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11 Things College Parents Should Know

Let's face it - the college process can be downright stressful, especially if you're in the dark about the details. But you can ease the college transition for yourself and your child by getting answers to some of your most pressing college questions. Read on...

1. Helicopter parenting is not recommended.
If you're accustomed to helping your child with his homework and staying on top of him to meet deadlines, it's time to relax the reins. By letting him make his own mistakes, you're giving him the freedom he needs to become a responsible adult.

2. You need to teach your child financial responsibility.
While your child is still living under your roof, make time for open discussion about finances. Let her know which college expenses she's responsible for, such as tuition, room and board, books, personal expenses, etc. And teach her how to budget wisely.

3. It's wise to have a backup plan.
There's always a chance that your child won't get in to the college of his choice. Compare his grades and test scores with the numbers required for acceptance to the school, and discuss the possibility of a college rejection with your child so you can be prepared with alternatives.

4. Staying close to home is not a bad thing.
Some children just don't fare well far away from home - and that's OK. Going to a local school will not necessarily detract from your child's college experience, and it can even facilitate her college transition. Remember, she can always transfer to another school at a later date.

5. FAFSA deadlines are non-negotiable.
Though the federal deadline to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is June 30, the deadline for state-based grants can be as early as February. So complete the FAFSA as soon as you receive all your tax documents for the previous year.

6. Campus tours are crucial.
The best way to learn about a school is to see it for yourself. Visiting campus provides the opportunity to ask your most important college questions, talk to other college parents about the process, and offer informed input into your child's college decision.

7. An empty nest is part of life.
Feeling sad for yourself, worried for your child, or a mix of happiness and the blues are all normal when your child is preparing for college. Just try to keep your own emotions in check so he can be free to enjoy the college experience.

8. You can be a scholarship source.
Offer your child added incentives to seek out scholarships by increasing your financial support proportional to the free money she receives. And don't forget to talk with your employer and professional associations to find out if they offer scholarships for children of employees or members.

9. SATs matter.
Some colleges consider standardized test scores more than others, but almost all factor these numbers into their admission decisions. Your child might benefit from an SAT prep course or study manual, as they offer targeted test-taking strategies that can boost scores significantly.

10. Getting to know the guidance counselor is a good move.
When it comes to FAFSA questions, application fee waivers, early decision, etc., high school guidance counselors have seen and done it all before. Schedule a meeting to discuss concerns about the college process in general and your child's progress in particular.

11. You and your child will get through this.
If your child has become more sullen and moody than usual, rest assured that emotional and behavioral changes are normal during the stressful college process. Chances are, you're acting different, too! So give each other some space - it will get better.

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