10 things parents and students should know about applying to college

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10 things parents and students should know about applying to college

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Parents and students need help navigating the sometimes murky waters of college admissions. FILE PHOTO

High school students are getting ready for college.

They recently took the new SAT test, and soon they'll be filling out college applications (if they haven't already).

Parents and teens who need help navigating the sea of paperwork — from financial aid to applications — are in luck.

Nancy Beane, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and associate director of college counseling at the Westminster Schools, has some advice for parents and students starting their college search.

Here are her top 10 tips:

1. Parents or guardians need to set parameters — geographical, philosophical and financial. Once those are established, Beane says, the process belongs to the student.

The role of the parent becomes one of support and guidance, not dictatorship.

Parents can determine their expected family contribution using the net price calculator on any college website. Simply put in your financial data and get a fairly accurate estimate.

2. Although some colleges will admit students whether they have a financial need or not, many are now "need aware," meaning they might or might not take financial need into consideration.

3. Even if a student is accepted to a college, the institution might "gap" her. That means a college might not be able to meet all the financial aid a student needs. Also, many colleges count "meeting full need," Beane says, as putting lots of loans in the financial aid package.

4. Families need to ensure the amount of financial aid will increase if tuition increases.

5. If a family has multiple kids in college, and one graduates, the amount of aide for the others likely will go down, because the family will be able to contribute more to the other children.

6. Parents of students entering college in 2017 will use their 2015 taxes (instead of 2016) and can apply for financial aid in October 2016 instead of February of 2017.  

7. The essay questions for the 2016-2017 Common App are available now.

8. If current juniors start their Common App now, the data and essays they write will carry over to next year.

9. A new program — the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success — already has more than 90 college members and will launch a program of "lockers" in April. 

Although students can't apply to college until after their junior year, they can begin putting materials (papers, portfolios, etc.)  in a locker as early as ninth grade.  The locker will be theirs, and they will have control over when and how to share its contents with admission representatives.

10. Not all colleges require the SAT, ACT or any standardized test for admission. You can find a list of those colleges here.

Want to read about Beane's insights into the process? Check out our interview with her.

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