Best Advice for Parents During the College Admissions Process
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College admissions are stressful for everyone involved. That includes the applicant, teachers, counselors, and mentors. That being said, few will feel this stress as acutely as parents.
In many cases, college admissions will be the first time that your teen will take the lead in making mature, responsible decisions that will have a lasting impact on their future. It’s always difficult to let go of our kids as they grow closer and closer to adulthood, and college admissions are a sharp reminder that independence is just around the corner.
At CollegeVine, we understand the unique pressure felt by the parents of college applicants. Here, we lay out our top advice for parents during the college admissions process.
1. Don’t Take the Helm
There have probably been plenty of times in your teen’s life that you’ve had to step in and solve a problem for them.. Playground bickering, grade school mishaps, and social squabbles have all been resolved with some help from mom or dad. College admissions isn’t one of these times. Your teen’s college application, high school transcript, test scores, and teacher recommendations are theirs alone, and there’s no place for a parent to save the day.
This doesn’t mean that you have to bite your tongue entirely, though. If you have a teen who’s prone to procrastination, one who doesn’t like to toot their own horn, or one who frequently overlooks the big picture, you should by all means help to guide your student.
For instance, instead of filling out the application for them, come up with a system to help along the way. If your teen leaves everything until the last minute, sit down with them in September and devise a college application timeline to display prominently in the house. Use our post What Is the Ideal Timeline for the College Application Process to get you started. Then, hold your teen accountable for every deadline on the list.
If your teen has trouble discussing their accomplishments or struggles to see them in context, have a conversation about their strengths and how these accomplishments serve as evidence of them. Make a list together so that your teen will have something to refer to while filling out this section of their application.
Remember, your role is not to spectate, but it’s also not to lead. You should be a source of inspiration, direction, and support.
One of the most important ways you can support your teen through the college admissions is by establishing clear, consistent communication. This doesn’t mean that you bring up college applications at the dinner table every night or use every car ride as a chance to check in. Instead, establish some boundaries.
Remember that your teen is as stressed, if not more, as you are about college admissions. We recommend establishing a standing check-in time for discussing college applications and college admissions. Choose a day and time that is available each week and commit to checking in with each other during this time once a week.
Of course, your teen should feel free to bring up college applications or admissions at any time, but this is their prerogative. Remember, your college-bound teen s under enormous stress, so you should do everything possible to be available whenever they have questions and concerns. Your own questions and concerns should be saved for your weekly check-in. Remember, unsolicited advice can quickly become overwhelming when it isn’t filtered.
3. Don’t Try to Play the System
As parents, we all know how amazing, capable, and incredibly gifted our own kids are. We want nothing more than for others to recognize these same qualities, and sometimes college admissions can feel like a measure of your child’s worth. Don’t fall prey to this line of thinking. College admissions are simply a way of selecting members of a college class. They are not an indication of your child’s worth as a student, person, or friend.
Sometimes, when parents become caught up in the weight of college admissions, they try to think of ways to “play” the system, often so that their child will receive preferential treatment during the college admissions process. More times than not, this tends to backfire. Admissions committees do not appreciate anyone who tries to take advantage of the system, and they also frown upon parents who seem more invested in the college admissions process than their teen applicants.
Instead, redirect your energy into constructive support for your teen. Help them to research colleges extensively, create a well-balanced college list, and present their true self to the best of their ability.
4. Consider the Help of a Professional College Admissions Counselor
College admissions are not the same process that they used to be. If you went to college, you might remember licking envelopes and handwriting a list of your accomplishments. These days, the process looks much different.
One way to support your teen is to enlist the help of someone who has in-depth knowledge of the college application process. Professional college admissions counselors have vast knowledge of the application process, how admissions committees evaluate candidates, and what your student needs to do when in order to ensure that they are ready with their best foot forward.
You can find local college admissions counselors through your teen’s guidance counselor or through referrals from friends and family. Another great alternative is a remote counselor who practices online, communicating via phone, email, and video conferencing. This often simplifies scheduling and means that you can choose from a more experienced pool of counselors.
For more about how parents can support their teens through the college admissions process, don’t miss these posts:
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