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Getting Ready For College Checklist: A Timeline for Parents and Teens

Applying to college can be complicated. There are tests to take (and re-take), visits to make, applications to fill out, and financial aid to apply for. It’s important to have a game plan in mind. Parents and teens need to approach many of these tasks jointly, so it is important to be informed so that you can support your teenager throughout this process.

11 Steps to College:

1. Make a plan for testing.

Decide which test—the ACT or SAT—your student will take, then make a plan for preparing for that test. Check testing dates and register early to avoid paying a penalty. More…

2. Understand what college will cost.

Understand what a school will cost before your student applies to avoid the heartache of telling your student you can’t afford it after she gets accepted.  More…

3. Make your college list.

Doing the research to develop a college list that suits your student (academically, socially, and financially) can make the entire college process easier (and less stressful). More…

4. Plan your campus visits.

Make reservations for your campus visits well in advance, especially if you plan to go during spring break when many juniors are touring schools. More…

5. Write the essay.

A great time to write the essay is the summer between junior and senior year of high school. More…

6. Decide when to apply.

There’s early decision, early action or regular decision. More…

7. Complete applications.

Make sure your student dots the i’s and crosses the t’s (and pay attention to deadlines). More…

8. Demonstrate interest.

Campus visits. Interviews. There are many ways your student can demonstrate to a college know he’s interested. More…

9. Apply for Financial Aid.

File the FAFSA as early as possible to maximize your student’s financial aid award. It’s available October 1. Page 34. More…

10. Manage the decisions process.

The waiting is the hardest part, but once the decisions are in, be sure to carefully evaluate financial aid offers (more). If your student is deferred or waitlisted, then he should write a letter to improve his chance of getting in (more). If your teenager was rejected, help her move on (more).

11. Get your teenager ready to launch.

Make sure your student has the real-world skills he’ll need to be successful at college and beyond (more). That includes giving teenagers hands-on experience with managing money, including spending on a budget and maintaining a checking account (more).