Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

4 Tips: How to Prepare for College Right Now

by | Mar 20, 2020 | Ask the admission office | 2 comments

Pre-COVID-19, did you have time for college visits? 

I know, I know. You’re laughing uproariously and I’m smiling because I’m fully aware your life is normally nuts. (Right now, it might be a different kind of crazy.) 

One of the biggest problems I encountered as an admission counselor was getting prospective college kids to visit. Parents and students didn’t have time to get it wrangled into their schedules.

I get it. I (try to) balance a full-time editorial job and freelance during slim pockets of lunch at the kitchen table (I just wipe off any ketchup that splatters onto my keyboard). 

Plus, two little kiddos need my attention. (My husband gets left in the dust because, well, he can take care of himself.)

I love what I’m doing. All of it. But I’m exhausted. I’m spread thin. (And a little cranky.) 

If you’re barely keeping it together and you still have college visits on your list, I feel for you. I really do. Here are some top tips if your soon-to-be college kid is wondering how to prepare for college right now,  along with some COVID-19 relevant tips, too.

1. Don’t bother visiting schools right now.

Forget about setting up college visits for the time being — the COVID-19 crisis means you get to take a breather. Nobody will give you a tour right now and admission offices may not even be meeting with families. 

The only way you can get a real sense of what a college is like is to do a visit when college is in full swing. It’s impossible to understand what a college is really like unless it’s teeming with students.  

Plus, many college kids who have stayed on campus did so because they don’t have any place else to go. It’s not fair to put them at risk by possibly bringing the virus to them. Stay home and weather the crisis online.

2. You can still learn a lot online.

These days were made for scrolling the internet, right? Since you and your teen have plenty of time to loaf while you’re self-isolating, you can also learn a lot about schools and how to prepare for college. (You’ll definitely learn more about their emergency preparedness and vision for the immediate future! Most school’s COVID-19 policies exist on their home pages.)

Nothing takes the place of a campus visit. However, you can still learn a lot about a college on a virtual tour. At the very least, you can find out whether College A has the kind of microbiology program your student is looking for.

Just remember, a college’s website will look shiny and beautiful. Try to remember that people are what makes an incredible college experience — not gorgeous science labs or state-of-the-art student rec centers. Try not to let your child fall in love with a college for aesthetic reasons. Hold out for meeting the people. You’ll be able to eventually!

3. Have your child start looking for scholarships. 

Explain to your child that he or she can be looking for scholarships now that sports, band and other clubs and organizations are canceled and now that there’s oodles of free time. Seniors can still look for scholarships, too. There’s still so much untapped money out there.

Check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool, look into foundations, community or religious organizations, local businesses, civic groups and ask about scholarships at your workplace. This is a constructive use of time for any student who’s wondering how to prepare for college. 

4. Write down your goals. It can change your life.

Edwin Locke, an American psychologist and goal-setting theory pioneer, was one of the first individuals to establish a positive relationship between clearly identified goals and performance. It really works.

Really, this can apply to any area of your life (when will you write the book you’ve been writing in your head since second grade?!). But consider using it as you’re trying to figure out how to prepare for college. Writing out your goals is a powerful motivator. In fact, if you really want to get something done, write it down and tell everyone about it. For example, you could write, “Schedule three college visits by October.” Then, tell two friends you’re planning to do it.

Even better, have your soon-to-be college kid write down his or her goals for college. They could look like this:

  1. Apply for [insert number] of scholarships by [date].
  2. Study for and take the ACT by October. 
  3. Apply to College A, College B and College C.
  4. Write a scholarship essay for College A and B by [insert date].

Find out what your high schooler’s goals are — really hone in on what he or she would like to accomplish in college. Building relationships during the college search also extends to building relationships with your son or daughter — and the COVID-19 crisis will require everyone to be at home more. Why not talk about college?

Give Yourself a Break

If there’s anything to be learned from this time in our lives, it’s to slow down. I mean, does life really have to be so busy? All the time? Maybe a lull will enable you and your child think more critically about what features you both really want in a college.

Finally, have patience with colleges as they work to sort out what they’re going to do. Many, many colleges are still hashing it all out. During this uncertain time, it’s more important to strengthen our communities through empathy, patience and support. College (and everything else, for that matter) will still happen, even if the world looks a lot different right now.

2 Comments

  1. Derek Swain

    Thank you for mentioning how you can stay motivated more effectively if you write down your ambitions. My son has been having trouble finding the motivation to focus on academics and seems to have no interest in attending college since he spends most of his time playing sports. Maybe I should find a school that can help him identify his goals so that he can apply them to school.

    Reply
    • Melissa Brock

      Derek, Does your son plan to play sports in college? If so, sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge from a coach to encourage him to focus on academics. (Sometimes he needs to hear it from someone else!) And a great admission counselor at a college can help outline the academic requirements for scholarships and admission to a college. Let me know how I can help you both outline those goals! You can email me at melissa@collegemoneytips.com.

      Reply

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