Blue Suit Mom

Five Lessons Learned about the College Search

I knew the day would come eighteen years ago when I welcomed three babies into my life within twenty short months – the anticipated days when I would have to send my children off to college. The departure started recently when I said goodbye to my oldest son at the gates of the United States Military Academy. This month I will do the same with my daughter on the campus of Clemson University, while my younger son submits his application to the University of Missouri. The journey to college has taken me on over 40 different university tours. Along the way I’ve discovered a few things that may help other parents prepare for the send off.

1) Don’t think that out-of-state schools are out of your budget.

According to Florida Trend Magazine, less than 2% of all college-bound Florida high school graduates leave the state for college. This means that universities who are seeking geographically diverse student bodies want to attract Florida students. I was amazed by the scholarship offers we received from schools such as Tulane, Fordham and University of Nebraska.

2) Start your search early.

I know it sounds repetitive to everything a high school mom hears, but it is true. Freshman year isn’t too early to swing through a university campus while vacationing or even attending a college football game to get a real look at college life.

3) Explore summer programs before senior year.

Many colleges have summer college programs for high school students. My children attended programs at Georgetown and Notre Dame. It gave them the opportunity to live on a college campus. It also allowed them to explore potential majors by taking classes in areas of interest. The programs range from one week to ten weeks and vary in pricing.

4) Note scholarship deadlines as well as application deadlines.

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson from experience. Most colleges have a dedicated website with the scholarships they offer potential students. While your student is filling out the application, make sure to explore the financial aid section of the university website.

5) Make a notebook of passwords and college-issued student IDs.

It’s likely that each school will issue your student a unique password and ID when you start the application process. You might think now that you’ll remember later. However, when it gets to notification day, you’re likely to be kicking yourself.

It’s application season and whether it’s time for you and your student to fill out the forms or simply start looking at options, it’s never too early to prepare.

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