Tips for Parents During the College Admissions Process

Thursday, August 14, 2014

College Application Tips for ParentsParents: Be Supportive But Let Your Student Guide the Process

The college admissions process can be difficult both for the students and the parents. Sometimes, parents don’t know what their role should be in the process, and other times, parents get frustrated because their goals may not align with their student’s goals.

Parents: it’s important to remember that this is your student’s choice, but you should be a part of the process! Here are a few tips on how to find your role, without putting too much pressure on your student:

Be Patient

This is a big step, and it can be especially overwhelming if it is the first child you are sending to college, but don’t panic. Your student may have moments when they feel like they won’t get in anywhere, or they can’t possibly take another SAT. When this happens, it’s important to remain the reassuring voice, constantly reminding them of the reward at the end of the process.

You may be nervous, or feel sad at the realization that your student will be leaving, but leave any panic about this for later on down the road. During the process, focus on the excitement about going to college! It will help your student stay motivated.

Let Your Student Take the Lead  

In all parts of the process, let your student take the lead. It’s important that he or she feels empowered to make these difficult decisions, and not like he or she is being forced into liking one college over another.

When it comes time to plan college visits, let your student decide which schools to see. During the tour and information session, let him or her ask questions and engage with the admissions officer or tour guide.

While some students may need a little push to put themselves out there, don’t be overbearing or control the process. This may be his or her first time independently navigating a tough life decision, and it certainly won’t be the last, so be supportive but also give some space. This is an important learning process, not just for the admissions process, but also for life.

Be the Voice of Reason

When letting your child make the choice you may have to intervene sometimes, and that’s okay! If your student decides he or she wants to apply to 50 schools, that’s your cue to step in and remind him or her that this decision requires a lot work and money. Don’t be afraid to encourage your student to scale his or her college list back a bit.

If your student only wants to apply to reach schools, you should encourage him or her to balance those with target and likely schools. Don’t discourage your student from applying to the reach schools if that’s what he or she really wants, but remind him or her of the realistic goals that need to be set. Remember that this is your student’s first time doing this, and he or she might have the dream college blinders on. Again, be supportive, but work together to set realistic goals.

It’s also okay to suggest colleges you think your student might like, but don’t be pushy. The most important thing is to constantly communicate about the decisions that are being made. Making decisions should, ultimately, be the student’s responsibility, but certainly discuss your own ideas, concerns, and opinions.

Stay Informed

Always know the progress that your student is making in the college admissions process. Know what essays your student has completed, application deadlines for the colleges he or she is applying to, and what materials he or she may need from you, counselors, teachers, etc. Even understanding some of the more detailed aspects, such as college admissions interviews, can be helpful. Being informed on questions like, “does Harvard interview all applicants?” can be extremely helpful. By keeping track of your student’s progress, you will be able to help guide the process and keep him or her on track.

Also, it’s important to stay informed about the changing admissions landscape. Stay up-to-date on admissions and higher education news by following relevant news sites, blogs, and social media accounts. Also sign up for IvyWise’s blog emails to receive our Weekly College Admissions News Roundup every Friday.

Enjoy This Time!

This is an exciting time for your student. Enjoy the college search process, take pictures, have fun on visits, have discussions, and keep everything positive. If you enjoy it and stay positive, that attitude will reflect in your student. In the end, your student will get into the college that is the best fit for him or her!

Gone through the college application process with your student before? What other tips do you have for parents? Tell us in the comments below!

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