Sending your kids off to college is a monumental milestone. It can be daunting to prepare for the college chapter, both academically and, if your child is living on campus, physically. Fight the urge to feel overwhelmed with this handy guide to creating a college checklist. What grade level your student is will determine what steps should be included in your college preparation, application and selection process. Here are things to consider whether your teen is a freshman in high school or freshly graduated:
Career choice/Field discovery- “What do you want to be when you go up?” It’s an age-old question, but it’s something to give healthy consideration to. Have your child explore their areas of interests, find mentors, attend career fairs, job shadow, and learn about the fields available to them. If they have a passion, encourage them to follow it.
Building a resume- It’s never really too early to start building a solid resume; not only for college but in preparation for career options. Transcripts of grades are important, as well as extracurricular events. Colleges and employers want to see someone who is self-motivated, a team player, dedicated and involved. Volunteer, get involved with community activities and strive toward practicing leadership-oriented roles. Document accomplishments, recognitions, and milestones along the way.
Prioritize your choices- Sit down with your teen and list their top choices for universities. Would your child benefit by starting two years at a community college to build credits and save money? Plan to apply to multiple colleges and work to create a yearly schedule for meeting grade requirements. Make sure your child submits applications, scholarship requests and letters of recommendation prior to the necessary deadlines. In some cases, colleges require students to submit application essays, so start exploring and studying topic options.
Take rigorous courses- When applicable, encourage your child to take accelerated classes, honors courses, and complete extra credit when available. Colleges look for academic achievements that excel off the page. Make sure your child is capable of meeting the challenge and paces their work. Setting them up for failure or too high of accomplishment for the grade won’t be anything but a step backward. Encourage them to rise to the challenge, work hard and stay focused to the task.
Coordinating paperwork- There is an extensive amount of paperwork involved in preparation for college. Applications, transcripts, resumes, essays and more. Keep requirements and deadlines organized and easy to track. If your child plans to take the SAT or ACT, make sure they register in advance. It would also be a nice touch to have your child write thank you notes to people who have helped along the way, such as guidance counselors, teachers or coaches who wrote recommendation letters, interviewers, career mentors or people they have perhaps job shadowed.
Dorm Room Supplies- Moving out is a big deal. Living away from home from a year to four years is a lot to pack for. If your child is going to be living in a dorm room, what you can pack and what you can’t pack is going to be all the more challenging with limited space, roommates and campus policies. There are certain handy items that you can plan on, such as a small kettle plate, water filter pitcher and bedding. However, even some of these supplies can add up quickly if purchased all at once. Once you have an idea of how long and where your teen is likely to attend, start shopping for some simple staple supplies. Here is a short list of things you may not have thought of for needed college stay:
- Small safe. Campus life often invites roommates, new people, friends of friends and more wandering in and out. Having a secure spot for your college student to stash their valuables while they are out will offer peace of mind. Small, personal sized safes can be found at office supply or department stores.
- Message board. This will come in handy for dorm life, where students can leave messages while they are out, and also for reminders for upcoming social events, exam dates and more.
- External Hard Drive. Finals week is the last time you need your laptop to crash. Even if local internet connection fails, having a small external hard drive will save work in progress at the most critical times of study, thesis research and presentation work.
- More than pajama pants. It is true that college life lends its way toward comfortable attire; study clothes, gym wear, and class casual. But social functions, interviews, class presentations and more will rise up the need for at least some business attire to have on hand.
- Earplugs. Getting some sleep or decent study time doesn’t always coordinate with the environment at college. Yes, there are quiet places on campus to work, such as the library, but sometimes hours don’t mesh or your teen needs to sleep while there is a party down the hall. Earplugs will come in handy more than once to drown out the circumstantial chaos.
Whether it’s building a resume or simply buying bulk ramen noodles, there are many elements to planning and preparing for college life. It is an exciting new chapter in your child’s life and one that will bridge the transition to their career and life ahead. As you check through the list, try to take this time to enjoy the journey.