College Bound: 4 Tips to Get Ahead & Stay Sane - MetroFamily Magazine
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College Bound: 4 Tips to Get Ahead & Stay Sane

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As kids of all ages throughout the Oklahoma City metro return to the classroom, college preparations come to the mind of many high school students. 

From picking a university to actually getting in, there are a lot of challenges teens face as they prepare to pursue higher education. We reached out to Terrie Shipley, a local educational planner, to give a few tips to our readers who are navigating this difficult process. 

After years working as an admissions counselor for the University of Tulsa, Shipley broke out on her own to be an independent educational planner. She serves as a one-stop shop for families needing to navigate the college process. From selecting a university to getting in and getting it paid for, Shipley helps students achieve their academic dreams.

For parents, a common challenge is knowing how involved they should be in the process. How many decisions should students be able to make on their own concerning college? For students, a common struggle is knowing what preparations they should be making before the application process begins. She shared some of her top tips for both parents and students with us.

What should students do to prepare for the college process even before it comes time to start applying?

  • Begin by exploring different interests and potential careers very early. Whether you're into photography or medicine, start exploring formal and informal opportunities to learn more about those fields. Not only will you be able to build on your interest, but you'll be able to show a counselor later that you've taken the time to pursue your interests. 
  • Secondly, visit college campuses. When you're out of town for any reason, stop by some campuses that might interest you. It's one thing to visit Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, but you should check out the differences in a research university and a liberal arts college or a public school versus a private school. While you're visiting, try to connect emotionally. I can help you research why a school makes logical sense but nothing can compare to how you feel when you're in that environment.

How should parents approach the college search and application process with their kids? How involved should they be?

  • I've heard that parenting a teenager is like hugging a cactus. That's true in the college search process. It's kind of a dance. As a parent, you should let the student take ownership of the process. It's important to let them put the work into it, but that doesn't mean you can't keep up with it and ask them from time to time how things are going. 
  • Especially when it comes time for kids to write their essays and go to admissions interviews. Feel free to help but what's most important is the preservation of the student's voice in the essay and interview. Admissions counselors can tell if a parent has doctored the essay or coached for the interview. The student should feel ownership and take credit when praise is deserved. It's a valuable learning experience for them to be told about areas they need improvement, so let them have that. The student should be steering the ship with the support of their parents.

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