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Parents’ role in the college application process

Posted on: November 13th, 2014 by Lori Greene

It’s mid-fall, and high school seniors all over the country are working on their college applications.

As a parent, what can you do to support your son or daughter in this process?

  • Continue to be supportive. Some of you have been through this already with an older child, but if this is your first time through the process, know that there may be some stressful days ahead. Encourage your son/daughter to talk about it and share what they are thinking and why.
  • Let your student drive the process. Your student needs to decide which schools to apply to and ultimately, which school seems like the best fit. You may have a particular school you’d like your son or daughter to consider, but make sure you let your child make the final decision.
  • Emphasize allocating time to the process and staying organized. This is often the first major process that students manage independently. There are many things to keep track of—from admission deadlines to checking in with recommenders. But even with its challenges, this is a great experience—developing time management skills will serve your son/daughter well as a first-year college student.
  • Don’t write anything for your student. Admission officers can usually tell when the essay is written by a parent. And it is particularly embarrassing when a student is asked about the topic in an interview and doesn’t know anything about it. Provide guidance, proofread, offer ideas, but make sure your son/daughter pens their own essay.
  • Let the student communicate with the school. When frequent e-mails and phone calls come from the parent, but admission staff never heard from the prospective applicant, we wonder. Is the student interested? Some schools use “demonstrated interest” in their admission process, so make sure your son/daughter acts as their own best advocate.
  • Talk about financing. Many students would love to hear more about financing from their parents, but they don’t know how to ask about it. Are there limitations based on family circumstances? Will the student share in the responsibility? Make sure you address these questions sooner rather than later with your son/daughter.
  • Set up meetings to discuss the process. Instead of sporadic check ins, set up a regular time when everyone knows college is the topic of discussion. Has the short list of schools changed? Do new visits need to be scheduled? What did you really think about the last campus visit? What does it mean as a family if the student wants to go to school further away? Make this a time for updates, questions, exploration, and to be your son/daughter’s “cheerleader.”

In the end, know that it will all work out. Each senior will realize that it is okay if he or she doesn’t know what major to declare right now. Each senior will make it through the holiday season waiting to hear from schools on top of their lists.

And ultimately, come May 1, each senior will have the opportunity to enroll at some great colleges.

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