Summer steps to help prepare for college admission

Before summer turns into fall, get a head start on the college application process with these helpful tips.

If your child will soon be entering the elite grade in high school that comes with having achieved “senior” status, this upcoming year will be an exciting and busy time with homecoming, proms, school pictures and graduation plans. It can also be an emotional one, with many decisions to make. If your teen is considering college as the next step, here are a few ways parents can help.

  • Ask your child why he or she wants to go to college.  Discuss goals, plans after high school, career interests and post-secondary education options.
  • Encourage your future senior to take on leadership roles, participate in extra-curricular activities and volunteer with community agencies.  All of these factors contribute to making your child’s college application more appealing to admissions officers.
  • Attend college fairs with your student and encourage your child to do the talking.  Make your student responsible for uncovering the unique details that will aid in choosing the best school.
  • Take your child to visit college campuses. Getting a feel for the campus size and atmosphere will help to determine if the campus is a “good fit” for your student.
  • Narrow down the list of colleges your child is considering by developing criteria such as costs, fees and reputation.
  • Become familiar with the financial aid process.  This includes completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA).
  • Encourage your teen to apply for scholarships now. You can conduct a free college scholarship search and find an abundance of information about scholarship money your child may be eligible to receive based on attributes such as ethnicity, major, location, GPA, year in school, organizations of interest, etc.
  • Investigate the admission requirements for those colleges your student is considering (each college and university has their own entrance requirements).  Factors such as test scores, GPA, class rank and courses taken influence whether your student stands out in the admission process. Keep in mind the application deadline will also vary from school to school. 
  • Utilize the College Board website to find helpful and free information on the college planning process and financing a college education.
  • Review your child’s application prior to submission to check for obvious errors and typos, keeping in mind it is important parents refrain from editing or rewriting a student’s essays.  The writing of a 17 year-old will sound nothing like the written work of an adult.

Searching and applying for college is an exciting and life-shaping experience; at times it can also be challenging for both students and parents. Parents can stay involved in the process by occasionally asking for updates and checking in on application deadlines. It's important to have a balance that allows the parent to stay involved while also maintaining enough distance to allow the student to choose the college that's right for him or her.

If your child is not yet a senior but ready to explore these topics, Michigan State University Extension offers attendees at 4-H Exploration Days each June the opportunity to attend the MSU: A Great College Choice class. This session explores these topics in depth with an Admissions Director. Students can also begin exploring post-secondary education by contacting their school guidance counselor. Many college representatives around the country make regular visits to high schools to help explain the college admission process and can provide more information.

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