College Planning: How to Get Your Child Into the Right College

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 2:44 PM EDT

As high school graduation nears, the focus shifts to college. There are several new and useful resources you should take advantage of that can help your child get into the right school and give them the tools they need to have a successful college experience.

How long would you evaluate making a $200,000 investment into something that won't start to pay dividends for years or even decades? How many hours and how much research would you commit before writing that check? Months most likely. But most people invest more time watching an episode of Dancing with the Stars than they do planning for college, so says a recent study conducted by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. Their research revealed that the average high school counselor spends just 38 minutes a year on each student's search for the right college.

The consequences are devastating. One in three students who enter college unaware and unprepared drop out within the first year. To avoid becoming a part of this statistic, spend some of the other 8 hours helping your child address these three big issues:

  • Paying for college. The rising cost of education can sometimes exceed college fund savings. Fortunately, the FAFSA is a government resource that can help provide financial aid. By filing your FAFSA, you are eligible to receive federal grants, loans, and other forms of funding to make the rising cost of education affordable. If you find there are still remaining costs after filing your FAFSA, private student loans are another resource to explore. To cut costs, consider a local two-year community college and then transferring to more prestigious university.
  • Choosing a major. Before choosing a school, help your child examine her strengths and interests to aid in discovering potential majors. The Princeton Review offers a push in the right direction with a 5 Minute Career Quiz. The quiz offers potential career choices based on interests, preferences, and ideal work environments. After taking the quiz, students should invest time researching careers that spark their interest. This can help narrow down the overwhelming task of choosing a major. If they've done the research but are still stumped, don't worry! They can always enter college as an "undeclared" major and use their first two years for general education. This will give them more time to discover their personal strengths and determine a future career path.
  • Choosing the right school. Once they've chosen a major, finding the right school will help maximize their college experience. Start by helping them prioritize their personal preferences. Are they willing to relocate? Would they prefer a larger university? Collegeboard is an excellent resource where students can conduct a specialized search to discover potential colleges based on their major and personal interests. Once you've helped them narrow it down to a few schools, don't be afraid to apply to several. If they get accepted into multiple schools, encourage them to visit the schools to see how they fit in. Campus tours are a great way to discover firsthand both the scholastic and social environment.
The internet makes researching a whole lot easier, but there are also offline resources. If you want more personal guidance, consider Superfutures -- a company that offers classes and coaches who help students achieve acceptance into college, survive through graduation, and attain success in the professional workforce.

According to Superfutures founder, Jennifer Openshaw, "Even good students don't know what they don't know, and should know, about getting into good colleges, having the tools to succeed and ultimately reaching their dreams."

Can you imagine if kids had 38 minutes of guidance each day, week, or even month?! Don't make the mistake of diving blindly into higher education. Spend a few of the other 8 hours doing your homework on this huge investment.

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(College image by Renjith's Pictures, CC 2.0)

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    Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with inspiring others to create and empowering them to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of Richer Life, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work. He is a Certified Financial Planner and the president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm serving sudden wealth recipients and affluent individuals. He has appeared as a financial expert on 20/20, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew's Lifechangers and many others.