I recently read that parents spend 300+ hours helping their teens through the college admissions process. I suspect that number may be higher when you factor in the number of hours parents spend searching through resources trying to get answers to their questions.
The admission process is quite fluid and frequently changes. No one heard the term "demonstrated interest" just a few years ago and now it is a mainstream phrase in the search and application process. Options such as gap year and a pre-college year are becoming more accepted now. Planning testing schedules, organizing college visits and researching college majors can suck up a lot of time and energy. Since families generally cram all college planning into the spring of junior year through the fall of senior year, there isn't much time to spare.
So what's a parent to do?
Start Early- The summer before junior year is the ideal time to plan out SAT or ACT testing. This
gives students time for prepping for the tests before school even begins. The early high school years are not too early to visit some colleges and talking about college should begin in the late middle school years to maximize summer program opportunities and plan out coursework.
Get Educated- I hear parents say all of the time, "I don't know what I don't know". It's true that college planning can feel overwhelming and it's difficult to know where to start. Talk to others who have gone through this recently with their own children. Talk to knowledgeable college counselors. Read reputable resource books and websites about college planning.
Don't Panic- We want our teens to enjoy their high school years and putting pressure on them may backfire in a host of ways. Identify your stressors about the process and create a plan. There is help available so don't hesitate to reach out to your high school college counselor or an independent college counselor for assistance.They can save you a great deal of time and stress so you can focus on enjoying your teenager and these fun months.