General, Parents

10 Tips to Help Teens Prepare for College

Planning for college can be one of the more daunting tasks on the parental to do list. As troop leaders you can be a great asset in this process to help relieve the pressure or simply serve as a helpful guide for where to look for resources. And with a little help from these awesome resources and planning guides, a good organizational system (binders or checklists are highly recommended) and a positive attitude this can be a fun and exciting process for all who are involved.  As you know by now, the girls can really take the lead in the process with the right guidance.  Now you get to see all of your hard work as a volunteer pay off as the girls take all of their skills and put them to action towards their next big step in life.

Tip 1: Leader Magazine’s:College Bound article published by GSUSA has excellent advice and a short timeline of what to do in each grade to prepare. They recommend starting in middle school.

Tip 2:  Looking for a more detailed checklist? Here is a guide prepared by GSUSA called Route to Success: An Adult Guide to College Planning that provides you with a yearly checklist of important steps in the process starting as a freshman and continuing until graduation.

Tip 3: Check in with your high school guidance department. They will have access to information on upcoming ACT/SAT tests (most colleges require one for admission), registration booklets that include example test questions and may also have review books for those tests, computer programs, and other resources to help prepare for those all important tests. Most will also have information on popular colleges/universities and their admission requirements. They are an invaluable resource.

Tip 4: Narrow the field. Encourage teens to consider what matters most for their college experience and then research schools who are strong in that area. There are some great websites for this such as the Princeton Review’s College Rankings. They have rankings on different topics, such as the quality of academic departments, the location, financial aid, campus life and many others. Look at the websites of colleges they are interested in, request information from the admissions department, and check the published demographics of the students as well as data found on websites such as The College Board for an overview to gauge if this is a good fit for your student.

Tip 5: Once a list of top choices has been established, schedule a college visit with those choices. Nothing beats learning by doing and the best way to really get a feel for a campus and find the right fit for your teen is to do so in person. Follow this simple checklist from the College Board for things to do and ask on your visit.

Tip 6: Research scholarships and financial aid. Colleges can come with a large price tag and it is best to evaluate what is feasible for the family’s finances, what the graduate can contribute through work/study, loans and what other forms of aid are available before committing to any school. Fill out the Federal Student Aid free application and then research other scholarships and aid sources such as scholarships that are available for Girl Scouts on GSUSA’s website and other free scholarship search engines. Here is a US News article comparing the merits of the top 5 scholarship search engines.

Tip 7: Compare the assets and disadvantages of top choices. Consider things such as proximity to home (will travel expenses be a financial strain?), class size, career placement success of graduates (ask during tour), access to favorite recreational activities (if your teen is a nature lover an urban area campus may not be ideal), overall cost as related to confirmed scholarships and financial aid, likelihood of admittance based on published student demographics and your teen’s test scores/GPA, and the cost to apply.

Tip 8: Apply to those choices. Check over the admission process and ask for knowledgeable individuals to review the application and any accompanying essays/documents needed far in advance of the application due date. This could be a teacher or guidance counselor at your teen’s school. Poorly proofread applications and essays or hurriedly written letters of recommendation can hinder receiving that all important acceptance letter so double and triple check before hitting submit on any application.

Tip 9: High school isn’t over until graduation. Senioritis and a lack of focus as graduation nears are natural but colleges look at all grades even those received after official acceptance. Remind teens that their ending GPA does matter so keep up the good work until graduation.

Tip 10: Celebrate! Your teen is ready to Bridge to Adult after many years of preparation. As her leader, mentor, or parent you have made such an impact on her life and now it is time for her to take all of the skills acquired in her years in Girl Scouts and step into the world as an adult with “courage, confidence, and character”.