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Parent Involvement in Applying for College

college admissions college application plans college consultant college decision finances financial aid parents Aug 14, 2022

As any parent can tell you, the college application process can be one of the most challenging and stressful periods a student and parent will ever experience. It's only natural to want to help your child as much as possible throughout this process. But, as much as parents want to be involved in their child's entire college experience, it is essential to realize that some parts are best left for your student to solve on their own. 

Too much parental involvement could actually hinder your child's experience and add unnecessary stress to their plate. How can you help your child succeed? Read on to learn how to find the ideal balance when providing college support to your student.

What Role Should Parents Play in College Admissions?

Parents can and should be involved in the college search and application process-- what's most important is how they're involved. Ideally, you should take a backseat during your child's college admission process. You should guide and support them, but your teen should be the driving force.

Parents can offer college support by being a resource, answering questions, offering advice, and providing encouragement and support throughout the whole process. As students transition from high school to college and into adulthood, they need to learn how to be independent and take ownership of their futures. When someone else takes on the responsibility of college planning, your child may not develop the life skills they need to be self-reliant and succeed in college and beyond.

Common Mistakes Parents Make

Being involved in your child's college search and application process is important, but it's crucial to get some distance, too. Here are a few of the common mistakes parents make when trying to provide college planning help.

Doing Everything For Them

These parents often start out with the best of intentions. They see their child struggling to write essays, fill out applications, or even decide where to apply and offer advice or editing help. However, this support quickly transitions into rewriting essays, completing applications, and doing all of the work for them. This type of involvement often prevents teens from learning to be self-sufficient adults. Not only will they lack essential life skills, but admissions officers can usually tell when an essay is written by a parent-- and will reject the application outright. 

Putting Too Much Pressure on Them

Every parent wants their child to be as successful as possible, but putting too much pressure on your student could have the opposite impact. High school is already a stressful time, balancing school work, extracurriculars, and social life. 

Adding college applications on top of an already hectic schedule can have your teen's stress levels at an all-time high. When you put extra pressure on them to succeed or be perfect, it can have a severe negative impact on their mental health, sleep, and more. It's essential to strike a balance between encouraging them to do their best and still allowing them to be a kid.

Pushing Them Towards Specific Extracurriculars, Classes, and Schools

Some parents believe they know what's best for their child-- even better than their child does. And while this may be true in some situations, teens must be free to make their own life decisions. Your child has goals and dreams outside of how you envision their future. Pushing them toward the classes, after-school activities, and colleges that you want for them will only create tension between the two of you. 

How to Support Your Teen

What can you do to provide college planning help to your teen? Use the tips below as guidelines for giving them the support they need.

Ask Questions and Listen

Talk to your child about their goals, aspirations, and expectations for life during and after college. Listen to their responses without judgment and ask plenty of open-minded questions. By having an honest discussion with them about their future, you can learn how best to support them in reaching their goals while still remaining realistic.

Give Advice, Support, and Encouragement

Even though you may not be an expert in college admissions, you can still offer your child guidance and support. Offer them your perspective and advice, but let them know that they're still free to make their own decisions. And acknowledge the limits of your knowledge, too; it's okay to say, "I don't know." In fact, doing so can help your teen become more self-sufficient and help them prepare for life in the real world. 

Help With Time Management

It can be challenging for students to keep track of deadlines and manage the application process on top of all their other obligations. You should be aware of all pressing due dates to ensure your child is on track. Be mindful not to push them or take over their applications. 

Offer Financial Assistance

The financial side of the college application process is often where students need the most parental assistance. Have a candid discussion about the economic realities of getting a college education and the importance of finding a school you can afford. Help them fill out financial aid forms, find scholarships and grants, and, if necessary, apply for student loans. 

Support Their Mental Health

Moving on to the next chapter in their lives can be highly stressful for teens. One of the best ways you can offer college planning help is by supporting their mental health. Encourage them to take breaks from college planning, relax, and remember to enjoy life. Make sure they're eating well and getting enough sleep. And remember to practice a little self-care, too. This process may be just as stressful for you as it is for your teen, so be sure to take care of your own mental health, too.

Work With a College Consultant

Navigating the application process can be a lot of work. Consider hiring a college admission consultant to give your teen the best chance at success. They can offer expert guidance and advice on every step of the process, from choosing colleges to obtaining financing. With college consulting, you can give your teen the support they need so you can focus on just being their parent. 

Learning about the college admissions process and helping your child through it is an important step for both of you. It doesn't need to be stressful, though! By being mindful of their needs and goals and taking care of your and your teen's mental health throughout this process, you can make things easier for both of you. Don't let the college admissions process put extra strain on your relationship-- ask for college support from a professional college admission consultant! Reach out to us at Clark College Consulting to learn more about our college consulting services and discover how we can help your teen succeed. 


Photo by Julia M Cameron

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