Parents: Surviving the College Admissions Roller Coaster
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.
College admissions can represent a series of emotions from one extreme to another. There may be excitement, anxiety, stress, relief, and elation or even deep disappointment. Admission decisions are often very difficult to predict, so anticipating these emotions in advance can be nearly impossible.
As parents, you are along for the ride and will often experience all of these emotions alongside your teen. For some it will be a smooth and seamless process. For others it will a bumpy and sometimes exhausting ride. To learn more about the college admissions roller coaster and the ride you’re about to experience, don’t miss this important post.
Set Your Teen Up For Success
The college admissions process can be more painful than usual when your teen sets unrealistic goals or expectations. You can help to smooth the process from the very beginning by keeping a realistic perspective and sharing these insights with your teen.
Start by reviewing standardized test scores, GPA, and class rank. These factors often weigh heavily in the admissions process and will be used as initial screening tools by the admissions committee to thin the applicant pool. Check admissions statistics at the schools that your teen is interested in applying to, and make sure that his or her statistics line up.
In general, if your teen’s standardized test scores place him or her in the top 25% of accepted students, he or she can considered this a safety school. If his or her scores place him or her in the 50th percentile of accepted students, this is considered a target school, and if his or her scores place him or her in the bottom 25% of accepted students, this is considered a reach school.
The schools that your teen applies to should represent a balance of safety, target, and reach schools. It’s important to also keep in mind that very selective schools are always reach schools, since their admissions standards are so high.
Applying to the right schools for your teen will make the admissions process much easier and less stressful on everyone. To learn more about creating a realistic college list, check out these posts:
Help Your Teen To Submit the Most Outstanding Application Possible
College admissions are sometimes a difficult code to crack. After all, your teen is taking all of his or her accomplishments and value as a member of a community and trying to whittle them down to just a few pages of written information. This is no easy feat and for some students it’s more difficult than others.
It’s inevitable that certain accomplishments fit more neatly onto a college application than others. For example, academic pursuits, school clubs, and formal prizes all tend to shine on college applications. If your student excels in the arts, participates avidly in less traditional activities outside of school, or excels in other ways that aren’t evident on the application, he or she will have a harder time communicating these achievements.
In these cases, it’s important to find ways in which these accomplishments can be highlighted. Your teen should find ways to quantify achievements and draw more attention to them. Instead of simply saying that he or she volunteered regularly at the senior center, keep a count of the hours that he or she put in there. If your teen taught after school computer classes, have him or her track the number of students he or she reaches. To learn more about quantifying less traditional achievements and pursuits, see our post How to Turn Your Interest or Hobby into an Extracurricular Activity.
Another way to highlight skills and qualities that are less evident on an application is to have your teen select a teacher or mentor who can speak to them to write his or her recommendations. Encourage your teen to meet with his or her recommenders before they write the recommendations. While it sometimes feels awkward to discuss your own accomplishments and positive qualities, your teen should gather the courage to discuss these with his or her recommender in advance, to ensure that they make it into the recommendation. Direct him or her to these posts for more information:
Understand Financial Aid and Build Financial Independence
Finances play a role in many family’s college decisions, and regardless of your financial situation, all teens should have basic financial literacy before they go to college. From the beginning, you’ll need to be honest with your teen about your financial situation and ensure that he or she understands the ramifications of this on college choices.
You can get the ball rolling by learning all you can about financial aid and the options available to help with college funding, should your family need assistance. Check out the Federal Student Aid website to get started.
These posts will also be helpful:
In addition, get your teen used to creating and sticking to a budget and paying bills. Financial responsibility is a key piece to establishing independence. To get started, direct your teen to the articles How to Start Building a Credit Score While You’re Still in High School and What Are The Best Financial Tips for a High School Student?.
Evaluate Final Choices
When college admissions decisions come back, your teen will need to make a very important decision. You can help by keeping a level head and laying out options in a logical way. Keep less traditional routes to success in mind also.
Remind your teen that choosing a school simply because of its name or prestige is not a great choice. Instead, he or she should choose a path that is best suited for his or her interests, skills, and priorities. After all, at the end of the day, where your child goes to college will be much less important than what she or he accomplishes during his or her time there.
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.
For more information about helping your teen through the college application process, see these CollegeVine posts:
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.