This article is the first in a series based on a collaboration between Maureen O’Dea, the Director of School Counseling at Londonderry High School and the Londonderry Times. The articles will cover various aspects of the college planning process including finding colleges, choosing a college, paying for college and other related topics.
To kick things off, the focus is on what seniors should be doing as they enter the intense home stretch in the college process. At this point, it is assumed that your student has at least a starter list of colleges in mind and they have taken standardized tests at least once – either the SAT or ACT. As juniors, students would have taken an SAT test last spring in school.
If they have not taken either test, get them registered for one as soon as possible. The next SAT is on Oct. 6, but you have to register for it by September 7. The next ACT is on Oct. 27, but you have to register for it by Sept. 28.
To get off on the right foot in early September, O’Dea recommends parents sitting down with their senior to discuss plans and goals. It might be less stressful to do this as an evening out (perhaps dinner at a favorite restaurant) with your college-bound child. Go over your strategy for the school year.
Do they want to take any additional standardized testing? If they need teacher recommendations, who will they ask? How much can you afford to pay for college?
Review your child’s list of colleges. If necessary, find a few more colleges using an online college finder to make sure you haven’t neglected any possible colleges. Decide if you want to go to any college fairs to learn about colleges on your list. LHS is hosting a college fair in the gym on September 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. with about 100 colleges represented. See if admissions representatives from the colleges that interest your student will be visiting LHS, and if so plan to attend their information sessions.
In Oct., learn about Early Decision or Early Action at target colleges and decide whether your senior will apply to any colleges under those options or if they will apply as Regular Decision.
O’Dea says that this is also a good time to create a calendar to keep track of the application and financial aid dates for each college. On the topic of financial aid, all colleges require filing of the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) for your student to be considered for financial aid. A smaller number of colleges also require a form called the CSS/Profile. Make sure you understand which is required for your colleges. LHS is hosting a Financial Aid Night on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. in the LHS cafeteria. Students are welcome and can win a $250 scholarship.
Most colleges require some sort of essay as part of the application, so look into what is required for each and get started on them. Lots of colleges use the Common Application, a unified application that lets students easily apply to multiple colleges. Have your student create an account and check it out. There is an essay requirement built in and some colleges will also require supplemental essays.
Consider making college visits to the schools at the top of the list and schedule any interviews that can be completed on campus or with college alumni. Early in the year is a good time to figure out what your student and family can afford to pay for college. If the college is visiting LHS be sure you attend the meeting. If you can’t, be sure you contact the admissions representative and let them know you couldn’t miss class. Demonstrated interest plays a role in the admission decision.
Based on your finances, the strength of your student’s academic record and the college they apply to, the Expected Family Contribution is something that can vary. It is a good idea for the parents to get a sense of what they and the student will be asked to pay by running through the Net Price Calculator (NPC) for a few of the top colleges on the list.
Starting in Nov. it is crunch time. Parents you might have to start nagging your teen about early application deadlines, if applicable. Families should also narrow the college list to those schools to which applications will be sent. Most colleges have regular decision application due dates in Dec. and Jan. As the student starts working on (or completing) applications, parents can offer to proofread and provide constructive criticism.