Six Things I Wish I Had Known As a Parent Before Our Daughter Started the #JourneyToCollege

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep.  I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.

As many of you know we just celebrated our daughter’s high school graduation this past spring.  Her junior & senior years of high school were some what stressful for our family because of our circumstances of selling our home in South Dakota and moving our family to Texas.  That decision was partially because of our daughter’s choice of the university she wanted to attend.  Neither my husband or I did our higher education in the United States and since Amber has been homeschooled since seventh grade, the whole college application and admissions process was slightly overwhelming for our family.

So I want to share with you six things I wish I had known as a parent before our daughter started the #JourneyToCollege

1. Additional Resources – There are so many more resources than just the college’s website and handbooks.  Search for Facebook pages from student organizations and graduating classes to find more information and students to ask questions of.  We found out long after we applied that the university our daughter is attending already had a Class of 2018 Facebook page with peer advisors answering questions.  There’s a twitter handle that feeds the police scanner information from campus, and a Reddit account that is dedicated to the campus as well.

Also ask for a campus tour or one-on-one appointment with an admissions staff or dean, and don’t be afraid to ‘brag’ on your child if they deserve it.  We lucked out on this as we went for a group informational session and when student aid came up, we asked about scholarships indicating our daughter was in the running to be a National Merit Scholar.  That opened a door to a meeting with the Admissions Dean directly, where we asked questions about the application, what the school was looking for and have her not just be  another anonymous name in a pile of applications on someone’s desk.

2. Fees – Be prepared there are fees for EVERYTHING.  For applying, for testing,  for sending test scores, for required vaccinations (insurance may cover those but since we have a deductible plan we still had to pay for them), for deposits.  Apply to more than one college and you’re looking at more fees.

If local colleges are on your list, visit them on their informational days (ours was called “Scholars Day” and was held in November).  Often times if you attend and then apply at the school that day, the fee will be waived.  Some schools waive the fee if you send in your application by a certain deadline.

3. Hands Off, Mom & Dad – Have your children fill out and mail/e-mail paperwork themselves.  They will need this skill.  Once they are admitted to the school of their choice the FERPA law (education privacy act) is applied.  That means parents can no longer inquire or get information about the student or their grades from the school.  Yes, even if YOU are footing the bill.  The earlier you allow them to hold the reigns the better for everyone.

4. Work on SAT/ACT Testing Early & Often – Students can take the SAT/ACT test more than once.  Have them start taking it as a sophomore just so they can get an idea of how the test is laid out and what kind of questions get asked.  On each one use the free score sends that they allow you to have.  If you want to send the scores after the fact it will cost you a fee.

Find out the date of the PSAT when your child is at the beginning of their junior year (it takes place in October).  It is worth studying for, because if your child scores high enough in their state and move on to finalist status some universities offer National Merit Scholars full tuition & fees scholarships and a semesterly stipend as well.

I highly recommend Kaplan Test Prep for this.  I truly believe that one of the reasons Amber received such a high score and became a National Merit Scholar is because of that course (you can see our review of it here:  It also allowed her to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ so to speak, as she was gaining knowledge and test prep for both the PSAT and the SAT which she was required to take to validate her PSAT score.

5. Schools Look Good on Paper, Dig Deeper – Schools market themselves to get parents and students interested in them.  But dig deeper to find out the real stories.  Ask about security on campus, find out about the school dining hall (I’ve been told you’ll always get better food at an official school function when you visit).  Read between the lines when they state statistics and put them in the context to which they belong. 

6. Be Patient – Your timeline is not the schools’ timeline.  Waiting for letters of acceptance, scholarships, student aid, etc. is hard and stressful.  Be prepared to wait longer than you think it should take, or you are told it will take.  That being said, have your child be politely persistant if they are expecting something and it hasn’t arrived in a reasonable amount of time.

The #JourneyToCollege is a navigable one, but why do it on your own when you can get a free guide map to help you?

The 2014 KapMap by Kaplan Test Prep is a free downloadable planner that lays out the steps students and parents need to take starting their freshman year of high school.  Using it can help to make your child’s college application more appealing to those in college admissions.

The KapMap and the website is FULL of wonderful resources with tips on key factors in the college admissions process (things like social media presence are becoming more and more applicable. Yes, admissions officers do check Facebook.), types of deadlines, having successful interviews, after the college acceptance, and more. 

Every year Kaplan surveys college admissions officers to ensure that students are receiving accurate and up-to-date information on trends in the college admissions process. Here are the highlights from 2013’s College Admissions Officers survey:   Be sure to check it out if you have a child starting their #JourneyToCollege soon!

13 thoughts on “Six Things I Wish I Had Known As a Parent Before Our Daughter Started the #JourneyToCollege

  1. You must be freaking out about now although at least she'll be nearby. I agree that it's pretty overwhelming. Both of my kids only applied to one university each so our fees were minimal. (I wish they'd applied to more for a safety net, but they got in… so all's well.) Wish I'd known about the Kaplan thing. That would help calm nerves when it's actual test time.

  2. Wonderful tips. We too were unsure of the whole college admission process and it is a PROCESS. Don't be afraid to make some calls if you think that things are taking to long. We almost missed out on a big scholarship because the application got lost.

  3. I particularly agree with the "dig deeper" statement…a lot of schools aren't what they seem. We went to visit Harvard and MIT when we went to Boston, and Harvard was populated with kids across campus asking for signatures for pot legalization, and signs for rallies supporting political views I wasn't thrilled about, and the kids there were very active in it all. I imagined it to be ivy covered, traditional, quiet. MIT (based on the movie Good Will Hunting) I imagined was filled with lascivious teachers and uptight geniuses, and instead the students and events we witnessed and interacted with were focused, quiet, and respectful….and lots of incredible science labs and experiments and projects going on! I want my sons to go there 🙂 Of course, I would dig even deeper because these observations were based on only three days, so…yeah, you just never know.

  4. Thanks for sharing such a momentous moment in your family! It must be a really quick whirlwind of events as she prepared all her applications! I'm so glad you guys are still very much a part of this moment in her life!

  5. Great tips! My son is starting 10th grade this fall, and I already told him test prep starts this year, because so much money is riding on the tests!

  6. Love the hands off idea. Make them be independent now! I remember also applying early — I heard your chances of getting in are better.

  7. Even though I did attend school in the US, things have changed dramatically since then. I guess I'm old. Thanks for the tips. I have a few years before we have to get started, but it'll happen before I know it.

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