So, I got into the office today, checked my calendar, and realized…
Summer’s over. Snap. Just like that. Gee thanks, Pete – a very happy Monday to you, too!

OK, sorry to point out the obvious, but the July 4th fireworks have been fired, the temperature reads 94 after the afternoon thunder showers, and the US Men’s National Team sadly but expectedly was eliminated from World Cup play last week.

It’s time to acknowledge that we’re at least in the very middle of it. Summer, that is. Before we know it, we’ll be seeing ‘back to school’ sales, receiving ‘school’s starting’ robo calls… so if you haven’t yet taken advantage of the slower summer months to begin your planning for college, now’s the time to do so. Wondering how to get started? Here are five Mid-Summer Tips for Parents of College Bound Teens:

5. Put Together A College Planning Calendar for The Upcoming Year – Better to do this now (at least with the dates you can find out about) as opposed to scrambling once school starts and your guidance counselors become overhwelmed with re-arranging schedules. And yes, this exercise should be done with ALL high school students, but I’m not gonna sugarcoat, if you have a child going into 12th grade, you’re already pretty last minute and should have done this already. Seriously, the Common Application opens in three weeks – on August 1, and Schools will begin Accepting College Applications right away (yes, that soon)! That means (among many other items) you should have already checked out the essay prompts at the schools on your child’s lists – they’re out there AND your almost 12th grade son or daughter should be writing those essays now (see also Tip # 3). There’s more for you as the parent of a 12th grader, but even if your child is still a high school underclassmen, there are upcoming college planning dates/events that you need to know about and they should be prepared for in advance. I recommend using the hot and rainy days of July to take stock and to work with your student to identify goals, deadlines, actions to be taken, etc. Put together a calendar (with your child) of upcoming Standardized test dates, Application deadlines, college Fairs, Visits to your school by various Admissions officers, etc.

Getting-into-college, one that is the right fit academically and financially doesn’t just happen by itself. You’ll need a strategy or plan of action, preferably beginning in 10th grade and summer is a great time to start the leg work.

4. Prep For Standardized Tests – Most high school students will be taking at least one standardized college-related test this year. In addition to the PSAT, I recommend, for example, that my younger students consider taking an SAT Subject test at the end of the school year, either next May or June. It’s beneficial to get one or two of these tests out of the way early, especially for strong subjects. Check out the dates these tests are offered. Compare them with your child’s courses. See what might be a fit and register him now, if you can, so you won’t be scrambling to do so later. Consider having your child take an assessment to determine whether he might be more suited for the ACT or the SAT. Enroll your child in a test prep class this month, or buy them a book… or check out one of the great online options out there (like Khan Academy). One note to parents with 9th and 10th graders! The SAT will be completely overhauled for students in the Class of 2017 and beyond. If you’re the parent of a rising 9th or 10th grader, make sure any assessment or SAT prep they do is for the NEW version.
For parents with an almost 12th grader who is not satisfied with her scores, make sure she takes the SAT or ACT this September or October. . .Unless your kid has super high scores, you’ll want to sign him up to take either test again (or both) and there are only a few test dates left until applications are due for 12th graders.

3. Write your college essay – This should be a top priority for rising 12th graders. There is perhaps no better use of your student’s time during the idle (or not so idle) summer months. The essay is far and away the hardest part of the application (much of the rest is actually quite easy), and many schools require more than one essay. Getting an early start is crucial – I’m already reviewing and editing essays from many of my students, and some of what I’m reading is very good, but other essays need considerable work. Having the essay done, or nearly done, before September 1 will be a huge boost for these kids. Have writer’s block? consider sending your student to my intensive College Admissions and Application Bootcamp in Weston on July 26.

2. Take your student to visit a college(s) – But College Pete, you often advise to visit when school is in session! OK, so the summer is not an ideal time to visit colleges and their sparsely populated campuses, but it’s better than nothing. And even if you can’t get away or your child is entering 9th or 10th grade, I recommend at least checking out a local school – just to give them a baseline of what a residential (or urban) campus might look like, or as practice, or just to give them a taste of what to expect when the time comes. Try to go before the end of July, as there still should be some life around you with summer terms still in session. Click here for more tips on maximizing your campus visit. And keep reading my blog – Jill and I will be visiting some North Carolina schools next week, and we’ll be sure to report on our findings.

1. Learn Your EFC – For newer readers, EFC is the acronym for your Expected Family Contribution. It’s the amount of money the government (or the school) expects that you can afford for one student for one year of college… and it’s where many schools start when it comes to discounting. Yes. Schools discount. In fact, the average tuition discount rate (institutional grant dollars as a share of gross tuition and fee revenue) has been growing for seven consecutive years – and recently reached an all time high – 45%! For many families, the EFC represents the discounted, net price (as opposed to the sticker price or total cost of attendance). By calculating your EFC, and learning ways to reduce your EFC, many middle class families can save between $5,000 and $25,000 (and sometimes more) per year off the list price of college. Which leads me to my…

Bonus Tip – Attend my College Planning Workshop on July 29 in Pembroke Pines. I’ll be breaking down the formulas for calculating the EFC, how those formulas can be managed, and how you can use this information to determine your actual out-of-pocket college budget. Over the years, parents who have attended my workshop have been able to use the information I share to fine tune their child’s admissions strategy, improve their admissions prospects and make college affordable. Regardless of your family’s financial background, this class can help you save money. Attendance is completely free.

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