Parents and the College Application Process

This blog post is provided by the Unigo Expert Network, a group of top education experts from across the U.S. answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school. To have your questions answered visit

“How can parents help students with the college search and application process?”—Vanessa K., Boise, ID

Parents’ Do's and Don’ts Jeannie Borin, Founder & President, College Connections
The college admissions process should be somewhat of a passage from childhood to adulthood. Parents should assist with some organization, give encouragement, make suggestions and support their child. Reward their accomplishments but allow them to take ownership of their college process. Parents can plan college visits, call financial aid offices to learn of opportunities and be a sounding board for their child’s concerns. Listen and read their college essays (if they let you) and give constructive advice. If a college admissions office needs to be called, the student should do it. The college process helps prepare students for the independence they will have when they are in college.

Schedule an Appointment with Your Kid Each Week John Carpenter, Founder,
Sometimes kids actually get stressed out talking so much about college, and the best advice I know is not to talk about college over dinner.  A better idea is for parents and kids to establish a weekly meeting time during senior year, say every Tuesday night for 30 minutes, where you all agree to talk to each other about what's going on with the college search/application process and keep track of deadlines and to-do lists.  Make that the ONLY time you bring up college during the week; it prevents parents from inadvertently nagging, and it gives kids a regular opportunity to share progress and express concerns.

Parents Need to Be in the Know, But Not on the Do Danny Reynolds, Director of College Counseling, Palmer Trinity School
While it is important to keep parents informed and aware of the process, it is more important to allow students to take ownership and make them understand this is an important step in their educational journies.  Parents should have input and offer advice, but should always be careful not to take over or become so involved that it becomes more about them than about the student.  It is, after all, a learning process for both.  The more we empower our students to make certain decisions and to feel that they are somewhat in charge of this process, the more rewarding and meaningful the outcome.

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