What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

And the Oscar for the supporting role goes to...

you, the parent. Or, at least it should. This is the first step to the transition away from home to an independent life. You need to help, you need to guide and you need to keep open lines of communication. Your teenager wants to be independent but also needs the comfort and advice of his family.

Mary Mariani

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

Parents need to be encouraging and realistic. By encouraging, parents should be open to talk about all options, visit the campuses with your child, help provide access to information, take them to college fairs, talk about career possibilities, etc. This should be open conversations while the student is exploring without "judgment." Frequently, junior college might be an option that a student is considering because he/she might not feel ready to jump into a university, but don't necessarily believe that their parents see the junior college system as an option. All options should be considered. Being realistic is also important. Students need to know how much financial help parents are capable of providing. I've had students who have worked for three years thinking that they were going to going to a particular school only to find out during their senior year that the family's financial situation would not allow such an expense. I believe that parents need to be honest in terms of how much money is there and what are their expectations as parents. Is the student going to need to work? Is there a particular institution that the parents would not support? This is a good opportunity for lots of discussions between parents and their children.

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

The best thing a parent can do for their student is to help with organization! There are so many parts to the application process and similar to many tasks in life, it can easily become overwhelming. When it does, students tend to shut down and the process stalls. That is exactly when the frustration start to evolve between the parent and the student. To prevent this from happening, my suggestion is for the parent to help in the planning and organization of the steps that need to be taken for each college application. This is typically tedious and the part that students hate the most. By taking away this burden in the process, it allows parents to feel they are being helpful and allows the student to focus on more important things such as the creation of a meaningful essay, maintaining their grades and doing well in their senior year and just enjoying the whole experience. Their are many other ways in which a parent might be helpful depending on the situation and their relationship with their child or the students particular weaknesses in completing such a process but helping with the overall organization always seems to be a winner for the families with which I work.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

This is a tough question because our young high school students are swamped with being good students, active in campus events, outside obligations, church commitments and chores at home there are very few hours left in a day. Do I sound like a parent of a teenager? I am! That being said, I believe parents should certainly help - it is our job to raise these kids as they are not quite adults with adult skills to handle everything that we do. As long as we are not writing their materials for them or filling out applications there is no harm in reading guide books, booking campus tours, attending college fairs and keeping on the look out for scholarship or merit aid opportunities. Maybe if we help them they will help us a little more and cut the grass or clean up their room. Well....wishful thinking anyway!

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

Try to be somewhat in the background, but be sure to review everything as a fail safe measure. You better have some ground rules about how much you are willing to pay, and remember this old adage - Before you begin a debate, you must define your terms.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

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.

Jeana Robbins

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

Parents should be supportive and encouraging.

Cheryl Millington

What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

Your role should 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. 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 their journey to college.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Parents Role in the Application Phase

A parents role for their child during this phase is two-fold - Listen and Support Listen to your child's dreams for their life; it is not yours to relive through your child, therefore listen and wait to be asked for help. You can make suggestions but do not ignore what your child is saying by forcing your dreams on them Support your child by educating them, not with words but with real information. Example: When my current high school senior said she wanted to major in Film my husband went ballistic because this child is an absolute genius (no exaggeration) in many areas she has never had to study and was selected from over a thousand students to attend a prestigious high school for her junior and senior year. So he was not very happy with her decision. I on the other hand (only because I work with students daily) stated that it was a great idea since she was so talented and that if she wanted to do film let's check out a few film schools. We did; this was last summer we went to NYU, Chicago, CA and a few others. As time has progressed; mind you before the August application period began she made a decision to study Biotechnology at NYU and go to med school at Baylor for OBGYN and minor in film at NYU. She applied early decision and in a week will know if she has been admitted. But my husbands reaction led to a huge argument, mine led to researching the field and letting her make the decision for her future. Listen - To the fears, the uncertainty, and pressure of having to know their whole life at 17 Support - support by giving information via bookstore, online, visits etc. and letting them know they can be undecided, that's what those first two years of general studies allows: exploration

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Parents should plan on playing a supporting role!

You have always been a key player in your child's life; now you have to take on a different role. If you can allow them, within limits, some independence in choosing their colleges, it will better support their transitioning to become adults. Of course, you can define those limits based on price and distance from home. You should be now be their sounding board, their chauffeur, and the holder of the checkbook. Try to support and help them make good decisions instead of driving the process!