What Parents Need to Know About the College Admissions Timeline | College Admissions Playbook
The college admissions process puts a lot of pressure on students, but parents can ease the pressure by being critically involved.
Here are five important things parents should know about the college admissions timeline, what it entails, and how they can help.
The sooner you and your teen start researching colleges, the better. Even freshman year is not too early. With thousands of attractive options to consider, as well as academic and non-academic commitments to keep high schoolers busy, application deadlines can shrink quite quickly.
However, you can get your student started on the daunting college hunt by helping to narrow down the options.
First, brainstorm a list of “non-negotiable factors,” “game changers,” and “deal breakers” related to college attributes. Then start typing these factors into an online search engine such as Big Future from the university council, college confidential, Niche or Unigo, which will create a list of schools that match your criteria. US News’ My Fit Custom College Ranking is another helpful tool.
Next, continue to research your options one at a time and eliminate those that don’t fit your family.
Once you and your student have narrowed your list down to about 10 interesting colleges, it’s time to plan virtual or preferably in-person visits. Ideally, your family will begin this step in your sophomore year or early junior year at the latest.
Planning is especially important when visiting far-flung colleges, so these more expensive and time-consuming trips are best reserved for the school holidays or summer break.
Because college attendance can get overwhelming, it’s important to keep detailed notes of your family’s observations, likes, and dislikes about each school. These are points that could easily be forgotten due to the excitement and constant coming and going, especially when touring multiple campuses in a short space of time.
Collection of application documents
Generally, to apply to college, students must submit at least their official high school transcript and two or three letters of recommendation. In addition, they may be asked to submit their SAT or ACT scores, a copy of their resume, and one or more college essays.
Some of these documents can be collected or sent fairly quickly. For example, SAT scores are generally submitted to colleges within 10 days of the student results being published. However, because recommendations are written by third parties who may be busy with other to-dos, this request takes longer to complete.
Also note that completing a resume, personal statement, and supporting essays can take several weeks or even months, as the writing process consists of several stages: brainstorming, outline, drafting, writing, editing, and proofreading.
To avoid undue stress and missed deadlines, help your teen keep track of where he or she is in the materials gathering process. To that end, it might be best to keep a spreadsheet of any unofficial deadlines you’ve set, along with all of your various comments.
Application for scholarships
Competition for academic scholarships is fierce, and applications typically require an essay and/or letters of recommendation. Therefore, like most other aspects of the college admissions process, scholarships are best sought and applied for as early as possible. To attempt grants. com or the US News Scholarship Finder to get started.
It is important to note that scholarship deadlines vary widely. Some schools set their deadlines for February, while others begin accepting applications in December and accept applications well into the spring. May seems to be a particularly popular month for scholarship dates.
The bottom line for your family is to make no assumptions and instead find out and follow the rules of any college or organization offering money.
Completion of the FAFSA
Students can also receive scholarships and grants based on financial need. However, to qualify for such aid from colleges, they are usually required to complete the free federal student aid application, commonly referred to as the FAFSA.
Your teen will need your help with this step, as the FAFSA will ask for personal information about parents, income, investments, assets and more, making it necessary to have tax and other documents on hand.
The FAFSA is due by June 30 before the school year if students need assistance. You and your family have until the end of your child’s last year of life to fulfill this requirement.
However, since you may need to pull answers from various official forms, you and your teen should aim to gather the required documents and start completing the FAFSA well in advance of the deadline. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be completed in a single sitting, so it can be completed over a comfortable amount of time.
Even if you don’t qualify for federal need-based financial aid, colleges and universities typically require FAFSA to provide institutional aid.