As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to best help your child through the arduous college application process. On one hand, you may feel tempted to help them with each and every step, wanting to have as much control over the process as possible. On the other hand, you may want to leave your child completely to their own devices, encouraging them to stand on their own two feet.
A parent’s role in the college application process doesn’t need to be so black or white though. Let us show you different roles you can take on to help your child through the process without going too far on either end of the spectrum.
Help Them Plan
Good organizational skills are crucial to your child’s future, no matter where they go to school or what they study there. The application process is a great place to develop those skills. As a parent, you can help your child organize their applications, and remind them of important dates. Even better, help them learn how to keep track of important dates and deadlines themselves. Introduce them to good organizational materials, such as phone apps and notebooks, and show them how to use those tools well. As we’ll discuss later on, you don’t want to go overboard with this, but there’s nothing wrong with encouraging your child to have good time management skills.
Give Good Information and Questions
There are details you may know that your child may not about choosing a certain school, such as how much financial aid they’ll need to attend, how easy or difficult it would be for them to come home during breaks, and perspective on what kind of school they might like (such as a large university versus a small liberal arts college).
Similarly, they may not always know what to look for or what to ask about a school. Encouraging thoughtful questions during tours or college counseling meetings may help them to discover new opportunities or considerations they might not have thought of on their own. Furthermore, if your child has questions you can’t answer, you can help them to find the answer through various resources like college counselors or admissions guides.
Act as Extra Eyes and Ears
With lengthy applications, essays, and interviews, acting as a proofreader or a mock interviewer can help your child gain perspective on their strengths and weaknesses. Bear in mind, you should not force your child to share their work. However, should they ask for help in these areas, you certainly can give it to them. When reviewing their materials, be sure to look critically, and with as unbiased of a view as possible.
Encourage and Support Them
At the end of the day, this is your child’s process, and you need to let them go through it. Hovering over your child will not help them get into a better college, and certainly will not help them succeed in the future. Preparing them to stand on their own two feet may be one of the best things you can do for them right now.
In essence, the best way to help your child is to provide them with the structure they need to succeed, but let them do the work on their own. Help them lay out their work, ask the right questions, and then be there for them should they need help along the way. Beyond that, this is your child’s life and future, and while you may have an emotional and financial investment in it, they are the ones who live it.