It is easy for students and their parents to feel overwhelmed at this time of year. High school seniors are finishing applications or waiting for decisions if they've applied early. Their parents may be gathering financial aid documents and wondering what kind of costs they can expect next year, as well as imagining how life will soon change with a child away at college. Juniors and their parents are anticipating the uncharted territory ahead. With these dynamics in mind, we offer some reminders to help you keep the college admission process in perspective during the holiday season and into the New Year.
There IS a college for your child. If your high schooler applies to some schools that are likely to accept him, some that are just right given his interests and abilities, and perhaps a "reach" or two, chances are he WILL find his place. In the unlikely event that your child isn't accepted anywhere, know that there are many good colleges that take applications on a rolling admissions basis right up until the fall.
Try to stay flexible and open. It's easy for a senior to get his heart set on going to a particular college. Remember that there is more than one place where he can be happy, challenged, and successful.
The college process is a lot of work, and it can be emotionally intense. Applying to college can be a challenging process - it requires patience, diligence, and self-analysis. Try not to rush the process - giving yourselves plenty of time is the single best way to reduce the stress.
There will be new costs on the horizon. Not knowing exactly what the cost of college will be, or quite how you will pay for it can be disconcerting. Fortunately, there are many excellent and free tools at your disposal. For example: Finaid.org is a good resource for understanding the financial aid/FAFSA process. College Abacus utilizes net price calculators to compare costs of attendance at nearly 4,000 institutions. You can also consult with a financial advisor (the earlier in the process, the better). Keeping your financial documents organized and budgeting time for managing college financing questions helps, too.
Keep it in perspective. Try to minimize stress for yourself and your child. College is just one step on your child's life-long journey. Try to keep in mind the end goal for yourselves as parents and, more importantly, for your child. We hope that it involves the development of a happy, healthy, independent adult.