Sometimes the best advice is from people who have been through it all before.
These Carolina parents offer their thoughts, opinions and guidance about the college search process:
“I think you should start early. We didn’t begin until our son’s junior year, but we noticed freshman and sophomores present at most open houses.
“We had a difficult time finding scholarship opportunities. He’s applied for several, but we haven’t heard anything back.
“We also feel that you need to really search on the college’s websites for specific program opportunities. It’s really important to research the program thoroughly. This could be a problem for kids who are 18 years old and aren’t sure what they want to do.”
– Noelle Glass, special education teacher. Her son, Phillips Glass, begins NCSU this fall.
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“Everything takes time. Even after accepting a school, the decisions about housing, meal plan, roommates and orientation require thought. Be organized with the paperwork and keep track of what you’ve completed and not completed. Ask if the school has a checklist.
“Talk to other students at the college and ask for advice. Call the school if you have questions. Use the website for everything.
“Go for a campus tour and set up appointments in advance to meet with college administrators.”
– JoAnn Roth, event and meeting planner. Her son, Jack Roth, begins UNC Charlotte this fall.
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“I would suggest visiting numerous schools. Fixating on one school means they fail to see the advantages and disadvantages each campus has to offer.
“Do your homework. College is one of the most expensive things we do, besides buying a house. Talk to your kid honestly about finances, early in the process. Push, annoy and demand if need be. Scholarships, grants and other forms of assistance are available and are more or less free money. Start early because the money gets sucked up by eager students.
“Remind yourself and your kid that it’s OK to fail. One of the hardest things to do is allow your child to fail, but it’s how we all learn. Wisdom comes from having made bad decisions.
“Talk to your kid about safety and making decisions. Be blunt.”
– Brad Edwards, police officer. His daughter, Kathryn Edwards, begins ASU this fall.
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“You will see far fewer scholarships come from the state schools. It’s the private schools that have the scholarships. We scanned the scholarship sites. I’d heard there was money sitting, waiting to be given away. If you are an above average kid, many of the scholarships are very specific. Look for the scholarships in the organizations and institutions where your child has spent the most time such as church, Scouts, Odyssey of the Mind, etc. That is where we found money that was critical to our success.
“I wish someone had told me that both of my daughters would see applying to college as an INDEPENDENT activity, and that they might resist my desire to help. It took me a long time to help them understand that I wasn’t being a helicopter mom if I only PROOFED their essays for typos or spelling errors. I wasn’t prepared to feel like I was battling my child during the college application process. I had to understand their needs, and I had to give them space. I think I started the process on a more combative level because I knew what was at stake, and I wanted their applications to represent them.
“If your kid says, ‘I really only want to go to a school in the mountains,’ and the child can get a school that gives her what she wants, listen and honor that. We parents get too caught up in ‘what ifs’ and ‘will this be enough?’ Blah, blah, blah. We have to begin learning how to honor the wisdom that is within our children. Especially if those children have been working hard and have decent grades. They’ve shown us they can be responsible — we need to show them that we can honor the “adult under construction” that they are.”
– Susan Dosier, public relations. Her daughter Lucy Keller is a senior at UNCW, and her daughter Frankie Keller is a junior at UNC Asheville.
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“I knew how important an essay was. What I didn’t know was how MANY there are. Besides the common core essay most schools require, there’s at least one additional essay and sometimes two or more. Then you also have essays for any scholarships, and everything is due around the same time.
“Kids think they can learn everything they need to know about a school by looking online. I have heard from many other parents that their kids were reluctant about travelling to see campuses, meeting admissions people, going to major focuses sessions and meeting with professors.”
– Jill Davis, healthcare information technology. Her son, Luke Davis, is still deciding for fall 2018.
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“Parents should make sure their children’s accomplishments are being recorded starting in 9th grade. The accomplishments should include academic (awards, courses and grades), volunteering, leadership and extra-curricular activities. Having this information documented and kept in a place you can quickly retrieve helps you and your child when it is time to fill out college applications, scholarships, applications for internships and other opportunities.”
– Carmen Thomas, nurse. Her daughter Jordan Thomas attends UNC Chapel Hill, and her daughter Ryan Thomas is still deciding for fall 2018.
Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI