How to prepare your child, and yourself, for the college application process

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As the cost of higher education continues to rise, parents must learn to be smarter about the entire college preparation process. Amanda Grow, founder of CollegeCon, gives us five strategies to help your child improve their admissions and scholarship options.

How to be a Scholarship Smart Parent

1. Understand the Scholarship Index

When colleges initially look at your student, they see a number: a combination of the high school GPA and ACT or SAT score known as the student`s 'index score'.  Many colleges award their academic scholarships using only this number (see example Utah State's index here and Utah Valley University's index here. Other colleges use a more comprehensive evaluation, but rely heavily on the index to sort their candidates at the beginning of the evaluation process.

By the time your student's junior or senior year is underway, their cumulative GPA isn't likely to move much because it is an average of all of their grades since 9th grade. The best way to improve an index score at this point comes from focusing on their ACT score.

Parents should understand taking the ACT as a process. Students should begin the process in their sophomore or junior year and take the test at least a handful of times, ending with at least one test during the Senior year. Students can get better at taking this test!

2. Plan your high school class schedule effectively

The Utah System of Higher Education offers an amazing scholarship called the Regents Scholarship that many students can qualify for. The most important thing to know if you'd like to qualify for this scholarship is that you must plan your class schedule effectively. It requires that certain classes be taken over the course of a student's high school experience, some in sequential order.

Another thing to note is that when you earn college credit in high school, you save yourself thousands of dollars. Taking Concurrent Enrollment (CE) or Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school costs a tiny fraction of what the college credits they translate to would cost at a University.

3. Help your child discover what they want to become

In college, time is money.  Each class and semester on campus adds to the total cost of your student`s degree.  The scholarship you give yourself is having a good idea of what you want to do before you begin paying tuition.  Invest in self discovery while your student is still in junior high and high school.  Help arrange job shadowing and find other ways to explore majors and fields of interest.

4. Look at your financial contribution as a scholarship

If you will be contributing financially to your child`s college experience, you'll want to make sure you and they look at the contribution in the same way you look at a scholarship.  Scholarships have strings attached.  You must meet certain qualifications to earn and to maintain the scholarship.  Make sure your expectations are clear.  Perhaps you are willing to pay for school as long as they are getting B's or better?  Will you pay room and board if they pay for (or earn a scholarship for) tuition?

5. Find resources and inspiration at CollegeCon 2017

CollegeCon is a free, one-day event designed to help parents and students explore their higher education options. This year's event will be held on March 18 at Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah. The keynote event will feature Global Leadership expert Dr. Susan Madsen, Cotopaxi CEO Davis Smith, Rap artist James the Mormon, and the world renowned BYU Ballroom dance team. Twenty five colleges from across the state and beyond will be present to answer your questions in our Explore CollegeCon expo hall.

The event is free, but registration is required. Register at utahcollegecon.com.

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