The College Countdown: Essential Planning Steps for Parents

April 10, 2024 by Spectrum Credit Union

As Federal Student Aid applications for the 2024-2025 school year open up, there's no better time for parents to start guiding their high school-aged children through the college preparation process. The journey to higher education can seem daunting, but with proper planning and support, it can be a smooth transition.

Here are a few things you’ll want to keep on your radar as college comes into view, along with resources to help guide the way.

Know your costs

The first step in preparing for college is understanding the financial aspect. Parents should start by getting a sense of the overall costs associated with higher education like tuition, room and board, textbooks, and other expenses. As of 2024, students at four-year universities pay an average of $36,436 per year, but costs can vary depending on what degree paths and colleges work best for your child.

By having a clear understanding of the financial commitment, parents and students can make informed decisions about college choices and financial aid options. Our College Savings Calculator can help you plan ahead.

Discuss your child’s wants as a family

Every student's college journey is unique, and it's essential for parents to engage in open discussions with their children about their aspirations and preferences. Help your child explore various options, including community colleges, four-year universities, and different degree programs. Encourage them to consider factors such as location, campus culture, and academic offerings. By involving the whole family in these discussions, you can ensure that your child's college choices align with their goals and values.

Create a plan

High school juniors and seniors should have a clear plan in place to navigate the college application process. Encourage your child to meet regularly with their guidance counselor to discuss academic goals and college options. Help them create a timeline that outlines key milestones, such as researching colleges, taking standardized tests, and visiting campuses. Online calendars and planning tools can be valuable resources to keep track of deadlines and appointments.

By staying organized and proactive, students can approach the college application process with confidence. Our College Planning Calendar can help you and your child stay on track with key events in their junior and senior year.

Decide when to apply

Understanding the different college application options is crucial for both parents and students.

Early action allows students to apply to colleges early without committing to attending if accepted.

Early decision is a binding agreement where students commit to attending a specific college if accepted.

Regular decision follows a standard timeline, with applications due in the senior year.

Rolling admission allows students to apply within a broader window, and decisions are made as applications are received.

Consider discussing these options as a family to determine the best approach for their college applications. Once you know how you want to apply, create a timeline for applications to keep everything on track.

Prepare for success

Parents play a vital role in setting their children up for success in college. Encourage healthy study habits, time management skills, and effective communication. Help your child explore extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities that align with their interests and could help them with their college acceptance goals. Additionally, consider emphasizing the importance of seeking support from professors, advisors, and campus resources when needed. By fostering independence and resilience, parents can help their children thrive in the college environment.

Preparing for college is a collaborative effort between parents and students, and Spectrum Credit Union is here to support you every step of the way. From helpful resources to interactive calendars and planning tools, we're dedicated to helping parents and college-bound students navigate the journey to higher education with confidence and ease. Start planning today to ensure a bright future tomorrow.

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