3 Ways to Help your Teen with College Planning

You’ve spent years volunteering in the classroom, cheering from the sidelines at baseball games, and moving between ballet lessons and doctor visits. So it’s tough to know just how much (or how little) you should be helping your high schooler plan for college. This is the first real adult decision your kid will ever make…and it’s kind of a big deal.

No wonder you’ve got that eye twitch.

There’s an optimal balance for your role in the process. Here’s how you can help support your teen in the most impactful ways possible, without being an overbearing helicopter parent:

  1. Assist with the overall process.

The college admissions process is definitely not intuitive. Your teen doesn’t know what they don’t know, but you can help with the structure needed for effective planning. And you know what? You don’t know what you don’t know, either. Make sure you sign up for my email list and check out the College Planning Timeline checklist for help with that.

  1. Help with calendars and deadline tracking.

Unless your teen is crazy-organized and manages time uncommonly well, it’ll be helpful for you to aid in keeping track of the myriad of dates, schedules and deadlines needed for admissions testing, application submission and all of the little things in between. Here are a few things you should help keep track of:

  • The standardized testing plan (SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP exams) and any preparation needed
  • Meetings with the guidance counselor
  • Dates for college visits and campus tours
  • College application deadlines

Check out my 4 Tips for Staying Organized with College Planning post for more support with tracking all of this!

  1. Act as a coach, not a player.

While you’re going to be quite involved in this process, remember that you’re not applying to college – your child is. You should offer guidance, direction and encouragement, but you definitely shouldn’t be directly playing the game. This is, ultimately, your teenager’s admissions process and school choice, no matter how much your legacy at UC Davis might appeal to the admissions officers.Remember to listen to your teen. Hear what they want from the college experience and offer support to help them get to those goals. Keep their excitement up for what’s to come.

And most importantly – don’t panic! The college admissions process is a stressful time for your teen and adding more pressure on top of that would be detrimental. Know that, as long as your teen has a well-balanced list of colleges to apply to, they will get into a college that will be a good fit for them.

The real world is filled with deadlines, complicated forms, scary choices. Know where to draw the line with admissions, and let this be your teen’s first big win!

Not so easy balancing this, is it? How are you involved in college planning with your high schooler? Leave a comment below!

4 Easy Ways to Find Scholarships

Scholarships aren’t just for athletes and smarty-pants kids anymore. There are thousands of scholarships out there that you didn’t even know existed.

Honestly, and I’m not making this up:Is your kid tall? Awesome. Hopefully your family lives in Phoenix – that would make your teen eligible for the $250 CATS Tall Club Scholarship.

Knows how to attract water fowl? Sweet. They’re giving out $2,000 in scholarships for the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest.

Ready to take on a hoard of zombies? The Unigo Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship is the one to go for: one successful survivor will get a scholarship worth $2,000.

Ok, so those are some particularly bizarre examples. Let’s figure out which scholarships your high schooler is eligible for – outlandish or otherwise. I promise they’re out there.

Scholarship Search Engines

Have your teen plug in characteristics about themselves into the following search engines, and then you’re cooking with gas. These are my two preferred tools for students to use, because they keep information private and the scholarships are updated regularly:

BigFuture Scholarship Search: The College Board hosts this resource for high school kids – the same folks who create the PSAT and SAT exams. Awesome tool.

Fastweb: This one’s been around since 1995 and has 1.5 million in scholarships worth $3.4 billion available. Definitely a great resource.

College-Specific Scholarships

Your teen should connect with the financial aid offices for prospective colleges – they’ve got the best gauge for funds there. In fact, a friend of mine worked as an aid in her college’s financial aid office back in the day and saw scholarships that no one even applied for. Students who ask directly win those if they’re eligible! And don’t forget to ask the high school guidance counselor.

Community & Employers

An amazing resource for scholarships could be as close as your social circles.If you’re part of a religious community, ask about local, regional or even national scholarships for denominational eligibility. Your very own employers might offer scholarships for children of employees – lots do that. Local Rotary, Elks, Eagles and Lions clubs tend to have scholarships, too. Also, it sounds archaic, but check the local newspaper, too. Ask, ask, ask!

Hot Tip #1: Before you sign up for any of the scholarship search engines, make sure your teen signs up for a separate email address to use solely for college planning purposes. Because, honestly – they’re going to hate the amount of email that’s about to come flooding in.

Hot Tip #2: Never pay for scholarship search services. Don’t trade money for money – it’s likely a scam.

What scholarships are you finding that your teen’s eligible for? Where are you looking? Leave a comment below!