The part parents play in the college search and application process is always a very “sticky” issue. Students usually want to, and should, take the initiative in making the decisions related to their college applications. Parents will, of course, be involved with determining realistic financial parameters and filling out some of the necessary financial aid application forms. (With regard to determining financial parameters, the possibility of financial aid and scholarships should be taken into consideration.) Parents should also feel free to offer suggestions of possible schools for the student’s consideration, but every effort should be made not to take over and steer the entire process. If a parent finds him/herself saying, “WE’re applying to _____________;” (fill in the blank), that parent is WAY too involved in the application process. Even if the student lets the parent take over, that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.
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.
Some of the most useful ways parents can support their children during the college search and application process is to:
Based on your college criteria, they can do Internet searches, and as far as applications, they can review them for content input & errors.
There are many sources of information available on the internet. Parents can help by reading and researching info on schools that students have considered or schools close to home. Parents should encourage students to see their school counselors whenever questions arise. It can be beneficial for parents to arrange to have their students meet with a private college counselor. High school counselors are busy, must respond to immediate issues within their school, and unfortunately, the reality is that they often don’t have the time to meet with students individually. Private college counselors also specialize in college admissions.
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.
Parents’ are vital to the college application process in so many ways from being a positive motivator to become an expert organizer. Students’ are typically very nervous and anxious during their senior year, not to mention focused on being successful in their final classes and competing against many other great students for the limited seats at their preferred college, all of this anxiety makes the parents’ role critical and yet one that must be tread lightly. A parent must first listen and observe your child. Remember you have had many years watching and guiding now it is time to step back and wait to be asked for guidance. Gentle nudges are alright “have you thought about the 4 or 5 colleges you want to apply to”? The question that can be the most frustrating for your child is any question about their major. Most students’ say what you want to hear or are afraid to say “I don’t know” or clam up and say nothing. Remember you do not have to declare a major at most 4 year colleges until your second semester sophomore year, so let that question not be a barrier to the lines of communication. If they think of five schools, maybe do some internet research first and based on other interest you already know they have share your information over dinner, or in a non-intimidating, I know what’s best for you kind of way. Remind the student of timelines or deadlines by simply putting a calendar of what needs to take place and when in a space that they have to notice (refrigerator). Application deadlines, recommendations list and deadlines, scholarships, etc. Parents’ are vital to the process but it is less stressful for both the parent and the student if the student feels that they have the lead reign over the major choice for their future.
Parents should play a key role in this very daunting process; but it can be challenging for them to define exactly what their role should be and what boundaries are necessary. Often parents, who can be more anxious then their children, become over-invested in the entire process. Their success as parents becomes connected to their child’s success in gaining acceptance to their top college choice. Also it can be very painful to see your child “rejected” from where they hoped to attend, even if their aspirations might not have been realistic. I have seen cases where parents drive the process by making all the phone calls, doing all the research, online and in guidebooks. In some cases, these parents have even filled out the applications to save their child “the time”. That would certainly constitute crossing the boundaries of what would be acceptable. In the best case, the parent’s role should be of support and guidance. They usually need to chauffeur their teens to visit campuses, but they should try and wait and listen to their child’s reactions to a campus BEFORE they share their opinions. They also need to be honest, at the beginning of the process, on what they can afford to spend. Proofreading applications and essays can also be of invaluable assistance, but when parents “help” write essays – it may become clear to an experienced applications reader!
Parents should be there in a support role. This may be as driver, tour partner or editor, but rarely mastermind. I hear of too many parents who book their child’s interviews or talk to the interviewer – not a good idea!
Parents definitely have a role in the application process but the most important thing for parents to remember is that it is not their college search. So, the first thing parents can do in the search is to listen to their son or daughter. Be open to their ideas and preferences even if an idea seems completely off the wall. At this point in their lives, students need encouragement. This is probably the biggest and most stressful decision a student will have made up to this point in their lives. But it can be made less stressful when parents are supportive rather than discouraging.
As an admissions administrator and the parent of two college graduates, I have known both sides of the search process. In reality, admissions staff *and* parents should *help*…but not dictate…to your students. Parents are great for listening, nodding our heads, empathizing, checking out college websites for our own information, giving gentle reminders about deadlines, driving to campus visits, not monopolizing the campus tour guides, not answering the application essay question, and being totally honest about the limits of family financial resources. Finally, remain calm at all times. 🙂
The best way parents can help students with the college search and application process is by allowing the student to make it their own. While parents obviously have a perspective and experiences to share—especially if they attended college themselves–there has been such a sea change in the process that even that experience is of limited value. In the end, the best assistance a parent can offer is support and a faith in their children’s decision making ability. With the ultimate goal being to achieve the best fit between school and student, it must be about them and they must make it their own. . 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. Take them on visits and tours, answer questions, offer support, but let it be their process.
As much as colleagues have written on this subject over the years, be it for the parent who heeds our advice. Letting go is the name of the game. I just met last night with a mother and a daughter. They argued in front of me the importance of doing 10 sample ACTs to prepare for the test later this month. The daughter had not done one. The kicker here is that both the parent and the student knew that it was unclear whether that test would help her admission at all anyway. Ahhh.
Parents can help their children by beginning the conversation. The only way to find the best “fit” for their child is to get the child involved in the process. Talk with them about what is important. Ask questions such as, “What type of school would their child want to attend?” “What does he or she want to study?” “How far away from home would he or she be comfortable?” “What type of students do they want to be around?” When visiting a campus check out the learning environment, social opportunities, and admissions requirements for each college of interest. You can get started by using the internet to gather data about various college programs and take virtual tours. Then attend college fairs, visit with the representatives during information sessions, and get on campus when possible. Make sure the admissions office knows you are coming and have arrived. If your child wants to attend a class, set that up ahead of time. When you find schools of interest, create a file, gather your child’s transcript, talk about importance of course work, grades, and standardized test preparation, help them create a resume of activities, and encourage your child to volunteer and job shadow to learn more about different careers. Meet with your child’s counselor and discuss the steps in the application process. As a junior, the student should plan on take either the SAT or ACT a few times. Have the child think about who might be the best teacher to write their letter of recommendation. Read each application completely, follow the directions carefully, and note of the deadlines. Take each task one step at a time along with a deep breathe. Ask for support from experts as needed. It will all work out in the end!
Parents can help students by finding 6-10 colleges that match the students’ interests both academically and socially. Use the student’s SAT/ACT scores and grades to help guide you through the college search process, and come up with 2 or 3 safety schools, target schools, and reach schools.
The key word in this question is “help” — parents should help with the process — not take it on as their own life’s work! Helping means listening, asking good (and non judgmental) questions, visiting college fairs and campuses, and helping with record keeping. It does not mean completing applications, writing essays or making phone calls because “Susie is so busy.” Parents should definitely take on a starring role with the completion of the FAFSA and PROFILE.
Parents can be one of an aspiring college student’s best resources. Armed with appropriate and current information, parents or guardians can direct their kids to online and other resources where the student can conduct self-assessments on selecting college majors, college types, and the best overall collegiate fit. Parents should help their kids to organize themselves for the search, application, and enrollment processes as well, but they should not take over the process, rendering their high schooler inactive. At a minimum, parents should serve as sources of information, support and encouragement through the otherwise daunting college search and selection tasks.
I don’t believe in helicopter parents. Students today collaborate with parents on most decisions. If you feel the urge to do more in the college search, work alongside your child instead, and: 1) Help them stay organized. Moms are good at calendars. Start one for your child that includes college visit dates, application deadlines, and important appointments. 2) Take them places. Make reservations for college visits, get in the car, on the plane, or whatever, and go! 3) Ask questions. Find out why they’re interested in one school over another and encourage them to think beyond what their friends may think.
The hardest thing for well-educated, successful parents to do these days, it seems, is to allow students the freedom to be themselves, to discover their own strengths and interests, and to learn from their mistakes.
Be supportive, but not too opinionated. Guide your child, but don’t control them. Have honest conversations and really listen to his or her concerns, hopes, goals. Let you child feel ownership of the process and remember that motivation is internal!
This an important time for students to take control of their education as they go on to their next educational phase. Trying to find schools which are the “right fit” for themselves and then writing essays which ask them to look inward, in a way they haven’t before, can be difficult and, for some, frightening. You know your child; take your cues from them in the help it looks like they need and are asking for. However, don’t make “the college admissions process” nightly dinner time conversation. Support your son/daughter with encouragement and suggestions. Be there for them when they’re feeling stressed and work with them to help manage that stress. Suggest they talk to their guidance counselor, teachers and other significant others who know them and whose word they may be more likely to consider at certain points of the process. Plan for the “fun times” during the process, the college visits, travel and food fun. Remember: this is time ended; enjoy the time!
The college process can be complicated and confusion. It can even be frustrating when your son or daughter is dragging their feet and not meeting the college or parent’s self imposed timetable. My best piece of advice is to let them know your will match their efforts. Take a back seat with deadlines and timetable until you see an effort on their end. If you care more about this process than they do it will be very frustrating and result in tension and fighting during their last year at home. You will be surprised what will happen when you give them ownership over the college process and meet them halfway.
It is so important to remember that your students are the ones who will be going to college, and they are young adults on the brink of a wonderful new experience that will be theirs. So parents need to act as mentors and guides in this process, leading their students to college websites and locations for solid information. Then the students are the ones who should be doing their research and checking these sites for the information on which to base important decisions. Parents can also assist their students in helping them to be a bit introspective about who they are, and the types of things they are good at…this type of self-knowledge is always helpful in creating your preliminary list of schools. Students don’t always know what they are going to major in or what direction their life is going to take at the age of 16 or 17, but they know what makes them happy and what their peers count on them to do because they are good at doing it! Already with these few things, parents have helped their students begin some good solid research in the college search process. Congratulations!
Let your child know you want to be involved. Sit down and talk about the college process. Discuss the colleges being considered and why. Discuss what factors are important to your child in deciding where to apply. Talk about setting up visits and the importance of deadlines. Also talk about the limits based on cost, the number of applications, and the limits on visiting. Volunteer to proof read their essay or resume. It is wonderful to offer suggestions but do not do the work for your child. Your child is the one going to college not you.
I say this often to high school students going through the college search process. “Parents know you better than you think – in most cases, they raised you since birth.” So, it is important to ask parents/guardians for their input in the search process and be open to listen to what they have to say. Sometimes they pick up things that you overlooked and will be able to guide you on your quest for the perfect college. Parents – remain active and engaged in the process – regardless of an invitation. Read the literature and visit websites like Unigo often. Don’t be too involved, but assist in motivating your child (soon to be college adult) to take the search process seriously. Take weekend excursions to the closest colleges to your home, even if they are not a top choice, take notes, let your child ask questions on college visits, be patient and have fun. There is an end to it, and that begins with College (unless, of course, they transfer).
As students go through their college search and application process, parents can have a special role in helping their students think through their own rationale, reasons and preferences. This is easier said than done as we, humans, have a tendency to nudge others towards our own preferences and biases. Whether talking about the decision to visit college A, or choosing a particular topic for the application essay, a parent’s role can be helpful in exploring the potential benefits or pitfalls of every choice.
Parents can help students most by letting your student “drive the bus” in this process. Parents need to be on the bus, that’s for sure; but this is the time to let the student take charge, get organzied, and start charting their own course. Parents can help plan college visits, and can give honest opinions about how college will be paid for, but they need to try very hard to take a back seat. Parents can always do their own research. There’s nothing wrong with gathering solid, reliable information from college websites or reputable guide books, but nothing you say is likely to sway your student much. It’s better to try to get them physically onto the campuses.
Parental involvement is an integral part of the college search and application process. That being said, one of the most critical things parents must remain aware of is that, while they can (and should!) begin to guide students early on in regards to matters like financial restraints or geographical restrictions, it is the student’s dreams and aspirations that ultimately matter – not the parents. Participate in the process by providing your student with encouragement and support:
The best way is: let the student take the lead in choosing the schools, and do NOT use the price tag as the be-all and end-all of the college search. Tell your child that the key focus needs to be on programs and “fit” and — most importantly — the track record of that college of getting your kid into a good graduate program. Then, look for ways to pay for it by helping your kid narrow the choices down by endowment and whether the school is need-blind or need-aware.
The best way to help your student with the college search and application process is to understand that it is not your process but the student’s. Do all you are asked to do to help (short of writing essays!) and otherwise stay out of the way. Let your student explore his or her possibilities and make the process about finding a college that is a good fit for the student rather than a trophy for you.
Be honest, caring, sensitive and straightforward. That means honest about finances, resources and what the family can afford, caring in that you recognize the potential for stress and anxiety yet you will put it all in perspective, sensitive to your child’s self-esteem and how they handle challenge and, finally, straighforward in that you are fully aware that acceptances to colleges never defined a person nor mattered much in the life scheme of things. Have fun, enjoy the ride, celebrate successes and truly relish the time you are spending together.
In the college search process listen to what your student says about the things they like/dislike about school, what they enjoy spending their time doing, what atmosphere they find most comfortable, etc. and then reflect those things back to them as characteristics that they might want to look for in a college. Try to keep your biases out of it but merely reiterate what they are saying in a way that will help them clarify those things that they are identifying as important. Once your students selects schools to which they will apply, you can help them organize their tasks or calendar if they have trouble with organization, but don’t fill out the applications for them! Your student needs to take ownership of the process, after all he/she will be the one actually going to college, so the application needs to be a reflection of him/her. Doing research on what each school requires for the application to be complete is something that the parent can help with that might take some pressure off the student. The same goes for looking on the colleges’ websites for requirements for financial aid forms – that is a great parent job too.
Keep track of your student’s progress and make sure they have everything they need to complete each part of their admissions journey.
My parents helped a lot with my application process just by constantly notifying me about upcoming ACT dates, helping me with paperwork and even checking my e-mail for me. Senior year was a busy time for me with homework, school involvement and outside activities so my parents helped me out quite a bit. If you are a busy senior like I was, don’t hesitate to ask parents for help or even just for little reminders, you aren’t independent yet!
If parents can internalize and model these traits in the quest to find a college or university for their student, then the chances for success are great:
1. Positive perspective. Keep the focus on respecting the process and journey, and not the final destination.
2. Become educated. While it may look the same from one year to the next, don’t assume the college search will play out in a similar fashion every year.
3. Communicate. To get everybody on the same page, have a discussion once a week with all members of the family. One adult is to be appointed as the “college parent.” Students may listed better if there is only one “coach” instead of multiple ones.
There are times when a student needs to be supported and times when they need to be pushed. Wisdon is knowing the right time for each.
Parents can contribute to their student’s sense of independence and competency by encouraging him or her to take the driver’s seat in the college search and application process. Encourage self discovery and understanding by asking questions regarding the student’s interests, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. Guide the student in researching many different colleges based on where the student would feel comfortable, do well and have fun. Encourage the student to choose a couple of “reach schools” if interests are in some of those schools, as well as schools that would not be as difficult to get into. Parents can provide general parameters related to finances and geography if necessary, but try to leave the majority of the planning and efforts in the student’s hands.
I would say make the process a “we” and partner with your child or children to let them know that they are not alone and that you will be with them in the process until the end.
Parents can help students best by remembering that this process is about their children first and foremost. And, that the process now, in the 21st century, is probably quite different than what it was 20 or 30 years ago, when the parents were doing their own college applications. So, as tempting as it is to get immersed in the college search and application process, I urge parents to help their children by supporting their questions, enabling their travel plans, offering financial information, and being available for some late night chats and possibly a few meltdowns. I urge parents not to call admissions officers, let your children call on their own behalf. When you speak about the process refrain from saying “we” when you’re talking about your child’s efforts. Its difficult, I know, to not live vicariously through our children, and once you see some of the amazing campuses and facilities that are out there no one would blame you for wishing YOU were the student. But, mom and dad, you’re not. You gave your child a life, a set of values and a sense of self. Now its time for you to let your child try out his or her wings. Bottom line: give your child the sense that your trust has been earned. On the other hand, yes, you might have to make those hotel reservations for the college visits, so keep your credit card handy.
The college planning process is an excellent time for parents to begin to step back and allow their children some control over the process of researching, reviewing, filtering and finally, applying to colleges. Sure, it may take them a bit longer than it would take you, and you can be there in the background to encourage and model good time management skills and decision-making skills. This doesn’t mean you won’t have a say: sit down early with your child and clearly explain your thoughts about college location, size, possible majors, your finances, etc. Give them the benefit of your acquired wisdom, and most students will readily accept it. Some will take off with the process in a way you didn’t see coming, while others may need a bit more hand-holding. Remember, you know your child best, and they’re depending on you for some guidance. On the other hand, balance is key to the process, so let them spread their wings a fly. It’s amazing what confidence a little self-discovery can inspire.
1. Meet with the child’s guidance counselor
2. Take the student on a college tour
3. Research summer bridge programs and enroll your child
4. Sign up the child for SAT/ACT/AP/IB prep courses
When students approach college selection , it often is from the emotional “feeling” side of the process. I frequently hear students say that a particular college just “felt right” and, this feeling sometimes comes even before the student actually visits. This is normal for teens because developmentally the “feeling” area of the brain is more enhanced than the logical, rational side. So, parents need to try to guide their kids to think about the real things that matter as they search for colleges. To start the process, parents and students should do a online college search together so that the search criteria can be logically considered and talked about together. Things like location, size, setting and cost can help shape a college list.
Parents play a very important role in the college search and application process – a supporting role. Despite the temptation to micro-manage this process, it’s important that the student take the lead. After all, you will not be going to college with them! Communication is important. Have honest conversations about what’s important to you as a parent. And listen patiently to what your son or daughter considers priorities. Help your child get organized. I often suggest establishing a calendar that is designated as the “college calendar” in a central location, like the kitchen. That way, you both have daily reminders of important upcoming dates. You’ll need to help with the logistics of any travel for campus visits. But, there’s no reason why a student can’t take the initiative in registering for campus visit programs. Encourage and allow your son or daughter to take as much responsibility for this process as possible. By doing so, your child will be demonstrating some of the independence and maturity necessary for a successful transition to college.
Parents should emphasize academic achievement and extracurricular involvement starting when their children are in elementary school. Offering encouragement and guidance throughout the school years will help ensure students take challenging classes, earn the best grades possible, seek out extra help in academic problem areas, and participate in meaningful extracurriculars. From freshman year on, parents can encourage students to explore college, make college visits, and compare top choices. When the real application process starts, though, it’s important that parents step back, offering advice and encouragement but allowing the student to do the work.
Early in the college search process, parents should act as managers, prompting their children to complete research, help with travel and visit arrangements and assisting them as they think through search criteria (size, location, majors, etc).
I’ve stolen this tip from a dear friend, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share it! I think that honesty and transparency are two of the most important factors as students begin this process. I send kids home to have a serious sit-down with their folks. During their meeting, they have to ask:
Parents can be both a positive and negative factor in the search and application process. Since applying to university is the first time a student has had the opportunity to choose a school, they do need some guidance. However, guidance not choosing schools for students. It is the time for a student to self assess their strengths and weaknesses, matching their aspirations with a solid perspective. Parents can subvert this by telling a student where they must apply or attend. Finally, this is a time for guided independence. It is important for students to do the research and support their college decisions on hard evidence for why they have chosen their schools to which they are applying. Parents can be good sounding boards, oversee the process but not hover, causing anxiety and inappropriate choices.
Applying to college can be stressful–but not just for students. Parents often feel the pressure of the college process, but there are ways to be involved while not being overbearing. Here are 5 tips that can help you, help your child, make the most of the college search and application process.
Navigating the college process can be exciting and overwhelming. Parents need to be active listeners and offer advice when a child asks. Parent/child relations may be strained during this time but seeking the help of an outside trusted source like a guidance counselor can do plenty to negotiate through it all. Allowing your child to be the leader of this process is the beginning of the journey to independent college living.
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Stay calm. Go to college fairs and local presentations with your student. A simple chart with deadlines and application details is invaluable. Provide dates for college visits, but let your student make the visit arrangements. Be a college-visit observer and financier. Take notes. Follow your student’s lead in discussing visits. Never complete application paperwork for your student. Encourage scholarship searches. Get all parental documents ready for applying for financial aid; obtain a FAFSA PIN number for your electronic signature. This is an adventure to be savored and enjoyed. Empower your student. Admission is only the beginning of the college journey.
I like to involve parents in the college admissions process as much as possible so they are aware of what their children are doing and can help out whenever possible. My main tip to parents to help children succeed throughout high school is to take their kids to visit a college EARLY in their high school career (I’m talking freshman/sophomore year). By getting kids excited early about college, they are MUCH more motivated in their studies throughout high school because they know what they’re working towards. During the actual nitty gritty of the process during junior and senior year, I always have parents make a ton of folders organizing all of a student’s honors, certificates, and community service hours so it is easy to access during application time. When advising students with applications, I also have parents sit in on sessions because they often offer great perspective on significant accomplishments (since most students don’t really love talking about their successes).
Parents should begin discussions with their children about college early on and even visit one or two when the family is on vacation. Help the kids discover what they are really good at and really interested in. In high school, talk with the counselors or college counselors about college trips and fairs the family might attend and what the parents need to do as far as forms for financial aid and applications. Above all remember that it is their child’s college education, not the parents. The child must be the responsible party and meet all deadlines for tests, applications, scholarships, financial aid and housing. Parents should check on their progress but please don’t do it for them. Provide the opportunities and rejoice in your child’s decisions. The college they choose will be the perfect fit if they have done their homework with your help. It will be the perfect fit!
Parents can and need to help high school students with organizing all of their college applications, essays, deadlines and paperwork. Sometimes, students will also need help organizing all that information into reasonable tasks so that they aren’t overwhelmed.
Parents should set one night a week to discuss the college process. That one night is when the students needs to update the parents on the weekly task and get assistance if needed. This one night “rule” helps prevent parents nagging and students getting frustrated.
The student must lead the college search and application process. Should parents try to usurp this role from the student, they will be creating more problems for the student down the road. College-ready students need to gain independence and manage increased levels of academic and personal responsibility – and this is the time to start. Parents can most help out by clearly explaining to their student the parameters of what the family is willing and/or able to pay for so the student can figure out what colleges are actually feasible options and worth applying to in the first place.
It’s not easy for parents to know if they are doing too much or too little re: their child’s college admissions. A little advice about testing is a good start. 1) Become educated about the various tests. 2) Remind your student about test registration deadlines and test dates; put them on a visible family calendar. 3) Help him/her complete the test registration forms. 4) If it fits your budget, pay for test prep books or tutoring. 5) Provide your child with chauffeur services on the day of a test so he/she doesn’t have to locate the test center and find a parking space.
The hardest part of parenting a teen is coaching them to do things themselves and attain increased levels of independence. As far as the college process goes, you have three roles as a parent. I call them the 3 C’s. Chart the course by helping them plan for the future. Catalog the journey by keeping track of the details. Cheer them on by encouraging them to study hard, volunteer and get involved in extracurricular activities. Be a coach, not a taskmaster, by following the three C’s: Chart, Catalog and Cheer. Your teen will be happy, well-rounded and prepared for college.
It’s been said that the relationship between the parent and child changes when the child goes to college. As children begin to assert their independence and their ability to make decisions without parental involvement; parents must take on the role of mentor/supporter. The college application process is a great time for parents to lay the foundation for this type of relationship. The primary role for parents throughout the college admissions process is to encourage their child by consistently reminding them of their confidence in his/her ability to complete the application process and to choose the college with the best fit.
One way that parents can help is by determining the costs of the various colleges and clearly calculating what is affordable, and what scholarship and grant money would be needed to be able to attend. The costs, scholarship and grant information for most colleges can be found at College Navigator, which is a government site. Additionally, setting preliminary budgets with their students would be invaluable in helping the students gain command over their finances (this lesson alone is worth the price of an education). Moreover, discovering alternatives to private loans (especially Parent PLUS Loans) would be very helpful.
As a parent, one easy way to give your child an advantage in the college application process is to file your taxes early. The forms required to apply for federal financial aid include parent’s tax returns in order to be complete. Because the money awarded by the government is a finite amount, those who apply early have a better chance of receiving aid. This is particularly important advice for middle- and low-income families.
Parents, while you are probably fascinated by the subject, if you discuss college issues at every opportunity, most students will shut down and tune you out altogether. They are already anxious about admission, career prospects, leaving boy- or girlfriends, and more, so your gentlest references to next year may feel like bulldozers to the student. Pick a set time, once a week perhaps, and promise to confine your questions to that period (they are allowed to bring it up anytime they like.) Also, do NOT share details of your child’s scores, grades, application choices, etc. with friends and relatives without their express permission to do so!
Students need encouragement at every step to take ownership of the process and to move forward about what he or she wants in terms of a campus community. Students need time to be circumspect about what their needs will be in a brand new community and too often, the eager parent will hurry the clock in order to appease his or her own anxiety. Adolescents have a very different notion of time than grown adults do, and pressing them at this important juncture can be counter-productive. If a student is dragging his feet, it’s time for either the parent or guidance counselor to sit down with the student and see what is on their mind.
The college checklist is a form the student and parents design together with the ten most important questions about colleges in general (cost, admissions standards, location, major availability, etc.) developed through dialogue and realistic assessment of the family’s financial or other considerations. This checklist will be divided into two sections: Required and Non-Essential Benefits. Under the Required section, the most important considerations will be ranked and given point assignments with a total of 100 combined points possible. This checklist will be used to “rate” all possible college choices.
Start collecting things that your high school student would otherwise lose: test results, transcripts, awards, sports accomplishments, community service hours, and exceptional essays. Don’t go crazy, don’t insist on your teen’s involvement, just quietly do it, so everything will be organized in one place when your son or daughter needs it. Chefs call this approach “mise en place” (everything in place). Get the ingredients ready so you’ve got them right there when you need them.
The college admission process should be somewhat of a passage from childhood to adulthood. Parents should assist with some organization, give encouragement, make suggestions and support their child. Reward their accomplishments but allow your child to take ownership of their college process. Parents can plan college visits, call financial aid offices to learn of opportunities and be a sounding board for their child’s concerns. Listen and read their college essays (if they let you) and give constructive advice. If a college admission office needs to be called, the student should do it. The college process helps prepare students for the independence they will have when they are in college.
As parents, your most important role in the college search and application process is to support your teen. The more you can hand over responsibility to your emerging adult, the better you will feel when he or she goes off to school without you. You will have to do the financial aid portion of the process, so stay on top of deadlines. The student should handle most contact with the schools and should complete the applications, but you can be available to advise and proofread. Ideally, the student will feel motivated to move forward and take ownership of the process.
This is an important time in your child’s life as he/she seeks independence and becomes an adult. Planning for college is an ideal way to begin the process. Some tips to make the process more beneficial for parents and child: Do not direct. Let the student take ownership of the process and set the timetable. Be supportive and caring. Don’t be a nag. Set limits at the beginning so there are no surprises. Make college visits together. Be honest and optimistic. Consider hiring an educational consultant who is knowledgeable and objective who can guide the child while assisting parents to be realistic.
Getting in is, ultimately, less important than getting out of college, so more than anything the student needs to be able to be successful academically and socially in the school they attend. Try to keep the lines of communication open and let them discover, through thorough research, why a school is or isn’t a good fit. Work with your student to set up a calendar of deadlines (Microsoft Outlook can be set to send you reminders). Make a chart of deadlines and requirements for each school and check them off as they are completed. Try to enjoy the journey!
Facilitate, but allow your student to own the process. Helping your student to get started with visits, driving the car to campuses, accompanying her on tours and to interviews and helping him to break the process down into manageable, timely pieces are all parts where you can be hugely helpful. The most important piece, however, is to help your student find the college that will be the best fit; the place where s/he will be most successful scholastically and socially. Support your student and validate his/her choice. It’s all about the fit and the feel … for your student and no-one else.
Parents can be at their most helpful by recognizing that this is their teen’s search. They need to partner with their teen in this process by: letting their teen take the lead, and help their teen find support through books, websites, the guidance counselor, an advisor or a coach; asking open-ended and supportive questions to check in on the search and selection process; taking responsibility for being clear about financial information and parameters; perhaps completing the FAFSA and other financial information. Teens need to become college ready—and that means stepping into the responsibilities of this process to the best of their abilities.
Providing emotional support is as important as the organizational and technical support parents can give during the admission process. By helping to identify and visit appropriate colleges, parents will go a long way to insuring a positive outcome. Assist in formulating a realistic list including colleges that the student is likely to get into and will be happy attending. While it might be your personal philosophy to “shoot for the stars,” this approach usually ends in disappointment. Demonstrate that you are proud of your child’s accomplishments and don’t let your expectations add to the stress the student is already feeling.
The first step in a good college search and match is a strong understanding of self. Parents can assist students in this area by exposing them to colleges with various environments, locations, academic programs, and student bodies. During campus visits, parents should ask their student what they think, before offering their own opinion, and really engage students in discussions. If a family has financial constraints related to college, parents are wise to discuss openly with students so cost can become a component of the decision process. Once a student develops their personal preferences or Key College Criteria, creating a list of good match schools becomes easy!
The best thing parents can do to aid their students in successfully navigating the college admissions process is to allow students to take ownership of the process! This encouragement allows students to engage, to become more informed, to gain confidence and to instill independence for college. Parental encouragement can extend to diverse activities like helping their student define their strengths for college applications, suggesting time management mechanisms, and acting as a sounding board when considering the development of a college list. Taking students to visit colleges is perhaps the most obvious way parents can help students in the process.
I hear this plea often, so parents remember college is your gift to your child. So help but don’t control the process. Help organize their application and financial aid requirements with a real and virtual filing system for all college communications. Coordinate college visits as they affect your child’s view of a college and chance of acceptance. Use NAVIANCE’s amazing resources. If your school doesn’t use that, help develop and post an excel chart of all requirements—application, essays, and financial aid. And finally, make sure your child finishes senior year strong. Senioritis often derails many college dreams.
While it is important to keep parents informed and aware of the process, it is more important to allow students to take ownership and make them understand this is an important step in their educational journey. Parents should have input and offer advice, but always being careful not to take over or become so involved that it becomes more about them than about the student. It is after all, a learning process for both. The more we empower our students to make certain decisions and to feel that they are somewhat in charge of this process, the more rewarding and meaningful the outcome.
Parents can help by initiating conversation with the student about the college search and being a guide and resource throughout the student’s search. The student should own her/his search, but the parent can assist by asking questions about academic areas of interest (or career interests) and what the student might want her college experience to include, and by suggesting college visits. Parents should also initiate a conversation about the family realities of ability to invest in a college education. The college search is an exciting process, but also can be stressful. Having open conversations about college and the search process will help facilitate a successful search.
The parent or mentor should help identify useful websites, application deadlines and dates available for campus visits and have the student make arrangements. The parent and student can each write down expectations of college choice and experience. The expectation list could be used as a starting point for open dialogue about college choice, desires, costs/investment and more. This tool along with identifying pros and cons of an institution can also help the student in the future when making other life choices. With these and other techniques the parent is engaged with the process by providing useful tools to the student yet allows the student to make choices and identify the key factors that might influence their college choice.
Parents need to involve students in scheduling and planning out projects, whether these are science fairs or college applications. With a calendar and a to-do list, sit down with the child to discuss the goals, deadlines and when they have time to complete the tasks. This helps teach them executive functioning, skills they will need for the rest of their life. Print a free calendar online and write out each step, how long it will take, when it should be completed and leave some time for unexpected issues or problems. There should also be a set time/day for “check-ins” about the progress, which prevents nagging or students who feel too “busy”.
Before all else, I think parents can best assist their children in the college search process by helping them ‘imagine’ college. Students are bombarded by all sorts of external factors – marketing material, peer influence, public perceptions, etc. They can easily give short shrift to their own imagination, hopes, and unspoken expectations. Parents can help their kids turn inward a bit by asking them how they imagine college. Questions like, “When you imagine college, what is it like? What are you doing? What are the students around you like?” “How do you want to change or what do you want to happen for you in college.” Parents should make the search process truly personal for their child.
Some things for parents to keep in mind: make sure financial aid deadlines are not missed; gather and organize financial documents prior to the beginning of the student’s senior year; let the child know you are there if needed; stay out of the way.
Parents who empower their children give them gifts that build self-esteem and create ownership. Discussions about money, distance, etc. should occur before the lists are generated; upon research by the students, parents should review the selections with their children and make college visit arrangements, as they are usually driving. After the students complete the applications and write the essays, parents should proof them for spelling and grammatical errors and any additional editing needed. When the decisions come in, parents need to listen to their children as they process the results, and remember who is attending college. Be supportive, not directive.
It’s important that parents “pick their battles”, providing guidance where it really matters. Visiting really matters. Visiting helps students to decide if a college is where they will likely be socially happy and academically successful. Visiting both demonstrates a student’s interest in a school, and provides firsthand information that is likely to be helpful for their application. Other activities and “obligations”, like team sports, music, theater and family vacations, are not viable excuses for not visiting. Students should be sure to let a college know if a genuinely compelling reason, like financial hardship or serious illness, has prevented a visit.
Etched on a small granite tile in my office is the following thought: “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”. As a professional & a parent who has lived through the college application process with my own children and thousands of other students, parents play a pivotal role in supporting their students but they should not do it for them! After all, the student is the one who will be attending college, not the parent. In general, we are there to encourage, support, ask questions, even nag a little. Five suggestions for parents that will help the student find his way along the college application path:
1. Organize! Buy a sturdy file box with hanging folders to hold copies of applications forms and other documents such as PSAT, ACT, SAT, AP results, essays, the resume, financial aid forms, & college brochures. The student should be accountable for maintaining the files.
2. Parent & student should attend ALL college related meetings provided by the high school to understand how their process works. If both attend and hear the information together, then it is easier to keep the lines of communication open.
3. The student may need to borrow your credit card but he/she should be responsible for going online to register for the ACT & SAT and submitting his/her own college applications.
4. If the student has a question about a college or the application process, he needs to be the one to call or email the college admissions reps. When visiting a college, the student needs to ask the questions (even if you rehearsed some at home). They want to hear from the students, not mom or dad.
5. Deadlines are critical & must be observed! A parent can help the student tackle this process by breaking it down into ‘chunks’. If the student is overwhelmed, together they can make a chart of the colleges, ID codes, their application deadline dates, scholarship & financial aid deadlines, deadlines to request letters of recommendation & order transcripts, audition/portfolio/athletic requirements, required supplements, and any other application process information.
The path to college may not always be smooth and straight but the student who learns how to navigate the twists and turns will have a more developed sense of direction once he gets to college. Enjoy the journey! Consider the possibilities!
Sometimes kids actually get stressed out talking so much about college, and the best advice I know is not to talk about college over dinner. A better idea is for parents and kids is to establish a weekly meeting time during senior year, say every Tuesday night for 30 minutes, where you all agree to TALK to each other about what’s going on with the search/application process and keep track of deadlines and to-do lists. Make that the ONLY time you bring up “college” during the week; it prevents parents from inadvertently nagging and it gives kids a regular opportunity to share progress and express concerns.
Parents can play a strong, supportive role in the college search process through making travel arrangements for campus visits and escorting their student on those visits. In making the travel arrangements for campus visits, parents can handle all plans with the exception of contacting the admissions office for an interview. It is best if the college-bound student makes the call and demonstrates their interest to the admissions staff. Parents offer a great perspective of the campus when they accompany their student on visits. Parents can also tour another department, attend different presentation, and exchange notes later with their student.
Parents can help students by making sure college campus visits are incorporated into each and every family vacation. This is the perfect time with very little stress for students to get a sense of the area, the people, and the distance from home. Parents should make sure to pick up a “sticker” or some treasure from the campus bookstore, and have their student (regardless of what age) keep it in a journal to look back in future years what their thoughts were and the immediate reaction to that “school type.”
Beyond the obvious aspects of the application process which require students to be organized and willing to put in some time and energy, what students need the most is to be asked questions that make them think.
For Chinese international students, the best way of being supportive as parents is to learn to working with the counselor’s office or getting help from experts who can delivery professional services in the US not China.
Get away from ranking during the search process and focus on each individual needs. it is not about the application forms, it is all about the process.
Parents can be the most helpful by being the unseen force behind the student-perhaps serving as the nudge or the gentle reminder, but never the “doer.” Kids are busy, they need a little help in this very complicated, emotional process but it should be their search, their application, their college. Encourage exploration of lots of options, drive through college and university campuses whenever the opportunity presents itself and talk about future plans but only to feed your child’s imagination and desire.
As a parent myself I worked with all three of my children in the college search and application process. With students applying to more than eight colleges on average, keeping track of admission and financial aid deadlines can be a significant chore. This is a good role for parents.
Parents can be excellent coaches. As students think about “fit” and the college environment in which they will be best served, parents who know their sons and daughters can be helpful by reflecting on the way a student might or might not be satisfied on a given college campus.
In both cases the role parents play must be built on open communication and a shared commitment to making a great college choice.
Parents need to let the students take ownership of the college process and avoid taking charge. When parents are overly invested, it can become obvious to the admissions offices–parents may refer to this as “our application” or call too often with questions the student should be asking. These are red flags. Let the student drive the process. When you participate in college tours, hold off giving your opinion until the student has given hers. However, there is one very important area where parents need to be as open and clear with their student as possible. If finances are an issue, be honest. Sit down with your child and discuss how much money you will be able to contribute. This doesn’t necessarily mean the student needs to limit where he applies, but it may mean that final decisions may take financial and merit aid into consideration.
Top ten things parents can do to stay sane
The part parents play in the college search and application process is always a very “sticky” issue. Students usually want to, and should, take the initiative in making the decisions related to their college applications. Parents will, of course, be involved with determining realistic financial parameters and filling out the necessary financial aid application forms. (With regard to determining financial parameters, the possibility of financial aid and scholarships should be taken into consideration.) Parents should also feel free to offer suggestions of possible schools for the student’s consideration, but every effort should be made not to take over and steer the entire process. If a parent finds him/herself saying, “WE’re applying to _____________;” (fill in the blank), that parent is WAY too involved in the application process. Even if the student lets the parent take over, that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.
Try to start the college dialogue early and help your teenager focus on a few of the important aspects of college research. Initially visit a few campuses to help him/her get a sense of what type of campus feels most comfortable. Assist your aspiring college student to get organized and you will be lessening the stress involved in the process. Borrow or buy a few college research books and leave them lying around the house. Point them towards one or two reputable websites where they can begin to explore.
I believe that it is the student who must be responsible for the college application process. (Of course the parents must be involved in some aspects). Many parents are loath to take a backseat…they believe they know best, and hey, maybe in some areas they do. BUT when it comes to the college choice and application process, a student begins to understand about responsibility by driving the process without mom and dad being too involved. Supportive? Yes. Overbearing? No.
We all know that students need guidance. Buy them a book on colleges (like the Fiske Guide) or Colleges that Change Lives. Or better yet, buy them both. Discuss cost with them, and scholarships and financial aid. Let your student know what you can, and cannot, afford. It may be that your student may need to take advantage of loans or hunt for scholarships. Be honest with them, and be honest early. Let them visit large, medium and small colleges to see which feels best to them. You can help, but let the student do the work. Let the student call the admissions office, the student should fill out their own application, students must write their essays (not mom or dad).
College admissions offices like to see confident young adults who can take care of the process on their own. Parents who do the calling and talking show the admissions office that the student cannot handle responsibility. Not exactly the best impression to give the college admissions office. You have done your job raising your children, now it is time to manage from afar. When they go to college you become a consultant in their lives. The college application process should be driven by the student, but you will be so proud that they took the initiative.
Parenting your child through the college admissions process is a complicated dance. Half of you wants to let your child develop the independence to complete the process on his own…okay, maybe only one third of you wants that. The other two thirds wants to continue doing what you’ve done for 17 years…taking control so your child doesn’t miss anything. When you factor in the huge investment you’ll be making – as much as $220,000 over 4 years – many of you want to completely take over the process…however, this will not be best for your child. I’ve seen parents do everything for their son or daughter and once the child heads off to school, they are unable function on their own.
Consider sending your child on a group tour of college campuses. When your child returns she will be educated about the elements of a good fit school. Once your child has identified qualities in schools that are a good fit you and your child can focus on a few more school visits.
Parents can best help with the application process by providing a bit of structure and paper organization at home. The college application process may be the first time a student has been put to the task of administering paper work. A well meaning parent who would like to help may provide assistance to students with submitting standardized test scores and ensuring that a credit card is available to submit the Common Application. Remember to steer clear of the essays, they need to be written by the student.
The college search process is a stressful time for high school students and parents. Mixed emotions are abundant; it’s exciting, a rite of passage for sure, but a time filled with extraordinary number of deadline dates for students resulting in extra pressure. It is a time consuming process. Each family presents differently. Nagging certainly does not help, but opting for the old fashioned family calendar on the fridge might be helpful with color coded markers indicating pivotal dates.- SAT/ACT registration dates, application dates, letters of recommendation due dates, and the final submit dates listed with a reward marking the end of the application process.
If you are just starting the search process, visit nextstepu.com and click on “college match.” You can browse colleges nationwide by region and/interests and select to receive information from those schools!
Keep the student organized and focused
If, and only if, your child asks for your help, you can utilize some of the many terrific web-based resources to gather information about schools that may match your child’s interests. Make sure not to overwhelm her with too much information. Listen carefully to her feedback, which will help as you further refine the list of potential schools.
I know you only have the best intentions. All this talk about college causes you to reminisce about your days on campus. When you see the facilities these days, you’re ready to enroll. Please remember, it’s not about you right now. Your job is to keep an open mind, be supportive, and do more listening than talking. Hiring an independent educational consultant may be the best decision you could make. This professional will know how to streamline the process, keep peace in the family, and make it an enjoyable experience. It is critical to remember that you are helping you child prepare to launch. The application has to represent them, not you. Proceed with caution when volunteering too many suggestions.
Based on your college criteria, they can do Internet searches, and as far as applications, they can review them for content, input & errors.
Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.
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