Tips to Prepare Your High School Senior for College
For many high school students, college is the next logical step after graduation. There are a lot of things to think about and prepare for. If you have a child who is thinking about higher education, here are tips to help prepare them (and you) for college.
Have your child meet with their high school counselor.
The school counselor can help you and your child decide which schools are the best fit, interpret the application requirements for different schools and provide information on financial aid programs and processes.
Educate yourself on different types of financial aid.
While the school counselor can help with this, it’s important that you and your child learn as much as possible about federal loans, grants and work study; state aid programs; private loans, grants and scholarships; and aid from specific schools your child wants to apply to.
Studentaid.gov summarizes the basic eligibility requirements for different forms of federal student aid. Studentaid.gov also provides an info sheet explaining how to apply for student aid (FAFSA), along with the types of aid, eligibility and program details. If you’re thinking of helping your child with college costs, check out this other blog post by LSS.
Complete FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
This form is used not only for applying for federal student aid; state higher education offices and schools you apply to use it to determine financial aid awards. Fill out the FAFSA form with your child right away to increase their chances of receiving the maximum amount of financial aid. Application deadlines for aid programs differ, and some colleges might have early submission deadlines. (During your child’s senior year, look for the form after October 1.) Filling out FAFSA can be tedious and complicated. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has a step-by-step guide for filling out the FAFSA form.
When determining the amount to take out in loans, be sure to only take out the amount your child actually needs for school, and review repayment options and information. The worst thing to do is take out the full amount awarded if it’s not needed; that can lead to unaffordable payments after college. It’s always smart to take out the least amount of loans necessary.
Identify college grants/scholarships.
Applying for as many grants as possible can help minimize the amount you and/or your child need to borrow. Here’s how to find scholarships/grants to apply for:
- Check first with your child’s school counselor to look for local grants/scholarships. Ask the guidance counselor what grants may be available for your child from your state and local organizations. When a college has been chosen, the counselor can help find specific grants/scholarships for that school as well.
- Search online. Search online for scholarships/grants that include your child’s location, interests and even potential majors.
Help prepare your child for life after high school.
StudentAid.gov provides helpful checklists for you and your child to follow, detailing steps to take throughout your child’s senior year.
Preparing your child for college can seem daunting. Luckily, LSS Financial Counseling has experienced counselors who can help. We can discuss your/your child’s options for higher education funding and work with you on getting your finances in order to ensure you’re ready for college-related costs. Call 888.577.2227 to schedule your free, confidential appointment.
Author Ray McCoy is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.