6 Crucial Convos to Have With Your Student Before College Application Season
Want to find another school’s essay guide?
We’ve written over 100 guides and collected real sample essays to help you write your college essays. Search your school below:
Once your teenager becomes a senior, they will officially be starting college applications season. That means that they are about to go through months of applying to colleges followed by months of apprehension as they wait for results. You, as a parent, get to be there along for the ride and help them, both with the application and through moral support.
If you want to ensure that your student’s college application process goes as smoothly as possible, there are a few things that you should probably address with your student before college application season even starts. To learn what you need to discuss with your student to make sure you’re both ready for college applications season, read on.
1. Make Sure College Is The Right Path For Them
Many parents tend to operate on the assumption that college is the natural next step for their children, and for many high-achieving students, they are absolutely right. However, as a parent, you must realize that your child is about to be an adult who can pursue any life path that he/she wants to. If your teen does not want to pursue a college degree, it is their purview to do so.
While you may not think that your child is considering any other path besides college, you ought to have a clarifying conversation with your child to make sure that you both are thinking the same thing. Make sure that your child is aware of all of the post-graduation options available to them besides college. After that, check in and make sure that college is the route they want to take.
If and once you’ve established that your child does want to attend college, talk to them about why they want to go to college and see what their motivations are. This is helpful as it will give both you and your teenager an idea of what they’re hoping to learn and gain from the college experience and what sort of career path they hope college will open up for them. Plus, who knows? That conversation even serve as a brief brainstorm for your student’s personal statement.
2. Be Upfront About Financing
Even if you’ve been saving up for college since they were 2 years old, you may find that college costs add up, and that there are college costs you just didn’t anticipate. For instance, did you know that most college application submissions requires a college application fee of a few hundred dollars? Did you know that, after a certain number of submissions, College Board charges your student to submit their SAT and AP scores to colleges. If your child is planning on applying to multiple colleges, those costs can really start to add up before you’ve even heard back from colleges.
It’s up to you as a parent to look at your family’s financial capabilities and see realistically how much you and your family are willing and able to contribute towards your student’s college education. If your family can’t afford out-of-state tuition, tell your student that upfront so that they plan their college list accordingly. If your student needs to start applying for fee waivers, financial aid, and other scholarships in order to pay for their college education, tell them as soon as possible so that they can fill out those applications.
3. Make Sure They Want Your Help
Many students are happy to have their parents help them through the college application process. They’ll probably have you edit their essays, help them fill out the demographics info, and other quality-control-like jobs.
However, some students only want their parents to have limited involvement in their college application process. Whatever their reasoning may be, you ought to clarify your child’s expectations well ahead of time. You don’t want to run into a situation a few months from now where your child feels that you are either too involved or not involved enough in their college application process.
4. Help Them Narrow Down a Major or a Career Path
You and your student will both find that narrowing down a college list is much easier if you have an intended major or at least a department of study in mind. If your child hasn’t quite figured out what major they want to pursue, perhaps you can have a conversation with them and help them start to figure it out. Start with brainstorming possible careers they would be interested in, and then figure out an intended major based on those career choices.
Your student can still apply to colleges as an undeclared major. They won’t even have to decide and declare a major until a year or two into college. However, you both should at least have a few majors in mind so that you can apply to colleges with good programs in the field of study that your student might be interested in.
5. Have a Candid Conversation About Their College Resume
You know your student better than anyone, so you know what they have achieved throughout high school. Based on their academic and extracurricular profile, you can develop a basic idea of whether they’ve done enough to get into the colleges that they are considering applying to. For instance, if they’ve gotten mostly B’s and only have a few extracurriculars, the chances of him/her getting into Harvard is not great. He/she would have a decent shot at a state school though.
It’s worth it to sit down with your student and go over their college resume. You two should both talk realistically about which colleges he/she will probably get into. After all, you want your children to be ambitious with their college applications so that they have a chance of getting into a great college, but you should also try to keep your college list realistic and maximize their chances of acceptance.
6. Make An Action Plan
Once you and your student are on the same page, work with him/her to plan out how you are going to get everything done in this college application process. You can use a planner, an online calendar, a checklist, or whatever organizational tool you want, but you need to outline some deadlines for when certain parts of each application should be done.
When you’re creating your calendar or checklist, set strict deadlines for you and your student. You should plan out when you want each aspect of the college application (the personal statement, the essays, the demographics info) to be completed by your student. Then, have a separate due date for when all of those things should be looked over and edited by you, the parent. Lastly, you both should note all the deadlines for your college applications and submission of your test scores.
For More Information
Does your student need help getting through their college applications? Perhaps these previous blog posts can provide some guidance:
Does your teen want access to expert college guidance — for free? When they create their free CollegeVine account, they will find out their real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve their profile, and get their questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Encourage them to sign up for their CollegeVine account today to get a boost on their college journey.
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.