By Milissa Pierce MA, LPC, and Beth Walsh-Sahutske MA, LPC
Q: I think I should be doing something to prepare for college now that my son is in high school, but it feels a little overwhelming. Where do I begin? Are there helpful online tools?
A: Often when students are asked what they’re looking for in a college they don’t really know either. The best way to start is to physically get on college campuses — even if they’re not the ones he’s interested in. Locally, we are fortunate to have many easily accessible colleges to consider. If your son is a freshman, that may be a visit for informal activities like sports or theater performances. But older students will want to be more intentional with their visits and take an official tour. Note what is exciting and may be a draw for the student to seek out on other campuses. Alternately, note the negatives. Both responses are valuable.
Visiting multiple colleges sometimes can blend together, so take pictures and make notes after completing the visit. Don’t forget to note that “sixth sense” or less discernible feelings about the campus community. Encourage your son to reflect and begin to develop priorities in a good college match. Once you start to develop some priorities, you can use these as parameters for online searching in locations that aren’t as easy to visit.
There are many useful tools for families to aid in their college search. Most are free of charge and many often will help you personalize your search. In the Grosse Pointe Public School System, we use a tool called Naviance that not only helps students search for colleges, but also compares themselves to other students from the district. The students simply log into the website from the school website using their assigned username and password. Once there, students select the “College” bar and can personalize as well as compare and search.
The College Board website also has many helpful tools, not only to prepare for the SAT/AP test, but also to search for colleges and scholarships. The link is called “Big Future.” Included are tutorials and search tools to explore what it’s like to go to college and identify things that matter most to you. It also includes up-to-date information about 3,700-plus colleges.
My College Options is another search site with an active blog where students post comments about their struggles and experiences and includes expert advice to the questions posed.
Join us Oct. 29, for an in-depth discussion, by grade, to help in your college search process.
Pierce is a licensed professional counselor at Grosse Pointe North High School and has completed three additional courses in postsecondary planning to help guide her students through this challenging process. She can be reached at (313) 432-3224. Walsh-Sahutske is the chairwoman of the counseling department at Grosse Pointe South High School. She has guest lectured at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University and is the mother of four. She can be reached at (313) 432-3522.
The Family Center is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and preventive education to empower families to successfully navigate life’s social, emotional and physical challenges. It is completely supported by community donations. To learn more, visit familycenterweb.org, call (313) 447-1374 or email email@example.com.
SAVE the DATE
“The College Preparation Process for Parents and Students,” 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Brownell Middle School, 260 Chalfonte, Grosse Pointe Farms.
Learn about the college exploration process, elements of college application know-how and financial aid elements. Includes a demonstration of college research resources appropriate for each age group; attendees are invited to bring their own device and interact with sites.
Both sessions are given twice, one for each age group — ninth and 10th grades, and 11th and 12th grades.
Register early for this free event online at familycenterweb.org or by calling (313) 447-1374.