How to Avoid Costly College Admissions Mistakes

Arts and Education, Ask the Expert, Featured Article, Growth and Development

As high school seniors enter the final stretch of the college admissions process, parents often feel the financial pinch, and the first tuition bill hasn’t even arrived! They may wonder, too, if there were costs that they could have avoided. For instance, could they have started the process earlier? Or could they have done better at researching schools, at understanding the college application, learned more about financial aid or had a college career plan? For stressed out moms and dads new to the college admissions process, here are five tips that can help you avoid common costly mistakes with your college-bound teen:

#1. Start early, become educated and get help.

To keep from wasting time and money, prepare for the college admissions process while your student is in the ninth grade. Begin with an understanding of how the college admissions system works; differences between state, private and research schools; required classes to be taken while in high school; GPAs and test requirements; and financial aid terms. If you get stuck or don’t have to time to become a college search manager, get expert advice from a professional who can provide you with personalized help for your particular need.

#2. Research, research, research before selecting schools.

Don’t spend money on schools unless you know how they spend it on their students. Find out what your teen will learn in college and earn after college. Focus on the quality of the education your teen will receive. Find out who’s teaching the classes — adjuncts or professors? Where does the college invest their money? Is it directed toward quality professors, lab facilities and state-of- the-art computers for students? Or is the college spending money on fancy dorms, student services and sports facilities?

#3. The college application is a “resume” for college.

College applications cost money, so it is important your teen correctly fills out the form for the most impact before they hit the submit button. The college application is similar to a resume, and it is the first time students have to “sell” themselves on paper. Students need to have a compelling reason why they want to go to a particular college and be able to answer why the college should admit them. Now more than ever, students will no longer just be applying for admittance to the best college — they will be competing for admittance.

#4. Know ahead of time what you can afford (and tell your teen).

Universities don’t always counsel parents or students about financial aid when they are recruiting students. If parents are footing the bill (and most are), apply to colleges that you can afford. Make sure you explain to your teens the financial parameters of any college decisions that you make with them. Do the math and crunch the numbers with your teen on tuition, living expenses, student loans and repayment terms before you write out the tuition check.

#5.  Today’s main benefit of college is a job after graduation.

Before your teen enters college, have them take an interests assessment and use the information to help them focus on college majors and career paths that are in demand. Providing your teen with a college career plan can help them avoid floundering in college, taking impractical classes and changing majors — all of which cost you money. Investigate the college career center’s track record of job placement for graduates. Your teen’s chosen college needs to have the resources in place to open doors for employment opportunities after graduation.

College Career Strategist Elizabeth Venturini gladly supports stressed-out, timed-starved parents who want the best college, financial aid and career options for their teenagers. Reach her at [email protected], or go to to learn more.

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