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Picking the Right College:

Your teen has almost made it. They are almost an adult, and their first milestone – High School Graduation – is almost upon them. While all high school seniors wait in anticipation of what the spring of 2011 brings them – admissions or rejection letters to colleges, senior ditch day, prom, senior trip, and graduation night celebrations. The next seven months can be strenuous for students and parents alike.

April is an intense time for high schoolseniors, as they anxiously await their college applications to come back. High school seniors see this time as the most important turning point in their lives, as it starts them on a pathway of what the rest of their life will look like. Your high school senior is probably getting ready to fill out college applications as we speak, as most applications are due by November 1 of this year, for entrance in fall 2011.

The impact of the recession of economy is starting to hit hard for anyone involved in the college admission process. This includes parents, students, and college admission officers. One common thing students are doing to help ease the economy aspect of making a decision is postponing that decision. They are refusing to lock in early-admission acceptance. Instead, they are waiting until April, May – or even as late as June or July, to make a decision until they hear the results of their Financial Aid applications.

Some parents who pay for their children’s college tuition are reconsidering plans to send their child to a public institutions over private, where rates are much lower. In fact, schools like California State University at Monetary Bay is a hidden gem. I would recommend it for those on a financial budget. One thing both parents and students seem to agree on is waiting as long as possible before mailing a deposit to the lucky school who gets their kid. This is helping contribute to many college officials feeling this apprehensiveness, as they don’t know what to do with staff, and how many student acceptance letters they should send out (since only about 60 to70 percent say yes to them).

For many of this year’s high school seniors a rude awakening is taking place – the real world. The sliding economy means they will have to apply for and be approved for scholarships, take out major amount of student loans, and some will even have to work full-time, just to get through the next four to 10 years of college.

In addition, these same students have to deal with the fears of the colleges as well. Many colleges fear they are going to have to cut back on financial aid to the poor and minority students, who add diversity to the privileged and higher-institutions, such as University of Southern California. This is due to the fact alumni and booster corporations whose contributions underwrite scholarships and other programs are themselves feeling the pinch of recession. As these economic pressures force students to attend state universities, those with weaker academic scores and tighter finances will have to settle for second-tier colleges, such as community colleges.

As you and your teen decide on which colleges to apply for, and which offer to accept, remember these five things:

1. Be prepared and keep realistic expectations in mind. It is okay to apply for schools that may be within reach, but don’t let your child set your heart on these. Also don’t have the mind set that “safety schools” are last resorts. All schools have something to offer, there is no such thing as a perfect college.

2. Have a plan for what will happen based on the outcome of decisions. You can have an easier time doing this by knowing ahead of time on how your child ranks the schools in their preference. Have them list the pros and cons of each university. For the child with multiple acceptances, these list of the advantages and disadvantages will help ease their mind in making a decision.

3. Monitor your own attitude as a parent. The manner in which the parents and family handle stress and disappointment and their feelings about higher education will influence how the teen copes with the situation. Remember not to confuse your ambitions (or past disappointments) with those of your child. Although all teens can profit from parental advice, they must experience all aspects of life – success and disappointment – on their own as well.

4. If the financial situation of your child changes between the time the application was sent in and the acceptance letter arrives, explore all possible sources of financial aid and other alternatives.

5. Take time to not rush conclusions. Regardless of the decisions, plans become clearer over the course of the next days and weeks and feelings of either joy or sadness become less intense. It takes time to adjust to whatever decision you make as a family regardless of the decisions made by college admissions counselors. Keep in mind that the college that accepts your kid may be different than your last visit and has probably been trimming costs – including hiring freezes, faculty layoffs, program changes, scholarship cuts, and dorm renovations. It may be helpful to make a phone call or another trip to get information about possible cutbacks and how your teen will be affected.

As the college application process moves forth, recognize that the move to college represents a milestone in life for both parent and child. Regardless of how close or far away the campus, college signifies a move towards independence and adulthood that should be acknowledged and celebrated.

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