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After the much needed and joyful celebrations with families and friends coming up this month, the holiday break for students is a great time to have a family discussion on college.

Often parents have a slightly less hectic schedule as well, and you can come together to have some meaningful discussions so that you are all on the same page when the college action list ramps up this summer.

Students- this is a great time to engage your parents in your college search and let them know how they can help you.

Parents- this is a great time to learn what your student would like to study and achieve with their college education and experience.

Items to consider:

  • Start your research and college list– Look for a school that fits your major, size of school you’d like to be at, and that falls within your requirements and geographical areas you want to be in.
  • Make a Test Prep Plan-Consider which tests you will take (ACT, SAT) and decide if you will take prep courses and map out deadlines to register.
  • Continue to Get Involved in Areas of Interest and Consider Volunteering or Working in them– Look in areas that interest you and that you are passionate about so that it is genuine when you list these on your applications next fall.
  • Check Open House Schedules for Potential Colleges– There are many open houses in spring. Schedule visits with the schools you are seriously considering and plan any travel.
  • Meet With Your High School Counselor– Meet with your counselor and see what help they have available to you. Get engaged and let them know what your goals are for college.
  • Set Up or Plan Your Senior Class Schedule– Review possible courses with your counselor. For example, will you take AP classes? Continue to challenge yourself.
  • Make a List of Teachers and Mentors– List anyone whom you may want to ask for letters of recommendation during your application process next fall. Have a conversation with them to let them know.
  • Start Working on Your College Essay– It is never too early to start, and you will likely have many iterations of your essay before you complete applications.

Finally, start a conversation together about finances.

Parents may want to set expectations for what kind of financial support they can provide and what they expect from the student as well, in terms of contributing to their education.

This is a crucial component to look at costs and your finances, so that you can consider this important factor when making your college list.

Don’t wait until you decide on a school to estimate your out-of-pocket costs. Start thinking of a financial plan now and what resources you may have, and how much you may need.

For example, if you are considering an exclusive Ivy League school, many of them do not offer merit scholarships. So, use their Net Price Calculator to get an idea if you would be eligible for financial aid (need-based aid). If you are likely not eligible for free grant money based on need, keep in mind you may pay close to the full cost at that school.

Remember, next holiday season you will be looking forward to your acceptance letters as confirmation of the work and thought you are all putting into this process now. The benefit will hopefully be finding the best college choice- for all of you.