How can parents help students with the college search and application process?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How can parents help students with the college search and application process?

Marjorie Shaevitz
Admissions expert, author, speaker www.adMISSION

Five things parents can do to help with college admissions...

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.

Suzanne Shaffer
Owner Parents Countdown to College Coach

The three C's of parent college coaching...

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.

Dorothy Styles
Director for College Readiness Programs & Initiatives Project GRAD Atlanta

Parents should serve as mentors in the college search process...

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.

Philip Ballinger
Director of Admissions & Assistant VP of Enrollment University of Washington

Help your child "imagine" college...

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.

Craig Meister
President Tactical College Consulting

While students lead, parents should be honest about money...

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.

Ralph Becker
Owner & Director Ivy College Prep LLC

Helping research costs, scholarship and grant potential by college...

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.

Charles Moore
Director, Enrollment, IT & Student Services California State University Fullerton

Parents and students must make college selection a family activity...

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.

Lynette Mathews
Director The College Planning Center

Assist students in developing their personal criteria for college...

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! 

Michael Goran
Director & Educational Consultant IvySelect College Counseling

Advice for parent participating in their student's college admission process...

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.

Kris Hintz
Founder Position U 4 College LLC

Provide clerical support and make an file box...

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.