student girl walking awayThe junior and senior years in high school are a time filled with excitement, anxiety and anticipation, for both teens and their parents. Questions about the future loom large, and matters concerning the college admissions process are always high on the list.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased 37 percent, from 15.3 million to 21 million, between 2000 and 2010. While the recession knocked a bit of steam off those numbers, they are expected to increase again in the coming years.

However, remember that many parents have successfully prepared their children for their post-secondary education, and you can, too. lists some tips for preparing your child for college, with the reminder to find balance between letting your child be independent and giving help when it’s needed:

  • Remind your teen that although SAT and ACT scores are important, so are extracurricular activities, grade point average, application essays and volunteer duties.
  • Colleges like to see a well-rounded student. That means avoiding the “senior slide” – the tendency to slack off in the last year of high school.
  • Take your teen to various college campuses to get a feel for the schools he or she is considering. Talk with students and professors there to pick up further insight into school life.
  • Ask someone with a strong writing ability to help you and your teen on the application forms and essays.
  • Solicit recommendations from teachers, counselors, mentors and employers. Having a strong group of support testimonials from outside sources can help your son or daughter rank higher in college admissions.

Junior Year: Get Ready

Getting ready for college is more than just filling out a few forms and paying your tuition. According to U.S. News & World Report, students need to start the process during their junior year, when they should sit down with their guidance counselor, schedule and take the SAT or ACT and reach out to college admission representatives.

For some students, deciding to go to college online is a better fit for their lifestyle. Parents and prospective online students can find online college resources at

Senior Year: Get Set

Here’s a parent’s guide to what their teens should do during their senior year to prepare for college:

September. Attend college fairs and meet with college representatives who visit your student’s school. This will continue until you select a school.

October. Help your teen complete a list of colleges he or she is interested in, and add financial aid and application dates to the family calendar. Start visiting campuses.

November. Narrow your list to schools where applications will be sent. Pay attention to early application deadlines. Proofread and provide constructive criticism on your teen’s essays and applications.

December. Register for upcoming SAT or ACT tests if your teen wants to retake them. Federal financial aid forms should be obtained from the high school’s guidance office or the Web. Remind your teen about January and February application deadlines.

January. Complete and submit all applications and financial aid forms. Save copies of everything.

February. Your teen should check the status of applications, unless confirmations have been received.

March. You are nearing the finish line – decision letters should start arriving. If it’s a rejection letter, help your teen put things in perspective. Keep thoughts positive and constructive. This is crunch time, so make any final campus visits to help you decide.

April and May. You and your teen make the big decision; if there’s a required deposit, send it. Thank everyone who helped with the process and find out the dates for freshman orientation.


Finally, here are some “life-away-from-home” tips from Family Circle:

  • If he or she doesn’t already know, teach your teen how to do laundry and how to take care of wardrobe malfunctions with a sewing kit.
  • Go over budgeting and money matters. A credit card in your name as well as your teen’s name is a good idea, though stress it’s for emergency use only.
  • Review the importance of a good diet, and have any necessary conversations about drugs, alcohol and sex.
  • If your child has had his or her own room, chances are sharing space with a roommate will come with challenges. Teach your teen to respect the roommate and make accommodations when needed; compromise will be necessary.
  • You won’t be able to nurse your child to health once illness sets in, so check out health insurance options. If your child takes medications, go over the schedule. Buy and pack a first-aid kit.

Transitioning from high school to college is a huge step for teenager and parent alike. If you’ve done your best to raise a responsible teen, the next step is to breathe, smile and let go. It’s time for your child to flourish in this next phase of life.