The Five Most Important Things You Can Do to Help
With increased selectivity, sky-high tuition costs, and confusion over what colleges require, the college planning process can be a stressful time for any college-bound family. But armed with a few simple tips, informed parents can replace the stress with positive opportunities to spend quality time with their teenagers.
The college planning process can actually help prepare your child for college and for life after college. Why? It is a great opportunity for students to learn to take control of their own lives by practicing skills in critical thinking, decision-making, planning, and organization. Parents and other responsible adults can play a supporting role but need to remember that this is the student’s college search; it is her life, his future. The student needs to be in charge, or she may end up not caring about what happens. So, what can parents do to help without totally taking charge and getting in the way? Here are the five most important things you can do.
1. Be Informed: This is a time when you really do have to keep up with your child’s level of maturity and skill development. How responsible is she? How much help does he need? What type of college would be best? Understanding what your child wants out of her college years is key. Be informed about classes and grades, standardized tests, college requirements, and trends in college admissions (colleges have become much more selective!)
2. Be Realistic: Understand and believe in your child’s ability, but don’t set the bar too high or too low. Compare her GPA and test scores to the average range of what colleges accept. (Keep in mind that highly selective colleges only take a fraction of students who have stellar grades and test scores). One of the worst things parents can do is take their child on college visits where they have little chance of being accepted. Do not set your child up for failure by providing unrealistic expectations. Also, be upfront about costs and what you can afford. However, you should not eliminate any school because of cost until you have fully investigated financial aid and scholarship options. Finally, make sure your child applies to a range of schools, including at least two “safety” schools that she loves and you can afford.
3. Be supportive: Along with arranging college visits, you can help keep track of application requirements, monitor deadlines, and oversee the financial aid process. You can also review and proof the applications, but be careful not to “over-edit” anything. Admissions counselors know the difference between the distinctive writing style of a 17-year old and an overzealous parent.
4. Know When to “Butt Out”: Try to keep an open mind and a tight lip at the beginning of the college search and application process. Listen, empathize, and understand that your child will probably change his mind many times during the process. Let your child make the initial contact with the colleges. When you visit campus, fade into the background and let him be in charge. Do not horrify your child by asking embarrassing questions or go into the interview with him, unless you are invited.
5. Enjoy the Process and Keep a Sense of Humor: This can be one of the best times you can spend with your teenager. Don’t ruin it by stressing out and nagging. Familiarize yourself with the campus when planning college visits and set appointments ahead of time. This way, your time on campus will run smoothly and you will avoid the frustration of getting lost and missing appointments. Also, be flexible, it’s ok to change your itinerary if things aren’t going as planned. Look for the humorous and fun parts of the process and keep telling yourself and your child that everything will work out in the end, so you can relax and enjoy the journey.
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Weil College Advising, LLC