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10 Things to Do After National College Decision Day


NATIONAL COLLEGE DECISION DAYIt’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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.


How to Know If Your Teen is Ready for College Without Asking


ready for college

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.”

Paying for College: The Best Strategy


paying for college

Last night I spoke with a relative whose son just had a baby. The parents were already developing a strategy for paying for college. When she told me they were planning to enter their child in beauty pageants to foot the bill, I had to interject. I told her this was certainly going to cost the parents money and  the rewards would probably not be worth the effort. Then I told her the best strategy to pay for college: good grades.

According to an NACAC survey, colleges rank the grades in college prep courses, the strength of curriculum, and grades in all courses as the top factors in the admissions decision. But here’s the added bonus, those grades can also net a student huge rewards in financial aid. Many colleges will award automatic full-ride scholarships to students with high GPAs and class rank.

Instead of placing all your college money “eggs in one basket”, in addition to saving, use these three strategies to create a plan that will pay the college tuition bill:

Focus on academics

The tone is set freshman year. Make it a goal to choose the pre-college courses (AP and Honors) and get the best grades possible in these courses. If your student does poorly freshman year, it makes it difficult to catch up later. All throughout high school, your student should place high value on academic progress: commit to study, prepare for class and tests, seek help when needed, and put academics before any other activity.

Apply for outside scholarships

Start applying for scholarships as early as possible. Waiting until senior year is a poor decision. There are scholarships available for all ages. It should be your student’s “job” during high school to search and apply for scholarships. An hour a day can produce huge rewards and start racking up funds each year to make a huge dent in the tuition bill.

Chose the colleges with the best financial aid footprint

What does this mean? Look for colleges with a high percentage of financial aid. Every college reports the statistics related to their financial aid profile. These statistics can tell you how generous they are with their scholarships and grants and also the percentage of students who receive help with their tuition.

The best resource available for these statistics is College Navigator. You can enter the name of the college, or search using criteria such as location, size, and degree plans. Once you’ve pulled up the data, you can use it to compare colleges.

If you use these three “paying for college” strategies, no matter where you are in the process, your student should be able to graduate from college with little or no debt. Additionally, you should be able to pay for college without borrowing or dipping into your retirement (which I never recommend).

Making the College Admissions Decision


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.

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.

5 Parenting Lessons from The Hecks of “The Middle”


parenting lessons

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”:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.