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September College Planning Checklist for Parents

From SAT prep courses to figuring out financial aid, learn what your child should do now.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 29, 2022

September College Planning Checklist for Parents
Tackle September with your child using our college planning checklist.
Summer is over and a new semester has arrived. So, you're probably wondering: What should my student be doing to prepare for college?

September College Planning Checklist for Parents

Here are some suggestions of what you can do to help your high school student prepare for college this September:

Start the college search or the college admissions process.

Help your child begin by creating a list of what they’re looking for in a college. From there, you can research schools they’re interested in and determine if each institution has what they’re looking for. Cross off any colleges that don’t meet their criteria. This exercise will help them determine what’s really important to their college experience – or if they can live without a specific course or extracurricular to ensure that they can attend their dream school. Finally, rank their college list based on which schools meet the most criteria. This will help you prioritize fall college visits.

Register to take or re-take the SAT/ACT exams.

If your child is a high school senior and they need to take the SAT or ACT, act fast! Test days are quickly approaching, and if they have not taken the test ever, they need to leave time to retest if their scores are not compatible with the schools to which they’re applying. Now is the time to sign up for extra ACT or SAT prep courses. They may be able to get in a workshop or two before test day. Finally, one last thing to consider as it relates to standardized testing, a record number of schools are still test-optional. Though this trend in college admissions began in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, many schools are still allowing students to opt out of sending their scores. If all of your child’s colleges are test-optional, they may not need to take the SAT or ACT.

Schedule as many college visits as possible.

Campuses are so beautiful in the fall, especially Fastweb’s top ten fall campuses. Plus, it's always beneficial to visit campuses when students are active and present on campus. That means there's no time like the present to plan to see potential colleges. Make a list of colleges your student would like to visit and try to schedule them throughout the next few months. Visiting schools will make narrowing down your student’s college list much easier and can be vital to the admissions process. Remember, seeing and experiencing a school is vastly different than researching it online!

Encourage your student to start out - and stay -- in great academic shape.

As your student works on the college search and finally college applications, you’ll want to make sure they are putting their best foot forward, academically speaking. Help them create a strategy on how to approach this semester and ensure that they follow it. A strict semester game plan helps ensure students stay focused on achieving their best. As you know, your high school grades matter and a slip up is difficult to recover from, especially in terms of cumulative grade point average. It's not impossible to recover from a slump, but why add the extra anxiety? Encourage your child to do their best, and seek out help if they’re struggling in any – or all – of their academic subjects.

Start evaluating how you’ll pay for school.

Every family needs a strategy for paying for school, and the sooner parents, guardians, and their children talk about college budget as well as who is paying for what, the easier the college search, application, and decision processes. You don’t want to have to tell your child days before National Decision Day that you can’t afford their top choice and they need to pick a new school. Instead, have those conversations now. While you can pay for college with financial aid, student loans, and part-time jobs, we recommend you seek out scholarships to pay for school. If your student starts applying for scholarships now, it will be a lot easier to pay for school later. Begin by organizing the scholarship search, then apply for as many scholarships as possible. Completing scholarship applications should be like a part-time job, devoting several hours each week to applying to award opportunities.

Start gathering and preparing application materials.

It’s helpful to have any documents students may need on hand for college applications, like ACT/SAT scores, personal information, and essays – if students are not applying via the Common App. That way, they won’t have to find items for each application – everything will be in one place.

Begin college essays.

If your student already knows which schools they’re applying to, they can view their college essay prompts online and start brainstorming topics they’d like to write your essay on. They may also want to pull from essays that they wrote for school. Tip: when writing essays, it’s helpful to begin with an outline of what you’d like to say and go from there.

Consider if early admissions options are right for your student.

If your student already knows which college they want to attend, they may want to think about applying early admission. It’s not right for everyone, but it may be worth considering if he or she already has a specific school in mind. You can learn more about early admissions and what this entails to decide if it’s the right route through Fastweb’s early admission guide. It is becoming an increasingly popular option for students.

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