Prepare for College

Parent Tips: Preparing Your Student for College
From the Iowa College Access Network® (ICAN)

A parent’s job is never easy, but helping students get ready for a class trip or an upcoming test is straightforward compared to preparing them for college. Many parents wonder what steps they should be taking now to make the process easier for their children in a few years.

ICAN recommends the following actions for parents of students considering college.

  • Save. College can be expensive, so consider how you can help your student financially through savings, investments or other means. Also, talk with children about how much financial help they can expect from you, and encourage them to save and earn money as well.
  • Understand. Know how much college costs, how the application and financial aid processes work, and what your student needs to do to be ready. Once you are familiar with the basics, you can help students understand their role.
  • Communicate. Talk to your children and their teachers and school counselors often about their future plans and how well they’re staying on track. Help students come up with strategies for meeting their goals.
  • Encourage. Seek and take advantage of opportunities that help students understand career and college choices and pursue those of their choice. Summer camps, involvement in activities, volunteer positions, and part-time employment are some common ways to expose students to the options available.
  • Research. While teens are notorious for doing everything but what parents advise, you know your children best. Help them look into schools and programs that are suitable for them, not their best friends.
  • Visit. See several campuses in person. Try to get a feel for public and private colleges and universities as well as community colleges and other schools. Have your student schedule tours and ask the questions.
  • Ask. Check with your employer and any civic, community, or religious groups you belong to about scholarship opportunities. Find out the requirements so your student can be ready to meet them when it’s time to apply.
  • Recruit. Have students help you with budgeting, shopping, appointment setting, and other daily tasks so they can do it on their own. Basic laundry, cooking, and car maintenance skills are useful, but staying within a budget should be a focus.

Overall, the most important thing a parent can do to prepare children for college is simply providing support, according to ICAN. Ask your students about their goals and plans often and help them find ways to succeed.

About ICAN
ICAN is the College Access Network for Iowa, as designated by the National College Access Network (NCAN). The ICAN College Planning Centers in West Des Moines and Cedar Rapids provide free information and support to students and their families as they plan their postsecondary education and apply for financial aid. ICAN is provided by Iowa Student Loan; no ICAN services, however, are dependent on a student borrowing through an Iowa Student Loan preferred lender. For more information about ICAN, call (877) 272-4692 or visit


Another great resource from a great student in California is:

THANKS Rebecca & Allison Smith!!