Give Your Kid the Advantage to Getting into College
A year-by-year guide for high school students
Cash strapped and concerned are how most parents are feeling about sending their kids to college these days. A four year degree is, on average, $100,000. Additionally, 50 percent of students who start college don't finish. Ron Caruthers is president of Ducerus
, a full-service college planning company based in San Diego. He helps parents give their teenagers a strategic advantage to getting into the school of their choice by creating a customized plan for each client.
Below is his freshman-senior year college planning guide for parents and students. Additionally, Ducerus hosts free workshops to help moms, dads and their high school students learn all the ins and outs of college planning. Sign up today at www.ducerus.com
-Reality check: make sure your teenager’s career interests match up with his/her desired lifestyle. For example, if the student wants to be a teacher, find out the annual salary for that field. Have the student pick out the kind of house they want to live in and car they want to drive. This process gives kids an understanding of what that career will afford them.
-Talk to others: get the inside scoop on what your student's interested in by talking to others already working in that field.
-Hit the road: visit a variety of colleges while they’re in session. Include public and private institutions that are large and small. Your student will get an idea of the type of school he or she is most interested in. Visiting while school is in session will helps get a feel for the ‘personality’ of each school.
-Get help: college is a risky and expensive adventure, but you don't have to go it alone. Think of college planning like doing your taxes. You're more likely to come out ahead if work with an expert. Talk to college planners in your area and find out how they help parents and students navigate the complex system of college planning. Ask if they provide assistance with the entire process - including school selection, admissions, funding, and standardized testing, or if their expertise is limited to certain elements of the process.
-Show me the money: research schools and their costs. For example, annual tuition at a state university is generally less expensive than a private one, however graduation rates differ from school to school. On average students at state institutions graduate in five to six years, but those at private schools graduate in four years. This means a private school might cost a family the same amount as a state school.
-Study up on standardized tests: have your student begin prepping for the SAT and ACT about 20 minutes a day. The PSAT that students take in October of their junior year could also qualify them as a National Merit Scholar, which means they might receive scholarship money. It pays (literally) to do well on standardized tests.
-Get the inside scoop: internships are an eye opening experience. Your teenager can find out what it means to work in their chosen industry and determine if it’s something he or she might enjoy before you write the big tuition checks.
-Make a list: focus on eight to 12 schools, and consider both public and private institutions. Don't let your student apply to only one school. The admissions process is extremely competitive. If your student only applies to only one school, chances are they might not get in, and then what?
-Vacations become research opportunities: re-visit the schools your student is interested in and find how what they're really like. Take the time to setup meetings with professors and tour the campus. Have your student sit in on a class and go to a football game or social activity. You don't want to have your student to pack their bags and head home because they don't feel like they fit in.
-Avoid senioritis: have your admissions packet complete by October. This gets it out of the way early and gives your student the time to focus on all the other activities going on that year.
-Fill out the FASFA form by January 31. Don’t wait until your taxes are done. Many parents think they make too much money to qualify for financial aid, when in many cases that's not true. Those who make $100,000 a year may still qualify.
-Don't rush to a decision: when offers start coming in take your time and review them. Students will often want to make the decision quickly, but taking your time and weighing your options will pay off in the end. Make sure you’ve heard from every school both for admission and financial aid before making a final decision by May 1.
-Be sure to alert the college’s financial aid office to any change in circumstances that might affect your ability to pay for college, such as loss of job, major medical expenses or having to take care of a sick family member. Schools can often increase aid mid-year if these changes occur.
About Ron Caruthers: He is the author of What Your Guidance Counselor Isn't Telling You,
a brief but comprehensive guide to helping parents navigate effectively through the college process. He is a frequent guest on local and national news programs, and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal
, USA Today
, Inc. Magazine
and has been seen on Fox News, CBS and locally on the WB Network and KUSI. Learn more about Caruthers and Ducerus at www.ducerus.com