How to Survive Your Teen’s Journey to College

It’s official: My daughter is on the journey to college! Those of you who have followed my blog since the beginning know I’ve been down this road once before. In fact, I started my blog in 2010 as a cheaper-than-therapy option to help myself make it through my son’s senior year of high school — and beyond. While I am so proud of my daughter and wish her all the best in her college journey, I have to admit that these 16 years have gone by too quickly.

 

smiling college students

College prep? Crazy!

I won’t sugar-coat the whole college-planning process for you. It can be crazy and overwhelming if you don’t have some direction or guidance — especially your first time through. Between test prep, test taking, essay writing and campus visits guiding your college-bound teen can feel like a part-time job. And even though I’ve been through this all with the Class of 2011, I’m looking for a little help with my Class of 2016 kid.

Ready to tag along on my ride? I’ve got a road map for my daughter’s college prep. I’m using the KapMap from Kaplan Test Prep — part of their #JourneytoCollege program — this time around. I promise, it is possible to make it to the finish line without losing your hair.

What’s the KapMap?

A month-by-month map for college prep? I had no idea such a great college-planning tool existed, so when I was offered the chance to check it out I was totally on board. My daughter is just about to start her junior year in high school, and it’s time for the big leagues now. KapMap is a great way to track your teen’s journey towards college. KapMap includes a monthly list of what your teen should be doing for each year in their high school career. How great is that? All moms know how incredibly fast those months fly by — and how easy it is to miss an important deadline. With KapMap I don’t have to worry about my daughter missing an important test or deadline that might jeopardize her chances of being accepted at one of her favorite campuses.

Overwhelmed?

If it seems like there’s a lot to this whole process, you’re right. It’s a whole new ballgame for this generation. Colleges in California are reducing admissions of residents in favor of higher-paying, out-of-state candidates, making it even more difficult to get into the in-state college of your choice. And the applicants of this generation aren’t just great students, essay writers and test takers — they also have amazing extracurricular activities and volunteer gigs that really make them stand out. KapMap has reminders and suggestions along the way to help your teen make their application stand out from the rest.

What my daughter is doing right now

Summer is winding down at our house, and my daughter is ready to start her junior year of high school. Here are a few things we’ve focused on this summer on her journey to college.

  • We have spent time talking about different careers, trying to help her develop a bit of direction towards what she might want to study, which also determines where she would like to apply.
  • She has spent time searching college websites and learning about academic programs they offer, campus statistics (such as number of students, safety ratings and acceptance rates) and what unique qualities each campus has.
  • She has toured a few campuses and is making a list of those she would like to visit during winter or spring break.
  • Registering for AP classes is a great way to show admissions officers that you can take a challenge, and my daughter is taking two AP classes during junior year — which means summer homework! (ugh)
  • Deciding about whether she will take the PSAT a second time as a junior. In our town, a local educational foundation made a generous contribution that paid for all sophomores to take the PSAT. Pretty cool, right?
My tips

Since I have been through the journey to college with my older son, I have a few tips for moms and teens just heading down this road.

  1. Only apply to colleges that your child truly has an interest in attending — and can afford. Each application has a fee attached to it, and even though it might be fun to tell people your child was accepted at Harvard, if he has no intention of attending that’s just wasted time and money.
  2. However, if your teen has a dream school she would love to attend, go ahead and apply! You never know how the application process will pan out, and your teen may have exactly what the school of their dreams is looking for.
  3. Have one or two backup majors in mind at each school your teen applies to. Even if they go in undeclared, it helps to have a focus. Changing schools down the road is always an option, but many students would rather stay at one campus until they finish their degree. This saves time and money in the long run, because all undergrad classes won’t necessarily transfer directly to a new campus.
  4. Try to remember that this is THEIR journey, not yours. Your alma mater may not appeal to your teen, or she may not share your dreams of an Ivy League education. Step back and really listen to what your teen wants, because in the end this is a stepping stone to your teen’s adult life — which they will be living, not you.
  5. Stay calm as acceptance letters, emails and texts start pouring in. Spring of senior year is crazy enough, and with modern technology many students are at school when they find out they’ve been accepted or denied. Hearing that your BFF was accepted at YOUR dream school when you haven’t heard from them yet can be devastating to a teen. Stay calm and keep your focus on your own teen’s journey — and avoid being pulled into the “Mommy Competition” scene.
Ready to go?

So, are you ready to start your teen’s journey to college? Start by downloading the KapMap and you won’t miss a thing. You can also follow Kaplan on Facebook and Twitter.

Special offer! Save $100 when you enroll in Kaplan’s SAT and ACT course through 8/28.Promocode: SHESPEAKS100.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.

5 Things Your Son Needs for College (Not)

My son is leaving for his freshman year of college in four just a few days (who’s counting?).

I may have blogged about it a few times here and there (and maybe here too).

Some of you are overly concerned for my well-being after he leaves. I’ve been finding business cards from mental health professionals left under my front door mat.

I’m pretty sure that was Dr. Phil tailing me in his BMW as I drove to Starbucks yesterday morning to drown my sorrows.

But seriously, this is an exciting time for all of us.

For him because he gets to realize his dreams, get started on his future, move away from his oppressive parents, leave home just as his little sister hits her teens, stay up as late as he wants, and drink as much Dr. Pepper as his stomach can handle.

And for me because I can finally dig through that room, find the carpeting I’m pretty sure we installed twelve years ago, and open the windows to let the fresh air waft away the smell of boy.

I may even find that cat I think we used to have.

In the final days of preparing him to live on his own, we went on a bit of a shopping spree the other day.

His list was long and detailed and (luckily) we already had most of what he needed.

Cha-ching cha-ching.

But apparently there are certain items that a college-bound boy finds no need for, and should a mother mention them? Eyes will roll.

Kleenex tissues He has informed me that these are unnecessary, since he is taking a roll of paper towels.

Shower caddy Apparently no self-respecting dude would be seen with one of these handy totes for carrying your shampoo/shaving cream/toothpaste and brush/etc… to and from the communal bathroom. Who knew?

 Face towel If you’d seen the look of disbelief he shot me when I asked how many face towels he needed you’d have thought I asked him to pick his favorite shade of nail-polish. I suspect this has more to do with how many times he’ll have to do laundry than it does the actual usefulness of the face towel, because he does use one at home.

Ironing board/iron I still remember the cute table-top ironing board my mom bought me when we did our pre-college shopping trip. Come to think of it, I remember ironing things for several of my guy friends, which is probably why they don’t need their own.

Any items in any color other than black This kid’s got a black thing going on…not in a goth way, but just in a I-wear-black-all-the-time way. The only items he’s packing that aren’t black are white bath towels and a white laundry basket. Only because the laundry basket didn’t come in any other colors black.

Of course, this whole experience will not be of any help the next time I send a kid to college.

My 13 year-old daughter has already started listing all of the incredibly cute and colorful dorm room items she is going to get when she goes away in five years.

And I’m pretty sure she won’t want that white laundry basket.