For Parents

Your son or daughter is about to be one of the 15 million students going off to college this year. He or she has spent months planning for this, survived endless preparation for the SATs, and has likely sorted through piles of colorful brochures from colleges and been bombarded by internet advertising for all of the above.

Through four years of high school, your child will have had many teachers, taken a variety of tests and participated in numerous activities. The one person who sees the entire picture of your child's high school career and who can bring all the information together, aside from you, is your child's guidance counselor.

The counselor helps them plan a challenging course schedule and advises on how to achieve their goals. The counselor has information on which tests your child should take, which colleges are a good fit, and how he or she can get on the right track for an interesting career.

Many students have the same counselor throughout high school. Some counselors advise hundreds of students, while others advise far smaller numbers. Some students seek out their counselors, while others wait to be called in. Whichever scenario applies to your child, remember that he or she must take the initiative with their educational plans and be proactive in pursuing the counselor.

College applications require a counselor's recommendation, so it is important that each student let the counselor know his or her goals, strengths, and plans well before senior year. Many guidance offices send home a parent "brag sheet" at the end of junior year to help complete the student’s personal profile. Because colleges use various criteria to determine their incoming student body and their final decisions are based on composite pictures, you want to make sure your child has a good relationship with the counselor: that recommendation is important.

The Tips

Get your child involved:
Once you’re thinking that your child’s future includes college, you can help him/her believe it too. Get a big envelope or folder in which to keep all records and a list of extracurricular activities.

Talk to their teachers:
Make a point of meeting with teachers every year, as they are partners in helping your child succeed. Let them know your child’s concerns, if your child hasn’t already.

Be sure the core curriculum is covered:
Your child should have no fewer than five solid academic classes per semester.

Let your child pursue his/her passions through electives and extra-curricular activities:
Colleges look for a well-rounded high school experience, but they also look for special talents. Encourage your child to pursue his/her interests in art, music, journalism, computer programming, business, performing arts or whatever else. Let this elective choice be the sixth credit each year.

Help your child show what he knows:
Many colleges require SAT Subject Tests for admission or placement; your child can choose from over twenty of them. The Writing Test is included with the Reasoning Test (formerly known as the SAT I). Check with the colleges you are selecting to find out their additional requirements. Also check for colleges that have made these tests optional.