How can parents help students with the college search and application process?
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: 1. How are we paying for college? 2. How will we develop our college lists? 3. Who decides where I apply? 4. Ultimately, who gets the final decision on where I go to college? There are other questions and steps in there - but these are the most important ones. In the past, I've seen some parents try to skip Question 1 because they don't want to be honest with themselves in regard to how much they actually have and are willing to spend. I've also seen families come to blows when Question 4 is not dealt with in a candid manner. Setting up some basic ideas about the process serves everyone. Here's my best tip, though: Every week, both parents and students need to commit to a discrete and specific "college time" that is only ONCE a week. It will keep both sides sane. Here's how it works: Let's say you decide, as a family, that Tuesday night from 7-9 is "college time." That is holy time and no one is allowed to violate it. Parents: You can't turn every waking moment into "college time" or you will lose touch with the fact that the Senior in your house is still your child. They don't want to talk about college night and day, and if you try to, you will drive them crazy. They don't need that kind of stress. SO: You can do as much research and web-searching and preparation as you want all week, but you only get these 2 hours to deal with college. Kids: You owe your parents you full attention for those 2 hours. They can ask for essays, go over applications with you, help you to refine your lists -- whatever they want. The deal is that you get to be their child all week long...and for these hours they can ask you ANYTHING and you have to honor them. Every week, the "college time" meeting ends with a discrete and specific set of goals for the next week. It serves as the agenda for the next meeting. As application deadlines start to get close, you can change the time (by mutual agreement) to add time, if necessary. BUT - both sides get to cry "foul" if the other violates the agreement. Yes - this sounds a little extreme, but it works really well. I used this process for the full application cycle last year and found it very helpful for everyone. Parents felt as though they were being listened to, and students felt as though they could have some normalcy all week.