Guest Blog Article by Jelon Williams of Sojourn Academy.

Preparing their children for college is one of the most challenging tasks parents face. Although many parents start savings accounts for their children’s college tuition as soon as the kids are born, this is far from the only thing they can or should be doing to help their kids prepare for their college educations. More than half of high school students report that they do not feel adequately prepared to begin college, which should be a major concern for any parent thinking about their children’s future. Simply opening a savings account is not enough to prepare parents and students for college. In order to make sure their kids get the most out of their college experiences, it’s important for parents to begin planning as soon as possible.

Parents who start saving for their children’s college tuition right away have the right idea, but they may not be taking that idea far enough. It’s never too early to start thinking about college and preparing students for their college careers. Even as early as preschool, parents should be encouraging their children to think about their futures — and children also can begin thinking about and preparing for college as soon as they can to ensure that they are ready when the time comes.

Although saving money and getting good grades certainly are important elements of preparing for college, they aren’t the only steps parents and students can take. For example, parents of elementary school students should begin encouraging their children to think about their career aspirations. Even if children don’t take it very seriously at first, it’s important for them to think about the future so they are prepared when the time comes to plan for their careers.

Parents also can help their children prepare for college by getting them involved in college activities as early as possible. By attending sporting events or cultural events on local college campuses, children get the opportunity to experience college life early and learn what college has to offer them. College libraries and other resources also can be very helpful for middle and high school students as they work on their homework or other school projects.

As students reach high school, college prep should be a much larger focus. Parents must concentrate on helping their children by scheduling campus tours, narrowing down their list of schools, and filling out their applications as soon as possible.

At all stages of their pre-college years, students should be focused on keeping their grades up, staying out of trouble and building up their application credentials by participating in extracurricular activities and taking on volunteer work in their communities.

Planning for college means more than starting a savings account — and parents and students must begin to prepare long before high school begins. The accompanying checklist details many of the most important things parents and students must do, starting at elementary school age and continuing through high school. Keep these tips in mind and make sure that your children are prepared for college in more than a financial sense.

College Planning Timeline by Sojourn Academy