How Involved Should You Be In Your Teen’s College Apps
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
As a parent, one of your primary jobs is to teach your child responsibility. From household chores to schoolwork, or even financially contributing to the family, you are involved in facilitating their accountability in day to day life. College applications, however, challenge many parents to step back and play a supporting role.
A chunk of how colleges evaluate your student is seeing how they are able to write about and present themselves on their application. You want your student’s application to accurately reflect their personality, writing, and what they can do so that your student ends up at a college that is best for their skillset.
This is not to say, however, that you cannot help your student with their college applications at all. There is a fine line between being supportive and overwhelming your student., which is why CollegeVine has outlined ways to balance helping your teen without overstepping your involvement in the college application process. To learn how involved you should be in various parts of the college admissions process, read on.
In order to be considered for college admission, your student will need to take the SAT or ACT (or both, but only one is required), SAT Subject Tests (if required), and perhaps AP/IB exams throughout their high school career. Students who do well on these exams usually spend at least a few months before the exam date studying and taking practice exams, and we at CollegeVine recommend that your student do the same.
As a parent, you can’t take the test for your student. In fact, there isn’t even a whole lot that you can do to help them while they’re studying. It’s up to them to read through the test prep books, do the practice questions, make the flashcards, and study on their own. Even if you see an opportunity to help your student study, only involve yourself if your child asks. This will be good practice for your student as they will have to learn how to study independently in college.
What You Can Do: Make sure your student has all of the test prep resources that they need. This means paying for them to take an SAT prep class and purchasing study materials such as practice books or apps. You should also do your best to make sure that they are actually studying regularly in the months before the exam. You can sit down with your student and organize a study schedule and then hold your student accountable for completing those test prep hours.
College essays are a significant aspect of the application process since they clearly indicate your teen’s writing and vocabulary aptitude, as well as their unique voice/personality. When an adcom reads a college essay, they aren’t expecting perfection and can tell when a high school student is not being authentic.
It can be tempting as a parent to wordsmith your teen’s college essay. However, the last thing you want to do is derail your student’s ownership in the college process. Your student should be the only one to write their college essay.
What You Can Do: Help your teen brainstorm ideas and remind them of their accomplishments and experiences that would be valuable to showcase.
You can also edit the essay once it’s done or encourage your student to ask teachers, counselors, or a mentor to edit their essays and provide constructive feedback. The more perspectives your student gets on the essay, the stronger it will be.
Colleges pay close attention to where your child spends their after-school time, and extracurricular activities are a huge part of that. You may think that certain clubs, activities, or organizations are more beneficial than others, or that the more extracurriculars, the better your student’s extracurricular profile. and You may be tempted to influence your student’s choices.
What you have to realize, however, is that colleges really don’t care what extracurriculars your child participates in. In fact, when it comes to extracurriculars, colleges want to see how your teen made an impact on the organization. For example, an adcom would prefer to see your student was president of a club, rather than seeing five different activities where they did the bare minimum.
What You Can Do: If colleges don’t care which extracurriculars your child does, why should you? Let your child be happy and participate in the activities they want to as long as it doesn’t negatively affect their grades You can support them by driving them to practices, meetings, and rehearsals, or by volunteering and cheering for them at sports games.
A resume can boost the standard college application by giving your student room to showcase their accomplishments and experiences. In fact, a well-written resume can lead to summer internships, jobs, and strengthen your teen’s college application. But resumes can be challenging for a high school to put together since they likely have never written one, and don’t have a ton of accomplishments to fill a full page just yet. As a parent, it is natural to brag about your child. And a resume, in sense, is a brag-sheet. But parent-written resumes are easy to spot, according to adcoms.
What You Can Do: This where you can step in and really help your child out. Keep track of their accomplishments. Sit down with your student and go over examples of resumes online and each section (i.e. contact information, education, activities, accolades, etc.). Proofread your teen’s resume carefully to ensure the information is correct and free of spelling and grammatical errors and offer feedback. If you or your student need help to craft a stand-out resume that will impress colleges, you can reference these previous blog posts:
Financial aid is the area of college applications where you can help your child the most. In fact, your teenager is likely going to need you to provide important financial information in order to fill out need-based scholarship applications and the FAFSA. It can be easy to just take over the process at this time and avoid sharing financial details with your child, but it is important to let your child be the driver of their college applications.
What You Can Do: Have your tax forms, pay stubs, and other proofs of income ready. Also, it’s a good time to discuss the costs of college, including living expenses and what you can realistically afford. If your child is also applying for scholarships that require them to write essays or personal statements, approach these as you would a college essay. You can help them brainstorm ideas and you can edit the essay once it’s done, but the words and ideas have to come from your student.
Once all is said and done and your student has heard back from colleges, they may find overwhelmed in making that final decision. You may have your preference as to which college they should choose, but when it comes to this decision, you as a parent should be respectful and refrain from influencing your teen’s choice.
What You Can Do: Step aside and let your student make the decision. After all, it’s their future and college experience, However, if there are extenuating circumstances that might make your student lean towards one college such as being unable to afford a certain school, you absolutely should tell your student about that. Your student needs to make this decision on their own, but they should be informed of all the circumstances that are affecting the decision.
For More Information
Need more help navigating the college application process with your student? Check out these previous blog posts:
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.