counting the days until your teenager leaves for college. Typically they become moody, argumentative and begin exerting what they feel is logical independence. There will be times when you wish they were already gone, and times when you wish they would never leave. It’s a whirlwind of conflicted emotions and every parent experiences them. Just as your student is working through this life change, you are coming to grips with it as well.
Book parents weekend now
This may sound like crazy advice, but if there’s one thing you do in this list—do this. Hotels fill up quickly for parents weekend, along with rental cars. Expect to pay higher than normal hotel prices because these dates happen every year and the hotels book quickly. If you are flying to the college or taking a train, book that part of the travel early as well.
Look at the calendar and plan for holiday travel
If your student has to fly home or take a train, look at the academic calendar and book travel for them. Waiting until the last minute may leave your student stranded on campus or force you to pay high prices for a last minute ticket.
Go shopping, but don’t overbuy
Scope out the area around the college for chains like Bed Bath and Beyond, Target or The Container Store. You can order online and arrange to pick up when you arrive at college. Wait until you know the layout of the room and your college student has had a conversation with their roommate. This will alleviate duplicate purchases and overbuying items that aren’t dorm essentials. Remember, these are “small” spaces. You and your student may be tempted to go crazy with the bling, but it’s better to wait until move in day for that.
Schedule a family vacation
If possible, schedule a family vacation. It may be the only time you see your son or daughter before they leave for college. They will be bulking up on friend time, significant other time, and anything away from their parents and the family. It’s normal; they are preparing for separation.
Have a serious money talk
Once the college decision is made, it’s time to reiterate what you expect them to contribute to their education financially and what you expect from them academically since you are also contributing a significant amount toward this education. Begin budgeting for expenses and discussing how they will pay for essentials during the year: either through a job or by you providing them with a monthly stipend.
The #1 searched item on my website is this: Snag a Fishing Scholarship. Who knew there were so many students and parents looking for fishing scholarships? But how do you win these scholarships in high school? First, you have to compete in competitions that award scholarships. If your high school doesn’t have a fishing club, start one. Then get registered for all the fishing competitions in your area. Check out this Washington High School State Championship, and search for others within your state.
”College-age anglers are getting the opportunity to keep casting, and it’s more than just a hobby. Bethel University, a college in McKenzie, Tenn., with an enrollment of 5,825, first laid the roots for its fishing program in 2009. They weren’t the first school to offer bass fishing, but they were the first to offer scholarships for anglers.”
As I’ve said previously, the best scholarships are often offered by the colleges themselves. But where do you find these colleges? Here are a few places you can look:
If you like bass fishing, these colleges will be right up your “lake, river, stream”. Here is a list of colleges, by state, that have affiliated with the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. Each state is listed along with its College Series conference (Central, Eastern, Midwest, Northern, Southern or Western) Check to see if your college of choice is listed.
Fishing League Worldwide surveyed National Guard FLW College Fishing anglers in the country on their clubs, their schools, their fishing lifestyles and more, and we scored the results based on the factors we thought most important for a college angler: proximity to bass fisheries, tournament opportunities, club activities, etc. We also interviewed club officers and tournament winners. We then tossed all the information together, combined our “editors’ rankings” – completely ignoring the Bowl Championship Series computer scores – and ended up with the results that follow: the top 25 bass fishing colleges.
When searching for specific scholarships like fishing, you have to be a detective. Do a Google search for “fishing scholarships”, “fishing scholarship competitions” and “colleges with fishing scholarships”. Follow all the links and keep researching. This will take some time, but the reward will be worth it!
The college essay is perhaps the most frustrating part of the college application. Since the essay provides the opportunity for you to give the colleges a “window into your soul” so to speak, the essay is essentially a key component of the application. If you’re struggling with essay or just need some expert advice, where can you go for help?
These five experts provide some of the best essay advice on how to write a college essay. For each, I have focused on a specific topic, but if you want (or need) more specific help, visit their websites. You will be amazed at their willingness to offer their expert advice free of charge. They all, however, offer specialized coaching and you and your student would be wise to take advantage of it if you find their advice helpful.
How do I begin the essay process?
This advice comes from my go-to essay source, The College Essay Guy. According to him, students should prepare before writing the essay. He starts the process by answering these questions:
- What should my essay be about?
- What are college admissions officers looking for?
- How do college admissions officers evaluate my essay?
- Which is more important: your story or your writing skill?
- When should I start writing my essay?
- How do I structure my essay?
- How much do essays matter?
- If my grades are bad, can I get into Harvard with a great essay?
- Can a bad college essay negatively affect my application?
How do you avoid writing an essay that bombs?
This tip is from Essay Hell, a good resource for essay information, along with examples and tips for specific colleges like USC and UT. According to Essay Hell, there are 5 traps you can fall into when writing your college essay:
- Your essay is dull.
- Your college application isn’t personal.
- Your essay is mainly about someone else.
- Your essay only repeats everything else in your admissions application.
- You come across as not having your act together.
What are possible brainstorming questions?
The Essay Expert, Brenda Bernstein, provides some possible essay brainstorming topics:
- What’s my favorite school subject and why?
- What’s my favorite extracurricular activity and why?
- What character in a book inspires me and why?
- What’s a story of how I went from a simplistic understanding of how the world works to a more complex, nuanced understanding?
- What’s an object that’s important to me and why?
- What’s a place/location that’s important to me and why?
- Who are the most important people in my life and what have I learned from them?
Once you have a topic, how do you keep focus and stay on task?
According to the experts at All College Application Essays, “the drafting process is critical and can help make your stories and messages clearer. These essays are hard to write and get better with each new layer. To help, they provide 10 questions to guide you through the process:
- Does your essay start with a story that hooks us in from the first paragraph?
- If you start in the past, do you get to the present very quickly?
- Do you write only in the first person and not spend too much time describing anyone or anything else?
- If you are writing about your community or family, do you get to the present and your life and life works quickly?
- Do you only tell one story and not try and tell your entire life story?
- If you are writing about an obstacle or challenge overcome, do you get to how you have responded and made a difference in the life of your community by the second impactor third paragraph of the essay?
- Do you have a metaphor that goes through the entire piece…does this metaphor reveal who you are and what you offer to potential colleges?
- Does your story make you sound unique and not like anyone else applying?
- Do you tell new stories and qualities in each separate essay your write?
- Do you end with a bang?
What do admissions officers look for in an essay?
According to David at EssaysCoach.com, writing a good application essay is hard. Many students write essays that are too cliché or too shallow; others write essays that are impersonal and uninformative; some are even unfortunate enough to write essays that cause their own rejection. Here are five things an admissions officer looks for:
- Can the applicant write?
- What does the essay say about the applicant?
- Are there deep, personal reflections?
- What will the applicant bring to the community?
- Do the qualities represented in the essay resonate with the rest of the application?
Check out each individual website for more essay tips and for help with the college essay. Always go to the experts!
Yes. You could come out and ask the question. But the odds are your teen probably doesn’t know; and even if he does answer, it might not be an honest one. It might be what he thinks you want to hear. Your child needs some “mean” emotional skills before move-in day, as evidenced by all the college kids calling their parents to say, “I don’t like it here. Can I come home?”
How do you know if your teen is ready for college? Ask yourself some questions and be honest about the answers. The answers to these questions will be a good indicator about whether or not your teen is ready for college or could use some help getting prepared. You have the summer to help him practice these important independent life skills.
Does he know how to self-advocate?
It could happen on the first day of college. Your student needs help. He needs to speak with an advisor. Talk with a professor. Have a conversation with the RA. If he constantly runs to you for help in high school, how will he ever learn to advocate for himself? Colleges expect students to handle these situations by themselves. If he can’t deal with problems now, it’s a good indicator he won’t be able to handle them in college.
Does he know how to resolve conflict?
Roommate conflict is the number one reason students are unhappy the first few weeks of college. Being placed with a roommate that does not match your student’s personality and habits can be overwhelming. Conflict arises daily in college: with friends, with professors, with administration. If he goes to college without this emotional skill he will be more likely to “phone home” asking for help every time a conflict with someone arises.
Does he make friends easily and possess the necessary social skills?
Students who sit in their room alone day after day will not survive in college. They need a support group: friends to turn to when they are homesick or struggling. The social aspect of college is key to surviving four years away from home. Going to college far from the comfort of home and not knowing anyone can be a deal-breaker for the shy, uninvolved student.
Does he know how to recognize and avoid risky behavior?
There are going to be opportunities in college to participate in dangerous behavior: drinking, drugs, hooking up, and reckless driving to name a few. Students often see college as an opportunity to participate in activities that parents would not encourage while they are living at home. Does he have the tools to recognize and avoid the consequences of these behaviors?
Has he been away from home for an extended period of time?
So many first time college students have never been away from home without parents. A few weeks away from home gives them a taste of what life is like on their own. If your student has never been away from home or on his own, college will be a difficult adjustment.
Preparing your student for the emotional aspect of college will be best for him and for you. If he’s ready to venture out on his own, you will be less stressed about dropping him off on move-in day. And you most likely won’t receive the dreaded phone call: “I want to come home.”
This article was originally posted by the Princeton Review and I have permission to share with my readers–great content and information for every parent and student considering the college admissions decision.
The college decision letters and emails are rolling in. Celebrate your acceptances, stay positive, and strategize with your college counselor about what you’ll do next. Whatever your application status, we have some tips on planning your next move.
If You’re Accepted
If you applied regular decision, you have until May 1 (“Decision Day”) to notify colleges. Here’s what you should do after you receive your college acceptance letters:
- Learn even more about the schools that accepted you by visiting campus one last time. Talk to real students, visit the dorms and cafeteria, and find out about key academic programs and campus activities.
- Compare financial aid packages to see which makes the most sense for you and your family.
- Talk to your college counselors. They’ve been cheering you on throughout the whole application process and are there to help you decide which school is right for you.
- If you plan to defer your acceptance for a year to work, travel, or volunteer, make sure you’ve done your research. Talk to the admissions office about what it needs from you to consider your gap year request (and be sure to ask about any financial aid implications).
- Notify colleges of your decision, and send in your deposit by the deadline.
- Don’t slack off in school! Colleges expect you to keep your grades up all throughout senior year.
If You’re Waitlisted
If you land on a school’s waitlist, you’ll need to decide whether you will pursue or decline the waitlist invitation plus make plans to attend another college. Follow these tips to make sure you’re covered.
- Quickly respond to let the school know whether you will accept or decline your position on the waitlist.
- If you accept,
- Send a follow-up letter to let the school know why you would be excited to attend and the reasons why their college is still the best-fit school for you.
- Stay focused on your grades and prepping for AP exams.
- Request an interview, so you can reiterate your commitment to the school.
- If you decline, reevaluate the rest of your list. What schools do you need to learn more about? Which schools can you still visit?
- No matter what, get excited about the schools that accepted you. Decide which college fits you best and send in your deposit. If you do get off another college’s waitlist (and accept!), you’ll forfeit your deposit.
If You’re Deferred
If you applied early decision or early action, you may receive a notification that your application has been deferred to the regular admission pool. This can happen if a college decides they need more information (like senior year grades or test scores) before making their final decision. Here are your priorities:
- Work hard to keep your grades up.
- If you plan to submit new SAT/ACT scores, prep thoroughly.
- Keep in touch with the admissions committee, and make sure you’re sending them the information they need to evaluate your application.
- Keep up your college search! Craft a list of dream, match, and safety schools—any of which is a great fit for your specific personality and interests. Work with your college counselor to stay on top of application deadlines.
If You’re Rejected
If you didn’t get the news you were hoping for, it’s okay (and normal!) to feel disappointed. But don’t dwell too long! There are still some proactive things you can do to find your best-fit college.
- Focus on the schools that said “yes”! It’s time to visit or research in more depth the schools that accepted you. Sometimes your dream school has been on your mind for so long, that it can overshadow the rest of your options. There are bound to be plenty of new-to-you programs, internship opportunities, and other on-campus gems to get excited about!
- Stay positive! You might feel tempted to take a year off from academics altogether and apply to your first-choice school again next year. We caution against this route! It is easier to transfer to the school of your choice from a less prestigious school than to start again from scratch (even if you spend your year off doing something productive and character-building).
- Lean on your college counselor. Your admissions counselor is a pro at helping students compare schools and decide which offer of admission—and financial aid package—to accept.
If you are part of a middle class family, it’s easy to relate to the Hecks. Frankie and Mike struggle with everything middle class parents do: paying the bills, balancing expenses, and trying to raise children who aspire to college. Their parenting style is not for everyone, but within the hilarity and the sometimes questionable choices they make, we can find some relevant truth.
This show is a mirror into every parent’s struggles, battles, and parenting nightmares. Their oldest son can never get his head in the game. Their daughter lives in her own little world but strives for greatness. And their youngest son struggles with a lack of social skills. But somehow, they manage to make us laugh and cry watching their crazy life.
Watching the show for seven years, I’ve realized that Frankie and Mike can teach us a great deal about parenting. Here are five parenting lessons from “The Middle”:
- Find a parentingHere balance
Mike and Frankie’s philosophy is to let life happen. Their children often fend for themselves and are expected to remind their parents of every school activity. Because of this, it’s common for the family to be late, for the parents to forget, and for the children to miss out on opportunity. Instead of staying on top of deadlines, activities and events, they depend on their children to remind them.
Uninvolved parents are the antithesis of the helicopter parent. We should always seek a balance between the two. Stay involved enough to be the coach and the guide, but back off enough to allow your children to exert some independence.
- Always encourage your children to pursue their goals
The Heck’s daughter, Sue, is an extrovert and a dreamer. She dreams big, fails at most things, but continues to try. Although her parents know she’s never going to be a varsity cheerleader or homecoming queen, they never tell her to stop trying. She learns some tough lessons about life and her successes are more meaningful because she committed and never gave up.
- Even when it seems you’ve failed as a parent, there is always hope
The Heck’s oldest son, Axl, is a charmer, with absolutely no motivation. Try as they might, they could never seem to impress upon him the importance of doing your best and striving for excellence. Since he is a charmer, he charmed his way out of some pretty desperate situations. But as time has passed, he has grown as a person and has begun to see the potential in a college degree.
- Even in a family that struggles financially, college is an option
Neither Mike nor Frankie have a college education. But they knew they wanted their children to have that opportunity. Their plan for Axl was to get an athletic scholarship. For Sue, they knew her grades were her ticket and expected a good financial aid package. Both first generation students were accepted to college and received enough financial aid to attend. The parents never gave up on encouraging their children, even though they knew there would be challenges financially.
- Even though you can’t wait for your kids to leave for college, you will miss them when they are gone
This scenario has played out numerous times during the last few seasons. Frankie and Mike’s goal has always been for their children to finally leave home. Now that two of them have gone off to college, they are feeling the pains of the empty nest, especially with Sue. Their youngest son is still at home, but entering high school. The reality that someday soon they will be all alone is a quite an accomplishment, but it’s also a tough pill to swallow. There are days when they welcome the silence in the house, and then there are days when they worry because they haven’t heard from either child in the last 24 hours.
If you’ve never watched “The Middle” and you have college-bound teens, spend 30 minutes a week with the Hecks. You will laugh, commensurate and cry with this typical family. If you have Hulu, you can binge watch all seven seasons and watch the progression of their lives.
I can’t stress enough the importance of adding a scholarship search strategy to your college prep. Even if you’re prepared to foot the entire bill, your student should have some “skin in the game”. Searching for scholarships is one way to make that happen.
Where does your student begin? Here are five great places to search for scholarships, but don’t stop there. Think outside the box and keep your eyes peeled for scholarships in the most unexpected places–like posters at fast food restaurants, info cards at retail cash registers, etc.
1. Search Locally
Always begin with local scholarship searches. Watch the news. Look on local high school websites. Get a list of organizations that provide scholarships at the library or from your school counselor. Get a list of local companies and inquire about scholarship opportunities.
2. Take advantage of social media
Since your teen is no social media 99% of the time, it’s one of the easiest places to search for scholarships. Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter provide students with a wealth of scholarship opportunity. Don’t forget about college prep blogs like this one–and Monica Matthews’ How to Win Scholarships and Jessica Velasco’s monthly scholarship list.
3. Use the best scholarship search engines
Scholarship search engines abound, as do reviews on these engines. I recommend several, but find the one you like the best and stick to that one. If you don’t, you’ll become overwhelmed with emails and trying to find the ones that best fit your student.
4. Ask friends and family
Never discount the help of friends and family, especially those with students who have already graduated and won scholarships. Ask your companies if they provide scholarships for family members. Ask friends who are members of local organizations like Kiwanis and Elks if there are scholarships available.
5. Focus on specific interests
Look for scholarships that are the best fit for your student. Is he interested in making videos and film? Is she a budding scientist? Is he a tech whiz? Are they fans of Star Trek or The Walking Dead? These are just a few of the areas that students can use when doing a scholarship search.
Use these five techniques and your student will be on their way toward winning free money for college!
It’s hump day. Which means it’s the perfect day for some levity (and just a little sarcasm). If you are a parent of a college-bound teen, you will welcome levity. Especially this time of year.
It’s the time of year when tempers flare, stress reigns, and emotions collide. Many parents may find themselves looking forward to the day when their argumentative, emotional teenager moves out and heads off to college. After all, that’s when they will become an independent adult, handling their own problems. They won’t be asking for help any longer and will not be yelling at you for all those reminders to study for the tests, write the essays, fill out the applications, and apply for scholarships.
If you believe that, you’re living in a dream world. Just because they are headed to college, they will still need you. You will receive all types of calls and texts, cementing the fact that although they are gone, they will never be able to survive without you. And most parents, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Check out this video I saw this morning that demonstrates the fact–you’re never too old or too independent to need your mother. Just click on the photo above or click here!
I will never forget how it felt when my daughter announced, “I don’t think I will go away to college.” My stomach went into knots. My heart broke. My mouth dropped. Panic arose within every fiber of my being; but I didn’t speak. My mind was going in a hundred different directions; but I remained calm. Thinking back, I have no idea why I didn’t immediately start freaking out.
What would make an academically motivated, hard-working senior with a dream of attending college in Boston change her mind? A boy. What else? During the second half of her senior year she met a boy. He was kind, sweet, loving, and very romantic. He plied her with flowers, daily love notes, and phone calls declaring his love. He also began begging her to stay. It started simply with an “I will miss you” and transitioned to talk of marriage.
How could I possibly compete with the “M” word? How would I convince my daughter that college was more important than a boyfriend? How could I explain to her that he was probably the first of many and there was a big world out there waiting for her to explore?
The first step to convince her that college was the best choice, was to start a conversation. The first thing I did was ask her, “Why, after all this time, and all your hard work, would you change your mind?” At first, she gave me a multitude of excuses, from being afraid to move so far from home to missing me to having to leaver her friends. But eventually, she admitted it was her boyfriend.
Instead of bad-mouthing him and telling her he should not be pressuring her, I turned the conversation toward these three topics: the reason you wanted to go away to college, the realities of losing all your financial aid, and the importance of choosing your own path in life. After a few days of tears and logical evaluation, my arguments prevailed. She agreed to stick with the plan and go away to college.
It is important to note that I did not lose my cool. I didn’t argue. I didn’t yell. I didn’t make her feel her opinion was silly or stupid or illogical. She was now an adult and would have to make her own decisions. I simply guided her toward the right choice.
Getting her to college was one thing. I thought that once she made the decision, she would move on. But the first day of freshman week, she announced that she would give it a try and transfer if it didn’t work. Translated: if the long distance relationship doesn’t work, I will move back home and go to college there.
But I knew something she didn’t know. College offered her so much more than being stuck in a long-distance relationship with a boy who was still in high school. It wasn’t two weeks before she met someone else and decided that college was a good place after all. By the time spring break rolled around, her boyfriend was ancient history and college and its experiences became the focus of her life.