Parents’ guide to college admissions time
Going through the college admissions cycle with your high school student can be an extremely stressful time for both student and parent. Students are excited about preparing for what lies ahead for them and anxious about leaving home. Parents are equal parts proud of their children’s accomplishments, hopeful that they have prepared them for life away from home and melancholy about the idea of their child being out of the nest. Add the extra layer of the college admissions process to the mix of already frayed nerves and over scheduled time, and it is a time that is fraught with potential blow ups. Here are some tips for surviving this passage and how to support your child through the process.
Work with your child to select colleges that will provide the best fit. Try not to get caught up in rankings and name brands, and most importantly, don’t force your student to apply only to schools that you like. Keep the list realistic and balanced. It doesn’t hurt to apply to that dream school – even if it might be a real stretch – but don’t load the list with schools that are all like that, or you could very likely suffer a very difficult and disappointing time when the responses start to come back.
Help your child by proofreading essays, give tips or suggestions as needed, but DON’T write or rewrite the essay for them. The folks who read the applications are very in tuned to the “voice” of a teenager, and it is very different than the voice of a parent. They want to hear from the student, about what they have to say and how they think about a topic. Let your student be heard. The essay is one of the most important parts of the application, so it needs to be authentic.
When going on a college visit, interview or even a college fair, let your student take the lead. Let him or her be the one to introduce themselves and ask the questions. This is their time to make themselves be seen, especially when talking to an admissions rep who might be the one to read their application. When they see the application, you want them to remember your student, not you!
If you have a question, make sure that you review the website thoroughly before contacting an admissions rep for an answer. It is important that your student be the one to make the contact either via e-mail or by phone. Again, this lets the reps know that your student is interested in their school, not you.
Help your students keep up with deadlines and due dates. Maybe make a chart or calendar and keep it in a central location as a reminder, and check off completed items throughout. This keeps the process in their hands, and avoids micromanagement on your part.
Don’t ask where their friends are applying or compare them to others. Choosing college is a very personal process, one that honors the individual. If one chooses a school because one’s best friend or boy/girlfriend has always dreamed of going to that school, it can be disappointing if the school is not the right fit, or if there is a breakup early on in the school year.
Stay positive and celebrate every success. Every time one of those big envelopes lands in the mailbox, even if it is from a safety school, make sure to emphasize how great it must be to know they are going to college and have some great choices. Your support and encouragement mean everything to them at this time, as does your ability to give them the independence they need to succeed.
Remember that this time will pass, more quickly than you know. Before you realize it, it will be time to pack those suitcases and get on the plane to take them college. The stress will become a distant memory, replaced by the pride you will feel when you first set foot on the campus your child will call home for the next four years. And if you feel that you need some help balancing all there is to do, please do not hesitate to contact me!
This article is from my archives and was first published in November 2018.
Maryanne Hogan is an Independent College Admissions Consultant working with students on Maui. Visit her website, thecollegeauntie.com, for more information or to make an appointment.