Planning for college is an important milestone in your life and your student's life. This time is emotional and exciting for both of you.
Both you and your student have many decisions you need to make that can help shape their future. College of DuPage has resources that can help you and your student make these decisions together.
The earlier you start preparing for college, the more successful your student will be. This is one of the reasons why it is so important that your student maintains their grade point average throughout high school. Your student's GPA is one factor that colleges consider when they decide to accept or deny a student.
In addition to your GPA, colleges may also examine your student's:
- High school course selection
- Extracurricular activities and community service experience
- Standardized test scores
As high school progresses, your student should begin preparing for the American College Test (ACT). Your student should aim to take this test the fall of their junior year of high school. This gives your student time to retake the test if needed and balance their ACT with filling out college applications.
There are many ACT prep books available that you can purchase to help your student prepare for the exam, but many local colleges and universities also offer individualized tutoring that can help students concentrate on specific subject areas.
Your student's school counselor should be able to give your student information on registering for the exam, otherwise all of this information can be found on act.org.
What does your student want to do with their life after high school? Even though most schools and programs do not require students to declare a major until their sophomore year of college, it is important for your student to begin thinking about their future.
You can begin this discussion by asking your student questions like:
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What courses do they enjoy?
- What careers sound enticing to them?
- What are their career goals?
Encourage your student to research specific roles and organizations. By conducting interviews of business professionals or job shadowing places of interest, your student can get more familiar with what a typical work day may be like and what they may want to do with their life.
There is no magic formula that you can use to help your student choose a college, but there are steps you can take to help you choose one that will work best:
- Decide what you want in a school. Does your student want to attend a large four-year university or a two-year community college? Do they want to attend school close to home or further away? Your answers to these questions will help you narrow your choices.
- Determine the setting. Colleges are located in rural, urban and suburban cities. Think about the type of environment your student likes and where they will feel comfortable living for a few years.
- Review admission requirements. Not all colleges have the same admission requirements. Requirements vary and can range from: reviewing high school test scores to grade point averages to involvement in extracurricular activities.
- Examine the costs: College is expensive and prices vary. Research schools that meet your academic and financial needs so you can compare the colleges you’re touring.
- Consider attending a community college. You and your student can save money by choosing to attend a community college for the first two years of your student's education. Attending a local community or junior college gives your student plenty of time to complete their general education courses, determine a major and transfer to a university. College of DuPage has several transfer agreements in place with four-year universities that enable students to transfer credits seamlessly and earn their bachelor's degree.
Most colleges and universities have a similar application process, but their requirements for acceptance may be different. Before you begin applying, your student should read all of the college's instructions carefully. Careless mistakes can hurt your student's chance of being accepted.
The college application process usually consists of:
- Your student's application
- An application fee
- Your student's high school transcript
- Your student's standardized test scores
Depending on the college or university, your student may also need to write an essay, include letters of recommendation or complete an entrance interview.
Keep in mind that different colleges have different application deadlines, so your student should allow plenty of time to apply.
Research financial aid options as early as you can. Financial aid covers more than just loans or money from the government – there are many different types of aid available. Financial aid includes scholarships, grants and work study programs.
The financial aid you receive can be used for:
- Tuition and fees
- Room and board
- Books and supplies
Your can submit your FAFSA as early as Oct. 1. The earlier you apply, the more grant money you may receive.
Many colleges also offer payment plans that can help students reduce their debt by making monthly payments. College of DuPage's Office of Student Financial Assistance has compiled a Parent and Family Guide for you to navigate the financial aid process with your student.