7 Online College Planning Resources for Parents
If you’re like many parents of a college bound teen, you want to help out during the college application process. But if you’re like most, the process has changed significantly since you or any of your peers went through it. College admissions are always changing, and it’s sometimes hard to keep up.
Luckily, at CollegeVine we make it our job to know exactly how parents can support their kids through high school, the college application process, and beyond. To learn more about some resources that you can use to support your teen as he or she applies to college, check out our top tips below.
1. Discover Virtual College Campus Tours
For many parents, campus tours can represent a significant cost, especially if long distance travel is involved. Encourage your teen to use all available resources to preview a campus before committing to an actual tour. One great resource that’s becoming increasingly common is the online campus tour.
By taking a virtual tour of a college campus, your teen will get a better idea of its resources, its layout, and its overall vibe. While there’s no substitute for actually visiting in person, taking a virtual campus can sometimes confirm an initial hunch or present information that isn’t available elsewhere. Always complete a virtual campus before spending the money to visit a campus in person.
2. Attend Online College Fairs
Another online resource not to miss is the online college fair. These events typically feature representatives from a broad variety of undergraduate institutions. Here, students have the opportunity to can pose questions about each school’s programs, campus, and student life. College Week Live is one popular provider.
For some tips on how your teen can make the most of his or her experience, check out CollegeVine’s How to Make the Most of a College Fair.
3. Check Out the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings
Each fall, as the new school year gets up and running, US News and World Report releases its annual college rankings. After a careful evaluation of over 1,600 schools, U.S. News compiles nearly fifty ranked lists of colleges. Some rank the nation’s colleges and universities in broad categories; others cover specialized topics, such as the best undergraduate business programs or the schools that offer the best value for their tuition.
These rankings are a great spot for your teen to begin his or her college search, particularly if he or she is interested in some of the specific areas that are ranked. For example, if small class size, geographical location, or areas of specialty are a particular concern for your student, these rankings will help to compile an educated college list.
To learn more about them, check out our article The 2018 U.S. News and World Report College Rankings: What You Need to Know.
4. Find a Major or Area of Specialty
Sometimes, students need a little extra help finding their direction before choosing a college. For students who haven’t yet decided on a major or area of focus, the major finding search engine on MyMajors might be helpful.
Another similar resource is available on the CollegeBoard’s site The Big Future. This service from the College Board provides tools for planning the future, including a college search that allows students to filter by location, major, selectivity, and almost any other important feature. It also offers help for students who aren’t quite sure where to start by offering some questions to help them begin to frame their thinking.
5. Use a College List Generator
One of the most critical parts of the entire college application process is the college list. This is the list of colleges to which your student will ultimately apply, so it needs to be curated carefully with an eye towards specific priorities such as areas of specialty and size, and an eye for selectivity that represents a good balance between reach, target, and safety schools for your student.
To learn more about the college list, check out these posts:
For more help, consider our comprehensive College Applications Guidance program. Here, we use a customized and innovative Chancing Engine and School List Generator, backed by an algorithm backed by over 100,000 data points to develop a school list based on your student’s real admissions chances and preferences.
6. Get Familiar With the Common Application
One big way to support your student is to read through the Common Application and get a better idea of what your teen is expected to do over the next season of college applications. Some students feel their parents are disconnected from the college application process, but if you preview the Common Application, you’ll be better prepared to lend advice, answer questions, and offer a more mature perspective for your teen.
7. Be Realistic About Financial Needs
If you’re like most families, finances are a consideration in the college search. From the beginning, you’ll need to be honest with your teen about your financial situation and ensure that he or she understands the ramifications of this on college choices.
It’s even more helpful if you can help your teen fill out the financial aid forms required for federal funding. These required information that your teen probably does not normally have access to, such as taxes. Having this information handy eases the burden for your teen and provides a realistic overview for both you and your child when estimating your out-of-pocket expenses for college tuition.
Check out the Federal Student Aid website to get started.
The college application process can be stressful for both students and parents alike, but getting started early and capitalizing on the resources available will ease the burden for both of you. Use these online tools to help your teen as he or she navigates the college application process.
For even more help, consider CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, your teen will be paired with a personal admissions specialist from a top a college who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process.
For more information about helping your teen through the college application process, see these CollegeVine posts:
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.