How can parents help students with the application process?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How can parents help students with the application process?

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures


A very tough one. So many parents and children clash when it comes to college applications and choosing colleges. Parents are anxious that everything is done correctly and sometimes they want to "make" their child apply to certain colleges. Parents can assist by being supportive, but not intrusive. It is the student who is going to college, not the parents. Students should have their essays and writing proofed by teachers, not parents (unless the parent is very objective and knows how to write like a high school student). Students must fill out the application, but it is okay for parents to check it before submission...but only for misspellings, capitalization, and correct information. Parents need to talk to their child about the college application process, and reach a decision about how it will be handled before the applications begin. Compromising beforehand will make life easier for all involved.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

How can parents help students with the application process?

I always like to give parents a supportive role in the process. Mom and Dad can help to keep the process organized. You are also essential for helping with the college visits--those road trips can be prime family time if they are well thought out with fun activities included to alleviate stress. You can be the official photographer (too many colleges in too few days tend to run together) but stay in the background when it comes to asking questions during the information sessions. Remember that the student should be invested in the process!

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Parents: Be Supportive, But It Must Be Your Chld's Application

The best way parents can help students with the college application process is by allowing the student to make it their own. While parents obviously have a perspective and may have experiences to share, there have been vast changes since we went through it and as a result our experiences are of limited value. But more importantly, the process is about the child and their future, and the best assistance a parent can offer is support and a faith in their children’s decision making ability. With the ultimate goal of the process being to achieve the best fit for the student, it must be about them Parents can and should serve as sounding boards and where there are financial considerations, they owe it to their children to be honest about what that means, but ultimately the best way help is not to. Be there for them, but let it be their process.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

How can parents help students with the application process?

Parents need to be there as a support system. Remind your child of deadlines and what they need to do, follow up if things are missing or need to get submitted quickly and make sure that you keep encouraging them through the process. I feel that students need to take the initiative to do the application, essays, requesting letters of recommendation and calling the college to ask questions themselves. They need to learn that they are responsible for getting these things done and not their parents. When parents get too involved and end of doing everything for their child, that child is not going to grow in maturity and understand the expectations that are required of them to meet.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

How can parents help students with the application process?

Be supportive throughout the process. This is an extremely difficult time for your student. There is a lot of pressure not only academically in school, but also from their peers. Everything they hear during their Senior Year is about college. "Where are you applying? Have you started your application yet? Where have you visited? Oh, did your hear that Mary got into such and such school?" Everything that they hear is college. As a parent, you don't want to be another nagging voice. Be supportive, but don't do the application for them. Let your student know that you are there to help them if they need it. Make sure that they know that you are willing to take them to a visit. Set ground rules that college "stuff" is not to be talked about in the car or at the dinner table.

Cheryl Millington

How can parents help students with the application process?

The best help you can provide is to be positive and encouraging. Offer additional resources, like tutoring, only when needed but early enough to make a difference. Give your child the confidence to make the best decision for him/her. Be realistic about your child’s options and help them to be realistic as well. No need to apply to schools that they have zero probability of getting into. Be very clear early in the process about any financial issues that may limit school choices. There is no need for your child to be disappointed late in the process. You know your child best and will know how much help you can give without causing a problem. It`s their application so let them complete and submit it themselves. Of course, your can help by proofreading and editing their applicaton, but only if you know it will be okay. Their voice should come through in the application, because remember, only they will be able to be at the interview. You don`t want to be blamed for them not getting admitted because of your help. You’ll also have to decide how comfortable your child is having you at campus visits and other activities. They’ll need to grow up eventually and they may begin to mature right before your eyes. Take it easy and let your child direct the process. Learn to be a passenger on your child`s journey to college.

Jeana Robbins

How can parents help students with the application process?

Parents can help students with the application process in many ways. They can help by providing a supportive and quiet environment for students to complete applications. They can help by being present to assist the student when he/she has difficulty understanding a question or requirement. They can also review the students application prior to his or her submission.

Nina Sculler
Director College Prep

How can parents help students with the application process?

Parents can take students on campus tours, ask questions of guides and admissions officers when on tour. They may also help the student proofread the application and provide missing details. Parents will also need to file the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile with sensitive financial information. Parents may also be supportive. This is a very stressful time for students, so a nice spa day or football toss with the child may help relieve some of that stress.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

How can parents help students with the application process?

Students should be the CEO of the process. Students manage the process and make decisions. Parents serve an important role as key investors, as such they should outline expectations and parameters at the beginning of the process and then turn the reigns over. Investors shouldn't be entangled in day to day operations. If you want to be more involved, think of yourself as a personal assistant to your student. Help make the boss look good. Take great notes that helps the boss prepare for upcoming meetings and appointments. Manage the boss’ calendar and schedule appointments. If you go shopping for the boss and you come back with a suit that he doesn’t like—take it back. Trying to talk the boss into the suit you chose might get you fired. The stakes are too high to lose the job. Don’t make up your child’s mind for him. Don’t make decisions.

Roland Allen

How can parents help students with the application process?

Parents should be partners with their child's college counselor in the college application process. However, it's important for parents to support, rather than drive the college process. One tip is for parents to agree to one time each week to talk about college and stick to that schedule. I recommend Sunday nights.