How Parents and Teens Can Prepare for College Together

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Whether you’re a parent of a teenager who’s preparing to graduate, or a high schooler applying to colleges and getting ready to take that big leap towards your first semester, college preparation can be tricky. Between student loans, applications, SATs, and other important parts of the planning stage, there’s bound to be some stress involved.

Because of this, it’s important that parents and teens work together from the time the application is sent, to the moment you’ve been accepted and move on to the campus. Due to their potential experience with already living through college years, parents can provide some wisdom and guidance that teens need to be able to best handle this life change.

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Read on for easy ways that parents and teens can work together to prepare for college!

Communicate Goals

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It’s possible that parents can have different desires regarding where their child would like to go to college or do with their future, therefore, it’s important that any conversation about college planning is done through open and honest communication. At the end of the day, parents are there to mentor and guide, while teens can take that advice into their own endeavors. They will often have a strong vision, or at least high expectations, of what they are looking to get out of the college experience. However, at the same time, parents might also have expectations about how much they will be paying for, what grades they would like to see their teen get, and if their child will be living at home or moving into a dorm to be independent. All of these factors play an important role in the process of planning for college, and parents may have strong feelings about these ideas. While there will certainly be conflict about the direction to go with these choices, by having a civil conversation, parents and teens can communicate their goals and desires in a constructive way. This can allow them both to create a plan that fulfills the goals and expectations of the child who’s going to college while giving parents peace of mind that the plan is sound.

Create a Financial Plan

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Many financial hurdles can be associated with college, so creating a solid financial plan is essential and can give both parents and teens peace of mind. A financial plan for college should cover all of the costs expected to come with colleges, such as tuition, food, housing, and transportation, along with extra money for social activities.

If available,  financial aid, scholarships, and other grants should be considered to ease the financial strain college life can have on a parent and child’s money. These can all provide significant relief from major expenses such as tuition and housing costs and are often available for students in certain programs such as athletics or arts, or for students with a high GPA or SAT score. Students still in high school should consider meeting with their counselor to discuss the different options available to them.

Once you have an understanding of college costs, you can then take the steps to start preparing to cover these major costs. Both teens and parents can discuss ways they’ll contribute to a college fund. Teens can start preparing and saving for college by taking on a summer job and putting that extra money towards tuition and other costs. Parents can look into other types of college savings plans, find out the best ways they can contribute to them, and help their teen have money set aside and ready for college.

Finally, teens should be taking steps to become financially independent for college. This means having a solid budgeting strategy in place each semester to prevent them from overspending. They should also get set up their own bank account if they don’t have one already. For teens planning to live on campus, signing up for a fee-free checking account can be a great way to have access to their finances at all times through their smartphones. This also allows students to keep track of their money even while on the go between classes, while also avoiding hefty bank fees.

Set Expectations and Have Backup

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Unfortunately, even with a plan in place, it’s sometimes true that what can go wrong, will go wrong. Denied applications, increased tuition, and last-minute changes can all come up and add unnecessary stress. It’s always important to not only have a plan in place but a backup plan if these instances occur. In addition to this, setting realistic expectations can help mitigate some of these other unforeseen situations.

When applying, keep in mind that there are not only a variety of colleges you can choose from but a number of school types you can apply to as well. Reach schools are schools that are harder to get into, like Ivy Leagues, or expensive universities that may require scholarships to afford. Applying to a few of these, alongside other colleges you are fond of, can give you a diverse array of options to choose from. Parents should be ready to show which college options are most realistic for getting into given things like their teen’s grades and the cost of college they can afford.

Parents can also help their teens have a variety of college options by taking them on tours of campuses, both local and out of state. By going together, parents and teens can continue the conversation about college planning while on different campuses. Going on tours is a great way to learn about all the different options available and can give teens an idea if they want to go to a large or small college, live on campus, or stay at home, among other things.

As students begin to get closer to their high school graduation, there’s never a better time to start planning and getting set for college. With open communication, parents and teens can find ways to set realistic goals for college and be prepared for their first semester.

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