I am a parent of a son who just started university and I know this period doesn’t have to be negative or stressful. It can be a very rewarding time in your lives and you may even begin to see your child develop and grow in the few months.
Start the process by honestly assessing your child’s skill set. You know your child best and honestly answering these questions will help you decide the level of your involvement.
How much or how little do you think he wants you to be involved?
How good are her research skills? Even if you think you will be better than your child, at least give her an opportunity to do it on her own.
Will you be another source of stress? If so, do your best to be super positive.
Knowing you child, will tell you when it’s best to start the process. Some kids can start researching schools as soon when they enter high schools, others will only begin to think about it when pressed. But obviously, be carefully not to start too late.
Don’t forget about family and friends and their influence on your child during this period of time. Be your child’s best defense.
Here are some of the practical advice I used:
Truly start the research process with a blank slate.
Ask your child open ended questions.
Give advice only if asked or always end your advice with “but it’s your decision.”
Choose your battles carefully.
Choose the times to have conversations about schools carefully.
Watch your tone and body language.
Think before you speak. Your gut reaction may be the worse response and it will never be forgotten or forgiven.
Be clear about limitations that may affect the process and/or decision, especially financial limitations.
Realize that peer information may be more important than your input.
Give them the confidence to make the best decision for them.
Advise your child that this is not necessarily a lifetime decision; they can always transfer to another school after first year if they want to.
Be realistic about your child’s options. If Johnny can’t get into Harvard, no need to include it on your list.
Be honest, don’t be manipulative or play games.
Always remember to do your best to keep the lines of communication open. Applying to university is not worth losing your child in the process.
Make an extra effort to engage in other activities, especially fun outings. Don’t make this period of time all about applying to schools.
Double the number of times you say “I love you”.
Remember to give unconditional love, especially when things aren’t going as expected.
Provide additional resources like tutoring when needed and as early as possible.
It's their application, let them complete and submit it! It's hard, but you must resist the temptation! Of course, if asked you can help proofread or make help to make the application clear, concise and compelling. But it's their application and it should be their voice.
There is fine line between giving advice and taking control. Do not take control. You don’t want to be blamed for your child being at the ‘wrong’ school or doing the ‘wrong’ program. Or worse, not getting an offer of admission! Remember, you want to continue to have a good relationship not only through this process, but while they are university and even beyond that. I survived and so will you! Good luck!