Help your child get college-ready

Taking steps to help your child prepare for college can be overwhelming for parents. From visiting schools to taking entrance exams, it can be a costly experience, but with some early planning and parental guidance, your child can be set to take the leap in a timely manner. Here are some things to consider to ensure your child is ready for higher education.

College preparatory classes
Encourage your teen to take challenging classes. The work will be closer to what they will experience in college. Teens who want to go to college should also take college-prep classes in a variety of subjects. While key subjects like English and math are important, colleges also value classes such as foreign languages and computer science. Below are common college prep courses to consider:

English (Language Arts)
Traditional courses, such as American and English literature, help improve your child’s writing skills, reading comprehension and vocabulary.

Algebra and geometry help your child succeed on college entrance exams and in college math classes. Most colleges want students to have three years of high school math. The more competitive colleges prefer four years. Your child should take some combination of the following:
• Algebra I
• Algebra II
• Geometry
• Trigonometry
• Calculus
• Science
Science teaches you how to think analytically and how to apply theories to reality. Colleges want to see that applicants have taken at least three years of laboratory science classes. A good combination includes a year of each of the following:
• Biology
• Chemistry or physics
• Earth/space science
Schools that are more competitive expect four years of lab science courses, which may be accomplished by taking advanced classes in these same areas.
Teens should also ask for help if they need it. If they are struggling in a class, encourage them to talk to their guidance counselor or teacher.

Develop academic skills in high school
Colleges expect applicants to have the following five basic academic skills:
• Write a three to five-page research paper — free of spelling, grammatical, and usage errors — that incorporates references from several credible resources and
• Use algebra to solve multi-step problems, including problems without one obvious solution
• Conduct basic scientific experiments that require the use of the scientific method
• Attend a study group to complete an assignment or project at hand or prepare successfully for an exam.
• Utilize technology to complete academic tasks such as conducting research, analyzing data sets, writing papers, preparing presentations, and recording data.

Encourage your child to stay focused during senior year. It will help them be able to get into the rhythm of college classes more easily if they work hard during the senior year of high school.

Paying for college
According to the 2017 Sallie Mae survey “How America Pays for College,” 69 percent of families eliminated at least one college-based cost in 2017. The study also found that nearly three-quarters of students selected an in-state college. Don’t let the cost of college deter you from encouraging your teen to pursue higher education. Most students are eligible for some financial aid.

How can you help your child apply for financial aid?
The first step is to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. This is the application for federal student aid. This application is used by state agencies, colleges and universities to determine college aid eligibility.
The FAFSA is available for free. Families can begin filling out the form as early as Oct. 1 for the following academic year. For federal financial aid, the deadline for the FAFSA is June 30. Private colleges use a supplemental form called the College Scholarship Service Profile to determine financial aid eligibility. There is a small application fee of $25 for the 2018-2019 school year.
When it comes to preparing for college, earlier is better. Wells Fargo’s Get Ready For College Planning Guide is a great checklist to help you plan and research the timelines and calendars for the colleges your child is considering.


For more information, see the following sources: For the FAFSA application, see 

A list of schools that require the CSS Profile can be found on

Wellsfargo Get Ready for College Planning Guide can be found at

Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to