By Meredith Clement, Managing Editor, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority
April 20, 2021
College is filled with new experiences, challenges and adventures, and for each student, it plays a pivotal role in the course of life. As your family looks ahead to this important time, there are ways your child can prepare. Below are steps to help your child get ready for the post-secondary years ahead.
Colleges require minimum course completion to apply. Look at different college websites now to get an idea of what’s required and have your child work with a school counselor to select each year’s high school courses. You may want to reference the admissions standards for the public universities in your state.
It’s also helpful to understand the different types of courses that high schools might offer, including the following:
- Advanced Placement (AP): College-level courses in 38 subjects, which can provide college credit if students achieve a certain score on an exam
- International Baccalaureate (IB): Rigorous courses with a large amount of reading and writing that some colleges accept for credit
- Dual Credit or Dual Enrollment: Higher-level courses that may be taught at a nearby college, which can allow students to earn high school and college credit at the same time
Many colleges required standardized tests, either the SAT or ACT, for college admissions. And though some schools are currently test-optional, submitting a strong test score to those institutions can significantly help a student’s chances for admission. Students should take advantage of free test prep on both the SAT and ACT websites, and they should plan to take the test a few times for an optimum score.
A college degree comes at a price, and it’s important to determine as a family your plan to pay for college expenses. How much will you expect your child to contribute? How much can you as a parent provide? Will your child potentially need to work while taking classes? Is there an expectation that he or she will borrow loans if needed? How much debt is too much? Prepare your child now for the financial commitment of higher education by getting yourselves aligned on your plan to pay.
Students can set themselves up to excel in college by adopting positive habits before they arrive. While high school can teach students some of these skills, you may need to work with your child to acquire others. Look for opportunities to help your child develop the proficiencies below in extracurricular activities, service work, your faith community, and even within your family.
- Time management
- Public speaking
- Money management
- Seeking help when needed
- Stress management
- Problem solving
Students do well in college when they have a strong support system, so let your child know that you’re standing by as their number one cheerleader and helper. Make it apparent that you are ready to step in with advice or assistance whenever needed. Check in regularly as the college experiences gets closer, and continue to offer guidance, while also allowing your child to grow and develop on his or her own. Maintaining a balance of support will lead to your child’s future success.
About the Author
Meredith Clement serves as the Managing Editor at MEFA, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority. If you have any questions about planning, saving, and paying for a child’s college education, MEFA has the answers. Reach out to MEFA’s College Planning Team at (800) 449-6332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.