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Learn... Plan... Prepare for College

Steps to Build Plan
  Step 1 - Student Preparations
  Step 2 - Take exams
  Step 3 - Choose college and apply
  Step 4 - Get financial aid
  Step 5 - Prepare for departure
  Step 6 - Get help
Tools
  Find the annual costs of any four-year college or university
  Scholarship Search Wizard
Choose colleges and apply

Choosing, applying and being accepted to the right college can make all the difference in whether or not your student succeeds. There are four basic steps to this process.

Determine what is important to you and your child
There are a number of factors that should be considered in choosing the right college, and these items must be carefully weighed by both you and your child. It is important to communicate well during this process about both your expectations as a parent and about what your child is really interested in. Both of you must be honest, or someone is bound to be disappointed, and that could impact the chances for success. The items to consider include:

  • Type of school (technical, community, 4-year college)
  • Location (local or in another state)
  • Degree or certification program
  • Cost and availability of financial aid
  • Facilities and extracurricular programs
  • Living accommodations
  • Academic standards for admission

Make a list of potential schools
By the beginning of your child's junior year, it is time to start considering which schools match the criteria that you and your child derived during the discussion above.

  • Conduct an online search
  • Talk to your high school guidance counselors
  • Request catalogs from schools of interest
  • Talk to college representatives
  • Talk to other college graduates

If you are having trouble getting enough information on various colleges and/or degree programs, the Internet has thousands of sites. Try collegenet.com which has a good college search engine and also can help with scholarship information.

Narrow your list to no more than 6 schools
By the beginning of the senior year, determine the top six schools based on discussions between you and your child. If your list is still too long, check out other information resources, check the schools' websites, and speak with college representatives. If possible, even visit the campuses and talk to some students. Continue to narrow the list of choices until you get to six or less. The list should include your two best matches based on qualifications, one or two that might be long shots, and one or two (probably in the state) that are considered suitable if the other choices don't pan out.

Apply to those colleges that interest you and your child
Submit applications to all the schools of interest, even if you don't believe you will be accepted. You can apply to some schools online, but you may have to follow up with written materials. Pay attention to their admission deadlines which can be as early as January of your child's senior year. It's wise to follow up a week or so later and make sure they have received the materials and that they are sufficient.

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