Over the last few weeks of summer, I have heard from so many families about helping their child get started with the application process. Some haven't visited colleges yet, started their applications, or even considered where they plan to apply. They are feeling like their son or daughter is behind. But they're not, and you're not. There is still plenty of time to apply to college. Here's how a student can get on track.
1. Attend An Open House
You will want to attend at least one open house at a local college or university. Getting on campus is key. Every college is going to offer some type of program this fall for prospective students. You will be surprised how many other families are exactly where you are. One visit gets this process started.
2. Consider a Test Optional College
If standardized tests are scaring off your child, don't worry. There are hundreds of colleges that are now test optional. Test optional policies allow a student to apply without test scores. That being said, those institutions will focus more on the student's high school record. It's a great option if tests are the barrier to your child pursuing higher education. Check out fairtest.org for a full list of test optional colleges. There is a wide variety of colleges with this policy - from the highly selective to open enrollment institutions.
3. Apply Together
Sometimes students just need someone to sit with them to get started filling out an application. The Common Application is the most widely accepted application with over 700 member colleges. But most state universities have their own applications which are usually very straightforward and oftentimes don't even require an essay. Applying to college can be intimidating. Filling out the application with someone next to you can remove some of the fear of just getting started. Once the student realizes it's not as scary as they thought, they can finish the application on their own and start more. This isn't about doing the application for them; this is about lending moral support.
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4. Find a mentor
If your child isn't responding to you and your recommendations about college, find someone who they will respond to. Students can be fickle about taking advice from parents. The moment they sit down with someone unrelated, everything can change. Mentors can be found at your child's school or in the community. One conversation can flip the switch. Two conversations can be transformative to a student.
5. Consider a Gap Year
Not every student is ready to go to college right after high school. The "gap year" option is for everyone, though. Students who aren't quite ready for college or those that want to do something meaningful before starting college can pursue an array of pursuits during a gap year - a full-time job, service work, internships, special training in sports or the arts, or travel. The great thing is that anything goes when it comes to the gap year option as long as the student is doing something productive for the year. Oh, and by the way, colleges LOVE gap year students. They are mature, have real life experiences, and approach college with focus and motivation.