It seems like only yesterday that they were learning to walk, or ride a bike, or drive a car. You’ve been there to help your child with their homework and teach important life lessons about responsibility and relationships. Now your role as a parent shifts to helping your child get ready to live on his or her own. There are many steps in preparing for student loans and college application deadlines. Let’s go through some general deadlines and milestones, along with information on when to apply for college.
An important aspect of adulting is fiscal responsibility, and along with learning to navigate college and being away from home, your child will need to learn how to budget their money, balance their checkbook, and deal with loan applications and disbursements. By the time that the first student loan disbursement comes in, it may be too late to open a checking account to receive it; all those details must be taken care of before move-in weekend. So, it makes much more sense to open their own checking account during their junior or senior year of high school, so that they have a place to deposit any earnings from their summer jobs, local scholarships, or graduation gifts, and prepare for the financial needs of college. A Santander Student Value Checking account is a good place to begin.
By starting this process while your child is still in high school, the account will already be established and ready to receive any scholarship or loan funds, so your child can begin college with money on hand. Plus, they will already have their ATM card or debit card, rather than having to wait for it to arrive, and they will have had at least a few months of learning how to use a checking account while they are still living at home and you can assist them more readily.
Junior Year – Take Standardized Tests & AP Exams
The junior year of high school is hugely important for college admissions. These are often some of the last grades that schools will receive on applications, so they need to be excellent. Junior year grades are more important than senior year in this regard. In addition, this is the time to begin taking the SAT or ACT. Start early, with the PSAT in October of junior year. If scores are not strong enough to make your child a competitive applicant for the schools of their choice, they have time to enroll in SAT prep courses to retake the exams.
Many students also take Advanced Placement (AP) courses in their junior year. These tests are held in May and may earn them college credit or exempt them from taking certain required courses.
Summer before Senior Year – Narrowing College Choices
Most people begin talking with school counselors about college during their sophomore year, and you’ve probably discussing with your child about which colleges best suit their needs and your budget. By the summer between their junior and senior of high school, have the list narrowed to those schools they plan to apply to.
It’s also the best time to do a road trip to visit colleges that are on their streamlined list. Organize the list by college application deadlinedate so your family can tour the facilities with the shortest college deadlines,first. Seeing the campuses in person often helps narrow choices further. Also, take note of what banks and hospitals are close to the campus.
October of Senior Year – FAFSA Opens, Scholarship Deadlines
If your child is applying for financial aid to attend college, whether that be merit or need-based scholarships from the college or university or federal student loans, they – and you, the parents – will need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or FAFSA form. Applications for the subsequent school year open each year in October, and many schools require them right away.
More than 200 private colleges and universities also use the College Scholarship Service Profile, or CSS PROFILE, in addition to the FAFSA. This form is even more detailed, and is used to award university-specific funds. It is often due in October, especially if your child is applying early.
November & December of Senior Year – Early College Application Deadlines
November is the month for most ‘Early Decision’ or ‘Early Action’ application deadlines. If your child has a particular dream school that they would attend, then these early application programs are a must. Applications are typically due in November, and decisions are released in December or early January.
Pay attention to the terms of these early application programs. Typically, ‘Early Decision’ applications are binding; if you are accepted, then you commit to attending that school. ‘Early Action’ applications are more flexible.
January of Senior Year – College DeadlinesGalore
January is college application deadlinemadness. Many college deadlinesare February 1. So, in addition to mid-term exams, your child will be wrestling with admissions essays and college application deadlines. Stock up on their favorite comfort foods and have lots of patience on hand.
March of Senior Year – Get Financial Paperwork in Order
Most schools require students to have their FAFSA forms submitted by early March so that they can put an aid offer together to accompany the admissions decision. That means you must have your previous year’s taxes completed early, and you’ll have quite a bit of work getting all of the forms and financials completed in time. Don’t delay or available scholarship funds may be offered to other candidates on a first-come, first-served basis.
April of Senior Year – Admission Decisions Arrive
Now is the time to obtain admissions decisions from your colleges. Many schools send an email with a link to log-in to their website and view the decision. Other colleges still go “old school” and send either a thin envelope (not good) or a thick one (yay!) to your child. Your child will be given between two and four weeks to make their choice and let the schools know that they will be accepting an admissions offer, or turning one down to attend a school they prefer.
May of Senior Year – Decision Time
College-decision time! Your child should make their choice and move forward with their college admissions process. Hold a party for your child, the future college student. Congratulations! The arduous journey of college application deadlines, choices, and financial decisions are now over. Although, the preparations to leave the nest are just beginning.
Summer after Senior Year – Graduation
This is a whirlwind! High school graduation, packing lists, learning about roommates, taking family trips before they head off, buying dorm sheets and rugs and accessories – there is so much to do, and so little time! Don’t forget to make sure that your child has a checking account and ATM card set up, so they can start managing their own finances.
August – Time to Go To College!
The moment you’ve all been waiting for is here. Your baby is off to college! In some ways, the summer flew by, and in others, it seemed like this day would never come. They’re loading up the car or getting on the plane with their belongings for first semester. Their suitcases are packed with your hopes and dreams of a bright future for them. Stepping out on their own by attending college is a huge milestone. Those are tears of joy as you wave them goodbye. Don’t worry, winter break will be there before you know it.
Welcome to college, students! There is a whole world awaiting you.
Additional Student Resources:
- Student Checking
- Establish and Build Credit
- Alternative Ways to Pay for College(a good resource for parents)
- The Benefits of Online Banking