August 19, 2022

Helping Your High School Student Plan for College Now

As a Future Scholar account holder, you know that preparing for a child’s college education begins well before Senior year. Starting early and saving steadily are the first important steps a family takes.

When a child enters high school, however, plans for college should expand to include other key areas that can help your child choose a college – and a career path.

By bringing the following topics into the conversation, you can help your teenager make good decisions about plans for high school and beyond:

Career goals and the education to reach them

By ninth grade, parents should be talking to their child about the possible careers that align with the child’s interests. Not sure what those are?

High school is a good time for teens to take career assessment tests that can help them think about their talents and interests, as well as the education and training that are required to pursue different types of work. Identifying interests early gives teens a chance to explore them further through community activities, classes in and outside of school, summer jobs or internships.

Budgets, saving, and financial aid

Enlist your high school student’s help in planning an education budget and discuss how, as well as who, will cover the expenses. With your child, find information on tuition at a variety of institutions, research financial aid and scholarship opportunities and assess where you are on college savings.

Encourage high school students to consider how they may be able to contribute to their own college savings fund. When teens are involved in planning and saving for college, they’re more engaged in making those efforts pay off.

College visits and academic requirements

Both informal visits and official campus tours can help high school students make decisions about which higher education options are the best fit for them. Your student’s first step is to research colleges online before visiting.

During the campus tour, both you and your child can speak with current students, visit classrooms and dorms, and get your specific questions answered about a variety of topics. Starting this process early also helps your teen complete the high school classes they need in order to meet college academic requirements. Parents can help by reviewing requirements with their child—realizing different colleges may have different expectations for math, science and other coursework.

Experience beyond the high school classroom

Being prepared to handle coursework is one aspect of college readiness. College also requires that your child be able to budget time, live more independently, make new friends and communicate with professors.

Many of these skills can be nurtured now by encouraging your child to engage in community work, seek out extracurricular activities at school or take a part-time job. That extra effort not only builds valuable life skills, it also demonstrates on college applications that a student is ready for college and can contribute to campus life.

Your child is ready to assume responsibility for more than just schoolwork. By making their own doctor’s appointments or securing a time to speak with guidance counselors or administrators themselves, students gain the confidence they will need to advocate for themselves with professors and college staff.

A timeline with important deadlines

Your child will need to know a number of important dates and deadlines when applying for college and financial aid, including when standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT are administered, when scholarship and grant applications are due and when college applications must be submitted.

Ninth or tenth grade is not too early to start noting dates and creating a calendar so a student is familiar with the application process. Allowing enough time to prepare for tests, essays and applications is key to landing the college or university that is the best fit for your child.

Resources to help

September is College Savings Month, a good time to evaluate your plans and encourage your teen to focus on the future. These resources can answer common questions and get you on your way:

  • Federal Student Aid provides lots of information to help families prepare for college, including student and parent checklists for every year from ninth grade through senior year.  

  • Your 529 college savings plan can have less impact on your financial aid eligibility than other types of savings. Learn more here.  

  • Ready to learn more about FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid used to apply for college financial aid? Find forms, instructions, and deadlines here.  

  • You can create a realistic college budget for your high school student using our planning tools