The Role of Parents in the College Application Process

The Role of Parents in the College Application Process

It’s mid-fall, and high school seniors all over the country are in the midst of trying to decide which colleges or universities they want to apply to and/or completing applications for early deadlines.

It is a busy time of year.

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

  • Continue to be supportive and understanding of their opinions and thoughts. They may change their minds when learning new information about each college choice. Some of you have been through this already with an older child, so you realize how stressful the college selection process is on a child. 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. The student needs to determine which colleges he or she is interested in applying to and ultimately what he or she thinks is really 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 college search process and staying organized. This is often the first major process that students manage independently. It is important. They need to dedicate time with approaching deadlines. They need to check back with recommenders and the Registrar’s Office to ensure letters and transcripts are sent on a timely basis. They need to learn to balance school, sports, clubs, and the college selection process. This is a great experience—developing some time management skills will serve them well as a first-year college student.
  • Don’t write anything for your student. Admission officers can typically 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. Yes, I think you should provide guidance and input and you can be very valuable as a proofreader in this day and age where “text speak” is far too common. You can also encourage your student to highlight an experience that he or she forgot about or didn’t think was as noteworthy. Just make sure that it is in your student’s own words.
  • Let the student communicate with the school. It’s a concern when e-mails and phone calls come from the parent, but the college or university has never heard from the prospective applicant. Is the student interested? Some schools use “demonstrated interest” in their admission process. The student needs to be his or her own best advocate.
  • Talk about financing. This is the number one issue that many students would love to hear more about from their parents, but they often don’t know where they stand and they don’t know how to ask. Are there restrictions/limitations based on the 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 a regular time to meet and discuss the process. Instead of approaching your son or daughter first thing Saturday morning when he/she has made other plans, set up a regular time when everyone knows it is the topic of discussion. Has the list of schools being considered changed? Where do you need to set up visits to? What did you really think about the last campus visit? What does it mean as a family if the student is really looking to go to school further away? Make it 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 OK 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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