Do you ever look at yourself and wonder who that person in the mirror actually IS? I mean, where has the time gone? When I was younger, I would look at the people who are my age and think to myself, “that person is old!” Now, I AM that old person. The problem is, I don’t think of myself as old. When I close my eyes, I am still a young woman who is vibrant and carefree—not someone who is closer to 40 than I am to 20 with two teenage kids, seniors, getting ready to go off to college. Where has the time gone?
Which sort of brings me to my point: WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?!? When the realization hit, swift and with force, much like a slap in the face….I found myself thinking – OH MY – where do I even begin?
The thing is, it always felt like there was still a ton of time left. There’s no way my son and daughter are seniors in high school. It just doesn’t feel like they are old enough to even be allowed to cross the street by themselves—let alone getting ready to graduate high school. The fact is, when I had that ah-ha moment last year, I started feeling way behind. Way behind. Does anybody else feel the same way?
In all seriousness, though, if you have semi-grown-up kids, have you started your plan yet?
I guess what it comes down to is that I had to shake it off and get moving. If you have juniors, and especially if you have seniors, now is the time to make a plan and set it in motion.
My kids eventually made the decision to join the Air Force, but there were loads of things to think about before we came to that decision.
With that being said, I have decided to compile a checklist to help others who are in the same boat as I am and who feel far behind in the process. The sooner you start on these, the better. Well, let me rephrase that: you don’t necessarily want to start these when your kid is in kindergarten. More along the lines of 11th grade to start thinking about these things—especially for college admissions tests. Most of these can start in the fall of your kid’s senior year: (but my recommendation is, of course, to start much sooner)
Fall and Winter of 12th Grade
- Start narrowing down your options. Select the few colleges you really want to consider, and begin gathering applications (most can be downloaded online) and financial aid documents. Also, plan on visiting as many of these colleges as possible. Also, take this time to meet with recruiters.
- Create a calendar or a timeline that has the following information: deadlines for applications, application fees, tests to take along with their fees, required financial aid forms and their deadlines, letters of recommendation, and transcripts.
- If you plan on taking any of the tests again, get this done in the fall as well and have scores sent to the colleges your kids are applying to.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as early as possible. Typically the beginning of October is when they begin accepting FAFSA forms.
- Prepare early decision applications. These are typically due in the first few weeks of November.
- Ask for letters of recommendation from counselors or teachers.
- Begin writing admissions essays.
Spring of 12th Grade
- Keep actively engaged in school. Senioritis is a real thing, and many students begin allowing their grades to slip thinking college is already in the bag. Remember that many college acceptances are conditional! If grades slip, they can revoke your admission!
- Don’t forget to order your graduation supplies! Your school will likely send information on this but realize that you are not stuck with that one option they offer. Do some price checking on things like graduation invitations, graduation stoles, class rings, etc…
- Visit the colleges before accepting any admissions offers. When you do finally accept an admission offer, be sure to notify the other colleges that you are accepting admission elsewhere so they can offer your child’s place to another student.
- Send your deposit to the school of your choice.
- Talk to your child’s counselors or advisors or have your child speak with them if there are any questions or concerns.
College is such an important decision to make. It is really easy to fall behind in the process of helping get your kids organized and applying to colleges. For me, it’s simply because time got away from me. It doesn’t feel like my kids are getting ready to head off to college.
It’s a daunting process and hard to know where to start. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to help point you in the right direction.