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How to Use This Summer To Get Ready To Go To College

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Teenage barista serving coffee at a cafe.

Summer is approaching and it’s a good time for parents of college-bound students to make the most of the free time. Your student will certainly be busy, especially if this is the summer before senior year.

But there are a few things you should make sure to complete dur ing the summer that will help your student progress along the college admissions path.

  1. Start preparing your student for independence.

Use the summer to teach some basic life skills. It’s never too early to start preparing for independence. College is the first step toward adult independence. Students will have to make their own decisions, be responsible for their own actions and deal with the consequences of their choices. Some basic life skills can make the transition to adulthood easier.

  • Laundry: If your student isn’t doing the own laundry, the summer is a good time to start. You would be surprised how many college students don’t have a clue on how to do their own laundry.

  • Budget basics: Handling money is a life skill that every college student needs to know. Open a student checking account for summer job paychecks and teach how to handle it. Students can monitor the balance on an app and learn to save and budget for any spending.

  • Public transportation: Many colleges don’t allow freshmen to have a car on campus so it’s imperative to be able to navigate public buses, subways, trains or ride-share services.

  • Basic cooking skills: Fast food can be expensive and it’s easy to save money on food while in college with some basic skills. Even many dorms have kitchens.

2. Turn the summer into a scholarship project.

Summer is the best time to search for scholarships. Spend the summer searching and applying for scholarships. While everyone is playing, your college-bound student will be spending some of that valuable downtime looking for money. Set aside just an hour a day for scholarship activity and watch the awards start rolling in. Your student doesn’t have to be an upcoming senior, there are scholarships for all ages.

Follow scholarship accounts on Twitter, Facebook and even Pinterest. If you see a scholarship that fits your student, email the details. There are also scholarship search apps that make it easy to search while waiting, say, at a doctor’s office or the movies.

3. Encourage your student to get a job.

Summer work funds can help grow a college savings account and teach your student to budget and save. If your student is too young to find a job in retail or fast food, there are other opportunities to earn money: house or yard work, babysitting, or even an online business. Working during the summer will also help students budget time and learn responsibility and a work ethic.

4. Make some summer college visits.

One way to check student’s college fit is to combine a vacation and a college visit. The college doesn’t have to be on your student’s wish list. If it’s in the area of your vacation, schedule a few hours to take a stroll around campus with the family. These visits are for information gathering only. By visiting college campuses, your student can get a feel for college life and begin to create a list of likes and dislikes.

Plan the trip like a road trip vacation; make note of attractions and special events along the way, around each school, and on campus. Many schools offer free or low-cost museums, library and academic collections, hiking trails, gardens, lectures, concerts, theater and sporting events.

5. Schedule time for summer test prep.

It’s best to start test prep during the summer and make it a habit for when it’s really needed. During this time of the year, students are more relaxed, and are less consumed by class schedules, social protocol and extracurricular activities. If possible, consider hiring a personal test prep tutor. The money you spend on the tutor will more than pay for itself in higher test scores, which often translates into more merit aid.

If a tutor is out of the question, schedule time each week to work on practice tests. There are many free online test prep options available, including one from the College Board and Khan Academy. Preparation is the key to help your student become familiar with the test, its questions, and the time constraints.

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Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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