The college application process can be stressful for high school students – and leave their parents pulling their hair out. Instead of attempting to step in or take over the process entirely, there a number of ways parents can help their children through the research, application, and admission process.
DO: Help them find their dream school
DON’T: Push them towards your dream school
Searching for the right college can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Parents should have open and honest conversations with their child about issues such as geographical preferences and financial limitations. It is also important not to force your child to consider schools they otherwise wouldn’t; while it may be your dream to see them at your alma mater, a big state school would be a wrong fit for a student looking at small liberal arts colleges.
Parents can also help narrow down the large field of potential colleges to the few schools to which they will actually apply. Taking teens on college visits and campus tours is the best way to help a child see themselves at a school – or quickly realize it is not the right fit.
DO: Keep students on track with paperwork deadlines
DON’T: Over-edit or complete applications for them
While it is important and beneficial for parents to be involved in the college admissions process, the majority of the legwork should fall to the students. Parents and teens can work together to create calendars for deadlines and other important dates. Likewise, while parents can be a sounding board for essay ideas or editors for application questions, students should always write their responses themselves so their voice and personality truly shine through.
For most students the “magic number” of applications is between six and eight: 2 reach schools, 3-4 match schools, and 2 safety schools. This prevents students from being overwhelmed by deadlines, paperwork, essays, and admissions costs but still gives them a wide pool of colleges to choose from.
DO: Keep things in perspective
DON’T: Add additional pressure and stress
After the applications and transcripts have been sent in, there is little families can do but sit and wait. This can be an extremely stressful time for teens – especially as the acceptance packets or rejection letters start rolling in. Parents can help their teens keep things in perspective; even if they did not get in to their dream school, they can and will have just as much fun at another university. It is also important to not add additional pressure or stress to your child; avoid comparing their acceptances to their peers and never punish a child for getting rejected from a school.