“Well,” says Randi M., parent of a college freshman who was accepted into the school of her dreams, “My husband and I didn’t have any preconceived notion about where we wanted our child to go, so it really was up to her. The only thing I did was to set the agenda to visit the schools. She did the research online, and I made the arrangements. “
Having just gone through the experience, Randi’s take-away is to start early. Even sophomore year is not too early to just begin thinking about it. “You don’t know where your grades are going, but having some idea of where you might want to go could help drive the desire for higher grades.”
“Kids who are 'B' students want to be 'A' students. 'A' students are looking to take more AP classes. No matter where you are on that ladder, kids are looking at other kids and thinking they have more of a shot at getting in if they have higher grades or more extra curriculars. Don’t let your child get frustrated or loose her self-esteem,” adds Randi M.
By taking a step back, you will be helping your child gain independence and self-advocacy.
During the college application process, parents should:
- Listen to your child. Work hard at not projecting your own aspirations; listen to what your son or daughter wants from their own college experience.
- Get to know the guidance counselor or independent educational consultant, but take a back seat: questions, work and deadlines flow between the counselor and the student. Remember, you are there as back up!
- Provide support but don’t take over. Let your children discover their own way. The process teaches a high schooler to transition to adulthood, since he/she will be away at college on his/her own.
- Have a sense of humor. There are many “firsts” in this process, so mistakes will be made. It is critical to remember that this is a long, two-year path and keeping things light can keep communication open and upbeat.
- Maintain open communication. Teens may be wary of topics like financial responsibility, leaving home, living with strangers, and making new friends. Let them know you’re happy to discuss any topic they want.
- Make sure your child understands the family’s financial resources. Help your son or daughter establish a monthly or semester budget that will cover necessities and practical expenses.
- Hang up the phone! Parents should not be calling the office of admissions to set up appointments, plan visits, or check on the status of the application. These are all the student’s responsibility. When mom or dad calls the admissions officer, the message received is that the student is not mature enough to handle his or her own affairs.