It has certainly been a difficult year with COVID and natural disasters disrupting our lives in many unusual ways. Parents may be tempted to let their students take off this summer so they can “just have a little fun.” While this might be acceptable for younger students, rising high school seniors really need to accomplish a lot over these few months if they intend to go to college in 2022.
Instead of history, math and science, the summer curriculum should focus on college admissions, financial aid, and scholarships. Here are key lesson topics on the college education agenda:
- Admissions Applications 101: Most college applications will open on August 1. By that time your student should have a list of his/her top ten choices including dream, target and safety schools. He/she should know the application requirements for each, and understand all testing requirements. Take charge of scheduling in-person or virtual visits, and make sure a discussion with the financial aid office is on the list. Your student should also have sorted this list into early decision, early action and regular admission categories. Some progress should have been made on writing essays and securing letters of recommendation. If you don’t fully understand any of these concepts, then you and your student have got some very serious research to do very quickly.
- College Financial Aid 101: Most financial aid applications come online October 1. By that time you and your student should have completed your federal income taxes for 2020, have an FSA ID, and know where all of your necessary documentation is located. Topics to be covered in this class include scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans.
- Scholarships 101: Your student can technically apply for college scholarships throughout the high school years and into the college years as well, but most students focus on those which have deadlines in the fall and winter of their senior year. By this point your student should have a list of potential scholarship sources, know the application requirements and deadlines for each, and have a head start on meeting any application requirements.
- Scheduling 101: We have just put a lot of items on the to-do list, so scheduling will become a big issue, especially when classes start up again in the fall. It is best to complete as much of the preliminary research and application requirements now, so there will be less of a frantic rush to complete everything. Help your student set up a planning schedule or spreadsheet so that tasks can be broken into manageable chunks, and completed before the given deadline.
- Money Issues and Budgeting 401: This is a super-advanced class with topics that will serve your student well in college and throughout life. Here you may need to share some hard truths about how much money your family can afford to pay for college, and discuss colleges that are in your financial reach. Be sure to teach your student about the importance of living within a budget, and not borrowing beyond your means. Have a very serious talk now about credit, as well as the positives and negatives of student loans, and set very clear expectations as to who will be responsible for making those payments once the loans start coming due.
It may be hard to place yourself in the role of a teacher, but these are all very important lessons your student needs to learn earlier rather than later. If you succeed in imparting scheduling, time management, budgeting, research, and self-discipline skills to your student, you will also have given him/her skills that can be used throughout college and into the adult years.
If all of these lessons are on track, you and your student might still be able to spend some time together. If you need more insights to get the discussion started, set up a CFAA new client free strategy session now to learn more about financial aid and finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.