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It’s never too soon to start preparing your child for college. By spreading out the research and preparation phase, you and your student will have more time to compare schools and make educated decisions on what is the best fit academically, financially, and socially for your child.

“Parents can be their students best advocates in higher education,” said Jodi Lee Simmons, coordinator of Parent and Family Services at Southern Utah University. “Preparing together now can help ensure success for your student later.”

Early preparation can make the admission process easier on you and your student. Plus, it may increase the chances of your child being accepted to their dream school!

Here are some things you can do each year of high school to prepare your child for college.

Freshmen:

Your child’s grades start appearing on official transcripts this year, so it’s time to strengthen their skills academically. Encourage them in the subjects they take a strong interest in, but also help boost those areas of weakness they may have.

Start talking about potential careers and develop a list of jobs they may be interested in. This list can guide your child’s internship and academic decisions throughout high school to better prepare them to choose a major and a college.

Encourage your child to get involved socially and academically. Extracurriculars are important, and even more so if they are related to their goal career.

Remain open to change. High school is for your student to explore their interests, so help them learn how to adjust their goals and update their career list.

Start thinking about finances. Encourage your child to get a job and save for college. Some scholarships are open to students as early as middle school, so start applying now.

If your child wants to take AP or concurrent enrollment classes in high school, make sure they are in the right prerequisites now to qualify. Strategically map out their high school semesters together.

Sophomores:

Start really thinking about colleges and careers that might be a good fit for your student. Have them take personality tests, ask friends and family what they think would be a good fit, and get opinions on a bunch of universities.

Attend career and college fairs with your child. It’s also never too soon to set foot on a campus and get a school tour!

Continue building their scholarship resume. Find scholarships with specific universities, companies, and nonprofit organizations.

Help them start a list of colleges they’re interested in or want to apply to. Most students apply to four to eight schools.

Practice for placement tests. Students can take a practice PSAT/NMSQT — a preparatory step for the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT next year. For students planning on taking the ACT, the PLAN assessment is administered their sophomore year in preparation for that test.

Juniors:

The research you’ve done together for the past two years should help refine the list of colleges your child plans on applying to.

Poor grades won’t be as easily forgiven on a transcript, so encourage your student to study hard and do their homework.

Utilize college fairs and college representative visits happening this year (the school counselor should have a schedule). Encourage your child to attend and become familiar with the different resources available at a university.

Prepare for college entrance exams. Junior year is the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, so encourage your student to take practice exams and invest in official study guides and/or tutors.

Schedule day trips to local colleges. Even if your child doesn’t plan to attend the nearby school, these visits can show them different college atmospheres and sizes for later comparison.

Make sure your child is in at least one math and one science course during their senior year. Some colleges weigh senior courses heavier than junior courses.

Help your student find internships, job shadowing or summer jobs that align with their career aspirations.

Seniors:

Continue to visit college campuses. Take trips over the summer and during fall, winter and spring breaks to the colleges on their list. Meet with an admissions counselor and take tours of campus to help narrow the list.

Make sure your child has taken the ACT and/or SAT already. They can also retake those tests for a higher score, so make sure they are registered with enough time for test results to come back before applications are submitted. (The January SAT and February ACT are the last chance tests).

Use ACT and SAT scores to identify areas your student needs to work on. Focusing on those subjects before graduation will make them a more successful college student.

Add application deadlines to a calendar and plan days for your child to fill out their applications. (Also include financial aid application due dates).

Fill out the FAFSA and other scholarship applications. Make sure you both understand your financial options when it comes to college and are prepared to pay tuition and rent.

Open letters from their colleges! If it’s an acceptance - cheer and celebrate with your student! If it’s a rejection - try to put things in perspective for your child and talk up other schools.

Compare offers from different schools and start narrowing down their final decision. Pay the necessary deposits to their final choice so they don’t lose their spot.

As soon as your student decides on a school, secure housing. On-campus housing fills up quick, so apply early.

Gather information from their college on orientation, course registration and finances. If they don’t send you something, contact their admissions office for information.

CELEBRATE! You’ve done a fantastic job at preparing your child for college. Enjoy your time with them now and prepare for their freshman year in higher education.

Did we miss something? Let us know and we will add it to the list!

Choosing a college is a big decision, and we know you may have questions before you apply. If you’re considering applying to Southern Utah University, you are welcome to contact your admissions counselor or request information. We’re here to assist you in any way we can.