Every year on the College Hopes and Worries Survey, we include an optional question at the end that asks respondents what advice they have for next year's applicants and parents of applicants. Here, in their own words, are their suggestions and tips. Enjoy!

On the College Application Process

  • Start sooner! — Linda, Tampa FL

  • Start early, and save early for their future. — Loreli, Chandler, AZ

  • Start Early! Visit schools in sophomore year, concentrate on testing in junior year, apply in senior year. — Karen, Woodinville, WA

  • Start preparing in your child's first year of high school . Don't wait until third year. — Carlene, Roseville, CA

  • Start the whole process a year earlier than you think you need to. — Amy, Glen Ellyn, IL

  • When thinking about which schools to consider, our daughter seemed stuck because she isn't sure what she wants to be. We tried to help her just think about 3-5 things she likes and would want to learn more about. That seemed to help take off the pressure and get her "unstuck" with choosing some schools to visit. — Ellen, New Paltz, NY

  • Create a calendar with deadlines, test dates , college events and visits, etc. This will eliminate a lot of stress for you and your child. — Sandee, Los Gatos, CA

  • Treat the application process like a job. Set a regular time each week to tackle some aspect of the process. — Laura, ME

  • After your child applies, the schools will allow you access to their website to track your application information. Keep track of all of your child's passwords and website access information. Because schools use different safety systems, you can end up with different user IDs and passwords at each school. If you apply to more than 3 schools, this can be quite confusing. — Cheryl, Stevenson Ranch, CA

  • Do what you can to make sure your child "owns" the entire application process. Start the FAFSA and CSS early as they require a lot of information and pay careful attention to the instructions. Don't wait until the last day to apply for anything as the servers frequently get overloaded. — James, CA

On Stress

  • Relax! Somehow, it all comes together. Everyone goes through it, so ask your family and friends for advice/help. You will be surprised at the great advice you can gather that way. — Sharon, Brielle, NJ

  • Your child will not be nearly as stressed as you will be. — Lynda, Sunrise, FL

  • Don't spend too much time comparing notes with others going through the process. Makes people crazy. — Sarah, Newton, MA

  • Try not to stress too much — enjoy the process and make the most of the time you spend with your child, talking about his/her interests, helping them take that big step. — Sharon, Amherst, MA

  • Don't stress out your child. They're under enough pressure already! Life is not a straight line. Have faith in your parenting skills and your child's ability to succeed on their own terms. — MaryAnne, Westwood, MA

  • Make sure to take the college process in steps and you won't feel so overwhelmed. — Denise, Sea Girt, NJ

On Standardized Admission Tests

  • Make sure your child understands the importance of doing well on the SAT and ACT. They need plenty of time to study for them. Last minute cramming does not work, especially for the SAT. — Teresa, Chino Hills, CA

  • Let your child know how important the SAT really is. My daughter thought it wouldn't matter, but every point counts. — C., Monroe Township, NJ

  • Make sure your child takes the SAT or ACT early so if they are not satisfied with their score, they can retake it. — Mary, Duluth, MN

  • Take SAT early as possible so that if any special attention or classes are needed they can be taken earlier to improve the SAT score before the application process begins with a solid score. — Bob, Alpharetta, GA

  • Get all the paperwork together. Take an SAT prep course and make sure the grades stay up senior year. — Rebecca. Placerville, CA

  • Take practice ACT/SAT tests as often as possible — the more your child takes the more comfortable she/he will be at the test. — Amy, Glen Ellyn, IL

  • Take the ACT/SAT during their Junior year when they are taking "core" classes. — Lisa, Chandler, AZ

On College Visits

  • Visit as many schools as you can. A visit can change your view of a school. — Jeanne, IN

  • When visiting colleges, don't just take the packaged tour. Eat in the dining halls and talk with the students. — John, Orange, CT

  • Visit colleges when they are in session. — Mariko, Jamaica, NY

  • Do college visits with your child and make it a fun experience. Spend a night if you can in the city you are going to to get a feel of the surroundings. Also, it is fun to experience the excitement of your child when they have decided on a college! The special family time is never going to be the same, so cherish this important decision on the right college. — Katlin, Olathe, KS

  • Visit the school more than once and take pictures because when you visit it all becomes a blur. — Lucy, NY

On Parenting

  • Listen to your child! — Maureen, Middletown, NY

  • Allow your child to dream about anything he can be! — Susan, Remsenburg, NJ

  • Be a guide and not a choice-maker. Believe in your child's own intuitions and advocate for their personal interests. — Alice, Randolph, NJ

  • As a parent, allow your kid to experience the college application for themselves. While it is imperative to gently look over their shoulders, taking over full control doesn't allow them to make important decisions for themselves. — Danielle, Lambertville, NJ

  • Be encouraging but not micromanaging. Remind your child of upcoming deadlines and help them proofread their essays. Start early in researching colleges that might be a good fit. Visit a bookstore and help your child pick out a good review manual for the ACT and/or SAT. — Carole, Livonia, MI

  • I know some parents who are literally obsessing over this whole process. I hope they don't forget that it is their child that is going to college, not them. — Nancy, WI

  • Focus on your child and what is best for him/her and try not to focus on all the competition between parents. This is about your child, not about you. — Carol, Tarrytown, NY

  • Parents, Back off! Applicants, Relax! — D.B., Monterey, CA

On Money Matters

  • Start saving even before your children are born. — Carla, PA

  • Save a lot, save early. — L.S., Glen Rock, NJ

  • Make sure to get taxes done early, and fill out FAFSA soon after. — Mary, MN

  • Expect the FAFSA to indicate that you can contribute more than you really can. Look for local scholarships and ask each college about what they have available as well as state and national sources. — Mark, Jackson, MI

  • Learn about the FAFSA well in advance of the Jan 1 date. — Tricia, FL

  • Look at the average financial aid package, not just cost, and don't say no to yourself (your child) on behalf of a school by never applying to it. — Charles, Philadelphia, PA

  • Dare to dream. Don't limit your child's vision of their future by your own financial worries. — Karen, VA

  • Understand that money saved in a 529 must be exhausted before your family will qualify for financial aid. — Julie, Brooks, CA

  • Don't be scared off from applying to private schools as opposed to public universities. Private schools can be very generous with scholarship offers. — Diane, Chicago IL

  • Let your child free to see what schools will accept your child and see what the financials are later. In other words, do not assume a school is too much money as a reason not to apply. Particularly if your child has done well on ACT/SAT, the tuition number at a private school is not going to be the number you will have to fund. — Alan, MI

  • Do your homework on the entire process, including understanding how the financial aid process works, and don't wait until the last minute to delve into this stuff. — Ken, Colorado Springs, CO

  • Our experience: Getting in was the easy part (state schools' application). It was figuring how to afford it, then eliminating some for cost alone: that is the hard part. — Amy, Fort Worth, TX

  • Buy Paying for College Without Going Broke when your child is born. (I'm convinced every family should get this book when they leave the hospital with their first child!). — Robin, Bridgewater, MA

On Choosing Which College to Attend

  • Let your student take the lead in defining interests and schools that could be a good fit. Don't focus on labels. An excellent education can be had in schools you've never heard about before. — C.L., Ridgewood, NJ

  • Don't be overly focused on "brand name" colleges. There are other excellent choices that offer very good value, and are quite affordable. — Mark, Macungie, PA

  • Don't focus on a major so much as interests and opportunities. Nobody is sure at 18 what they want to do. They beauty of college is you have a chance to expand your horizons and perspective. — Larry, Bayside, NY

  • Try to think about the best fit for your child, not what others think is the best or most prestigious. — Mary, Brunswick, ME

  • There are many good colleges out there — not just the 10 that everyone is applying to. — M.M., Far Hills, NJ

  • Don't make the choice of a college for your student. They're the ones going to school, not the 'rents. — Peggy

  • Make the final decision after receiving all the financial aid packages. — Kathleen, FL

Wise, Funny or Both

  • It's not the same as when we went through it. — Cori, Lake Forest, IL

  • Everything will be OK. Kids are happy in lots of places and for different reasons. It is important to remember they bring their own world with them and can create good things wherever they are. — Laurie, Madison, OH

  • Most boys are in denial that they have to get ready so soon. — Nancy, Los Angeles

  • Start your college search EARLY. I wouldn't wish these last few weeks we have had on anyone. — J., Brooklyn, NY

  • It matters more what your child does at the college he/she gets into than which college he/she gets into. — L. T., Cincinnati

  • No matter what school they go into, they will likely be happy. If not, college is not a jail sentence. They can transfer. — J., Cheshire, CT

  • Don't make any plans for the holidays, Sept. through Dec. — D.V., Santa Rosa CA

  • Pray for a miracle. — Dennis, San Antonio, TX

  • Pray for the wisdom to help your child make good choices. — Michael, Los Alamos, NM

  • In the end, it will all work out. — Mildred, Glendale, NY

  • It does end. — Linda, Agoura, CA

Praise for The Princeton Review

  • Make sure you use Princeton Review for checking out colleges online! — Sheri, Springfield, PA

  • Buy Princeton Review's Best Colleges guide. This guide was a tremendous resource for the application process for our three children. — Celie, Winston-Salem, NC

  • Begin search for potential colleges early. We have used The Princeton Review The Best Colleges which has been very informative and helpful in selecting potential college choices. — Ingrid

  • If your child is having trouble with the standardized tests, The Princeton Review is a big help in raising their score. — Connie, Covington, IA

  • The Best Colleges by The Princeton Review is a very good reference when choosing colleges to apply. — Mari

  • I really like the college rankings on the Princeton Review website. I look at "happiest students" ; "best classroom experience" ; and "best career services." Also I look at other things that are important to my kid (nice dorms, etc). — Serena, San Diego, CA

  • Have the Princeton Review SAT tutor class come to your child's school. The class was given to 9 students at my child's school, and all students improved their scores. My child improved by almost 200 points! — Rhonda, GA

  • An invaluable tool for us has been the Princeton Review website. We used it to guide us through the whole college search experience. We chose 2 safe schools, 3 match schools and 1 reach school. Thank you, Princeton Review. You have been our best guidance counselor! — Maria, Greenwood, SC

The Princeton Review thanks all the students who shared these comments and tips and the thousands of others we heard from on our survey. Our customers are our best advisors and counselors!