Parent Checklist: How to Help Your Student Get to College — FREE Download

Parent checklist on getting your student into college

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“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Education is a critical component in leading a purposeful life. It challenges the mind, teaches perseverance of the soul, and creates critical thinkers who will change our world. If a student is fortunate, they will have a support system helping them along their journey. A common member of the system is their parents. We made checklists for students to follow during their high school years, and now we have ones for parents! Use these as a guide to assist your child along their educational journey of middle school, high school, college, and beyond.

Download the FREE Parent Checklist PDF here.

Middle School

  • This is time may seem less important, but it is not. This is where students are truly learning what interests them- and what doesn’t. This can lead to good and bad habits. Teaching your child about the importance of studying and perseverance will help them succeed in high school and open more college doors.
  • Assist your child in setting goals. Help them develop a plan to reach that goal and ways to stay motivated.
  • Create a calendar together. Mark down important school dates, and add homework assignments and tests as assigned. Discuss how you and your child will communicate about homework and how assistance will be given.
  • Discuss extracurriculars. You probably know what they’re interested in, but ask them how they would like to get involved with those and what skills they would like to gain that they do not already have.
  • Talk about reading. Reading challenges may seem like an elementary thing, but reading never ceases to be incredibly important. Discuss with your child the right balance between fun and educational materials they should be reading.
  • Start thinking about how college will be paid for.

9th Grade

Beginning high school is a milestone. Students are probably excited and parents maybe nervous. They could be headed to a new school and preparing for more responsibilities and independence. Freshman year is an excellent opportunity to start encouraging your child to be a well-rounded, exceptional students and gain an interest in college.

  • Set goals for the year. These can be obtaining a certain GPA, taking challenging courses, learning a new skill, or completing a reading list.
  • Help your child learn about their interests and strengths by taking personality quizzes or career worksheets. High school guidance offices should have these resources. This will help guide your student when choosing what classes to take and careers to consider.
  • Encourage your child to schedule a meeting with their high school counselor. Building a relationship with their counselor will help them. Their counselor will be an invaluable guide to scholarships, scheduling courses, exploring career paths, and applying to college. They can also ask for recommendations later if they have a personal, respectful relationship.
  • Schedule next year’s classes.
  • Determine how much you should be saving for college. Help your child think of ways to save as well. Babysitting, dog walking, and various other activities are appropriate for this age and the cash can be stored in a savings account- teaching valuable money lessons along the way.
  • Discuss what would be the most valuable plan for their summer. They may be too young to have a part-time job, but side gigs like the ones above are reasonable. Summer camps are an excellent option as well.

10th Grade

Your child is probably settling into the newness of high school and becoming comfortable. Now is a great time to consider taking on more challenges and further exploring college.

  • Evaluate your student’s extracurriculars. Do they enjoy what they’re involved in? If yes, how can they take on more leadership? If not, brainstorm new activities to try and discuss what was learned.
  • Talk about the PSAT and other exam prep options. Discuss the importance of the test, but help them to understand it is not the sole make or break of their career.
  • Take the PSAT.
  • Discuss next year’s classes. Evaluate whether your student should enroll in Advanced Placement or Dual Credit classes.
  • Continue the discussion of saving for college.
  • Make a college wish list together. Consider the aspects you would like chosen college to have. Evaluate this again next year to see how your wants and needs have changed.
  • Make summer plans. Now may be a good time to look into getting a part-time job or internship.

11th Grade

Junior year may cause students and parents to feel a shift. This is a common time for college planning to hit full force. Follow this guide to help support your student and stay on track.

  • Keep your student (and yourself) organized amidst the crazy college planning process. Create a calendar and folder (paper and electronic to be safe) where you can mark scheduled college visits, meeting with your guidance counselor, application deadlines, and much more.
  • Take the PSAT and review the results together. Congratulate them on areas they scored well, and work together to develop a strategy to improve their lower scores.
  • Discuss how to prepare for the SAT with online tools and resources.
  • Take the ACT/SAT and review results.
  • Take college visits.
  • Help your child prepare to take the AP tests if they are enrolled in AP courses.
  • Research scholarships and apply to ones that fit the student’s profile or interests.

12th Grade

Senior year is a monumental time. Students will relish the seniority and perks of being an upperclassman, but also feel the pressure of selecting a college. As a parent, it’s important to provide support and guidance on finalizing their college choice.

  • Make a pros and cons list. Decide which schools have the most value for your student.
  • Use College Raptor to determine which colleges are the right fit and their net price cost.
  • Help your child determine if early decision is right for them.
  • Begin applications by entering test scores, GPA, and writing a stellar admissions essay.
  • Consider retaking the ACT or SAT.
  • File FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st.
  • Apply to scholarships! Discuss loan options and how you will cover the costs of college.
  • Provide comfort when your student receives admission responses and help them navigate the process.
  • Review financial aid and acceptance offers. These will likely work in tandem to decide what schools you’re accepted to and what schools you can afford. Fill out the necessary paperwork and pay the fees to accept admission at a school. Then, move onto applying for housing and signing up for orientation!