College Applications | Parent Involvement?

A couple weeks back, the fall air intoxicated me, and I whimsically advised juniors (and late-blooming seniors) of the top 10 things NOT to do when applying to colleges. Now I’m feeling a bit more sober as I’ve been smacked back to reality by stressed seniors and their parents. If there is one message to parents that I would love to shout from the top of our office building, it is this:

college admissions parentsAs tempting as it may be to micro-manage the process or step in and “save” your child, DON’T do it!

Rather than just yell more about what students and their parents shouldn’t do, I’d instead like to offer some balanced suggestions. These are intended for parents who are just beginning the process of researching college options with their children as well as for those who are knee-deep in it with their high school senior children.

DO outline your expectations and limitations (especially financial) clearly, but DON’T impose your expectations for the “look and feel” of the institution on your child. Let your child explore!

DO make a plan for when and how often you will communicate about the status of your child’s college process, but DON’T expect to get a positive responsive if you bombard your child with questions as she’s on the way out the door or when she first wakes up on the weekend. PLAN for successful communication!

Similarly, DO listen to your child’s expectations, hopes and dreams for her college experience. By doing this, you will indicate that the process belongs to her – as does the responsibility for what gets done and what doesn’t. Therefore, DON’T use the pronouns “we” or “our” in your discussions with her or anyone else …as in “We would love to get into Harvard” or “We haven’t written our essay yet.”

Gaining admission to college is not a status competition; DON’T turn it into one for your child. DO encourage him to find the college that is the best fit for his learning style, career goals, social interests, and personality.

DON’T think you are saving your child time or “helping him” by making phone calls to Admissions Offices to set up interviews or ask questions about his applications. Admissions offices would much rather hear directly from the applicant than a parent.

However, DO make contact with the Financial Aid offices early in the process to find out what documents you need to file and when. Your child will likely not be in a position to know all of the financial information needed to complete the necessary forms.

Finally there are a few cardinal rules that are simply NON-NEGOTIABLE:

  • DO NOT under any circumstances complete applications or write/over-edit essays for your child.
  • DO be supportive, interested, and engaged.
  • DO keep perspective in the process and the process in perspective. Love your child enough to help her do the same.

Any parent anecdotes? Confessions? Let us hear them…


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