Navigating the college application and admissions process is full of many unknowns, especially for first-time parents with students getting ready to head off to college. But where can wondering parents turn to when advising their children on important decisions that impact their future? We asked parents of Forman Scholars to share tips they wish they knew during their family’s college journey. Here’s what they had to say.
Be involved, not overbearing Students need to make their own decisions in their own time
Our daughter Megan was accepted into Thomas Jefferson College's graduate program as a high school senior. In this program, she could enter Jefferson during her third year of college as long as she had completed the prerequisites. However, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go to Jefferson and thought we should not pay the deposit fee to secure her spot. We felt that the Jefferson program was really where Megan would end up. Thinking that in the total college financial picture, $300 was worth it, we paid the deposit anyway just in case. Once at college, Megan realized the Jefferson program really was the best option for her. She completed two years at Seton Hall before transferring into the program at Jefferson. If we had insisted that Megan was going to attend the Jefferson program, she may have been resentful and not open to it later down the road. She needed to come to that realization herself. Students are making so many decisions in their senior year that it is very overwhelming for them. Parents need to be involved, but not overbearing.
– Jean Sharp, mother of Forman Scholars Megan, Abigail and Sarah Sharp
Keep all documents organized for years to come
Keeping all documents and the FAFSA process organized during the application process would probably be an area that families struggle with the most. Have your student create an online file of the recommendation letters and essays they gather. Many of them can be used over and over for each application. While most students submit through the Common Application, there are sometimes the same documents are useful for other colleges, scholarship or financial aid applications. Families should maintain an electronic or paper binder of all documents for follow up and to have when repeating the process during the college years.
– Dionne Avant, mother of Forman Scholars Mya and Kyla Avant
Speak with current students
Research colleges online and visit as many as you can. During your tour, talk with current students if possible. They’ll really be able to help you learn more from their experiences. It’s better to know the potential university fits your needs and wants before taking the time to complete the application. This will avoid wasted time and spending money on fees by making selective choices. By visiting a few different types of colleges and getting a feel for what it’s like from current students, you and your student can make better decisions.
– Carole Ridgway, mother of Forman Scholar Katie Ridgway
Be realistic throughout your journey
Being realistic and setting a scope of expectations with your child about their school choices will benefit both of you in the end. You should consider if you’re going to be able to afford this school for four years, if it meets the needs of what is important to both of you, and if there are scholarship opportunities or loans that will help make it work in the long haul. This is important to consider early on because it won’t get your student’s hopes up for attending a school that may not financially work out. A helpful exercise for your student is to have them narrow down their choices to the top three schools they would attend without any hesitation. Together you can decide as a team on what options can really work.
– Katrina Tatem, mother of Forman Scholar Tiasia Tatem
Use every resource available
Generally, I would encourage parents and students to use all the resources available. Find a fellow parent who has previously been through the process with a successful student and ask them questions to help guide you. For students that have already determined their major or course direction, look for a college that meets your requirements including preferred size, environment, distance from home, etc. For students that have not decided on a major yet, look into the college’s pedigree in several fields of study in various majors. Visit the school, meet with academic leaders, and get to know the programs you are interested in. Have a backup plan at that same school if you think you might move to a different field of study. Make a pros and cons list and don't let others' opinions about the quality of the school affect your decisions. It’s also helpful to wait for your financial aid packets to arrive before ruling out a particular school.
– Beth Davenport, mother of Forman Scholar Elise Davenport
We hope these 5 Things Parents Wish They Knew help make the college application process feel a bit less intimidating and a lot more manageable. Just take it one step at a time – and with The Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation and Salem County parents, guardians and students – you’re backed by a close-knit, supportive community who’s here to help every step of the way.