Few processes rival the length of the college process. It begins in grade 8 with credits that count toward high school GPA, continues in grade 10 and 11 with PSAT and concludes in grades 11 and 12 with the application and enrollment process. The executive skills used in the application process will be needed the entire time students are in college.
Done right, the college process can be full of positive surprises including scholarships, internships, amazing personal and professional growth and a wonderful career. However, done piece-meal and as an after-thought, it is full of unpleasant surprises including missed opportunities, higher tuition bills and lower return on the college investment in time and money.
Unless parents are prepared to pay or borrow $75,000 per year in tuition, they should not promise their children that they can go to college anywhere they want. When parents make that promise, students take it as a collegiate blank check and are hurt when they are later told that a college is too expensive.
Conflict can be avoided by explaining the college budget to kids BEFORE they start looking at and falling in love with colleges. Students understand their limits- when they know what they are- and can make choices accordingly.
There are so many steps and there is so much to learn, families should do their homework and stay on top of college-related email and regular mail. Students should be encouraged to a partner with parents in the process so that they can effectively manage the demands of the process and take full advantage of all opportunities.
Hint: consider creating a special email address for all college-related mail. Use that email address whenever corresponding with colleges, College Board, ACT and scholarship providers so that all critical information is in one place-easily accessible to both student and parents.