College Resource Guide for Parents: Everything You Need to Know

College Resource Guide for Parents | Everything You Need to Know
View our resource guide for parents to learn more information before your child goes off to college.
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College Resource Guide for Parents | Everything You Need to Know
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As your children prepare to apply for and attend college, you likely have a host of questions. One thing that is incredibly important is to attend planning sessions and seminars that both your children’s high school and their chosen college host because information can vary from college to college. In addition to that more specific information, knowing some basic information can help you to better navigate the college-prep process and know what topics to explore.

Standardized Test Scores​

Typically, students begin taking standardized tests, such as the SAT® and ACT®, in their junior year of high school. Keep in mind that many students do take these exams more than once in order to bolster their scores.

Knowing the preferred test of your children’s intended schools is important. A few schools prioritize one standardized exam over the other, but it can vary widely from one school to the next. Generally speaking, colleges that require standardized testing accept both the SAT and ACT, giving each test equal weight.

Applications and Deadlines​

Do not assume that all universities have the same application deadlines — this assumption is certain to lead to confusion and missed opportunities. Some deadlines could be in the fall of your child’s senior year of high school and other deadlines might extend into the spring. Your children may even want to apply to some schools on an early-decision or early-action basis. Applying with an early-decision standing is a promise that your children will attend the school if they are accepted. Early-action requirements vary by school.

Following Directions and Application Requirements​

Regardless of whether you’re thinking about applications for admissions or for financial aid, you must emphasize the importance of following directions to your teenagers. These types of applications often have clear and direct requirements. If your children do not follow the requirements, they may automatically be rejected from the school or for the financial aid opportunity. Your high school senior may write a beautiful admissions essay, for example, but if it does not answer the question asked on the application, rejection is almost certain to follow.

Admissions Essay​

A strong admissions essay is quite important at many schools, so encouraging your teenagers to start early and to review their essays many times is very important. Parents, friends, or teachers who are good at writing can help give feedback and suggestions.

You should also look into programs at local colleges and universities or at the school where your children are hoping to enroll. Some colleges offer workshops or seminars for students in high school to specifically assist them with their admissions essays. Also, many colleges have writing centers on campus. A number of these centers are exclusively for current and former students, but you might find a center that can work with high school students.

Financial Aid​

With the high costs of college tuition, applying for financial aid is a step that many families take. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as FAFSA, is a common step.

Keep in mind that the deadline for this application can be quite early, so you need to check with the college. For example, you may need to fill out this form well before your children attend their high school graduation.

Once your children are enrolled in the school, the deadlines may be even earlier. In other words, if you are planning to apply for financial aid for sophomore year and beyond, you may find that your family needs to fill out the forms shortly after the spring semester begins. Pay close attention to these deadlines.


After going on multiple tours, you might be tired of visiting schools. However, once your children are accepted into college, you absolutely should enroll them in one of the school’s orientation programs.

Orientation is an excellent time for your children to get more comfortable with the campus and to begin to form bonds with their peers. Schools have different programs, but some institutions will even have the students attend a model class so that they can see what college life is like. Also, some schools have orientation programs for the parents. You’ll get to meet with other parents who will soon send their children to that college.

Extracurricular Activities​

Whether your children are living on campus or commuting to the school, encourage them to take part in extracurricular activities. Many colleges have a wide range of clubs, sports, organizations, and other such opportunities to offer to their students.

You might want your college children to focus primarily on attending class and going to their job after school, but consider the importance of balance in your own life. Doing so can help you to remember why passing on these techniques to your children is of utmost importance. Besides, participating in clubs and team sports looks good on a post-college resume.


As parents of rising college students, FERPA is an acronym that you need to know. FERPA stands for the Family and Educational Rights Privacy Act. If your children are still in high school, you can probably call the school to find out information about their grades. However, once your teenagers are in college, you are not able to take that action because of FERPA.

For example, you will find that professors cannot communicate with you about your children’s progress in their classes. Students typically have the option to waive their FERPA rights so that parents can speak with school officials. However, take into account the fact that you want to encourage your children to act as adults and to advocate for themselves.

When your kids are going to college, the entire family is likely getting excited. Whether you remember your own days in college with fondness or you are eager to see the first person in your family to attend a college, you know that four years of new and intriguing experiences are coming your way. Preparing yourself with knowledge and tools can help to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone.

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