Getting ready for university is an exciting time, and one that’s full of big decisions, from deciding which program to enroll in, to choosing the school that just feels right. The good news is the path to the university of your child’s dreams is more than possible—all it takes is a little planning (and a lot of studying).

They say good things come to those who plan.

OK, we know that’s not really the expression, but we like this version better. And just like planning to pay for post-secondary school with an RESP is super important, so is planning that perfect university application. And if you’re a parent wondering, how can I help steer them in a direction that helps them highlight what’s so special about them? Well, you’re sure to find tips in here to help your little scholar’s application shine. Who knows, maybe you’ll be helping Canada’s best-known architect, most-successful astronaut, or the country’s first-ever astronautical architect (hey, it could happen!).

Tip #1: Get those grades up there

Do grades really matter? If you’re nodding your head, then you get an A+ on this question. Your child’s grades are often the first-place admissions officers will look for a couple of reasons: many schools have minimum grade requirements for entrance; and some schools simply need a fast and easy way to weed out applications for competitive programs. It’s true that grades aren’t the only thing that matters, but just like deciding to go left or right at a fork in the road, it matters.

Tip #2: Choose those high school courses wisely

When it comes to selecting high school courses, there are a few ways to impress university. Of course, the first priority is for your child to choose classes they’re interested in. But if it makes sense, try to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. These courses are known to expect more from students (and admissions officers know this) and are set against international grading standards. See, it even sounds impressive! Signing up for advanced classes (and doing well, of course!) shows universities that your child is driven and isn’t just a sit-back-and-wait-for-good-things-to-happen kid.

Tip #3: Join a club, any club

What’s your child passionate about? Maybe they love solving scientific problems or they put up a good debate (even if it’s usually about why their curfew should be later). Academic clubs are a great way for young students to show admissions teams they’re dedicated to learning and pursuing what interests them. For example, signing up for a math, robotics or debate team demonstrates your child welcomes a challenge, on top of regular schoolwork.

Remember, no student needs to do it all (as in don’t join every club) but being part of a club or two shows universities that your child knows how to spend their free time productively.

Tip #4: Make those hobbies count

Whether your soon-to-be university student is into sports, music, or playing bridge with grandpa at his nursing home, admissions officers look for students who take the hobbies they’re passionate about to the next level. Does your kid love hockey? Encourage them to coach younger kids. Do you have a violin maestro on your hands? Suggest they teach beginners how to play. And about those casual weekly visits to host Bingo for Grandpa Ben and his friends? Why not make it official on paper by signing up to volunteer at the nursing home?

Tip #5: A summer internship can go a long way

Nothing shows a student is ready to work their socks off in university like having real work experience. The truth is, balancing work and school can be tricky, and you wouldn’t want those grades to suffer (see above). That’s why summer internships are a great way for students to show they’re developing practical work skills and are committed to gaining relevant knowledge in their field.

When choosing where to intern, focus on finding an organization that ties into the major they’re interested in (think a newspaper for your budding journalist, a construction company for your future engineer… you get the idea).

Lessen the stress of post-secondary planning with an RESP

Now that you know how to help your child plan for a university application to impress the best, don’t forget to plan to pay for post-secondary with an RESP. It’s no secret that post-secondary education is getting more expensive every year, which is why setting up an RESP is the smartest education savings tool around. What’s so smart about an RESP, you ask? Well, through the Canada Education Savings Grant, the Canadian government matches 20% of your RESP contributions up to $500 a year, to a maximum of   $7,200 per child over the lifespan of your RESP. And there’s no tax on the earnings while in the plan.

Plus, when you go with CST Spark, you can start your RESP easily from home with as little as $10 every month.

Have questions about setting up a RESP? Call us at 1-800-461-7100 or chat with us here, Monday to Friday from 9:00AM to 7:00PM ET.

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