The college search and admissions process represents a new chapter in your kid’s life and in your relationship with them. Parents should be involved—but students should be even more so! Trying to find the right balance? Here are some practical tips:
Let your student lead.
The desire to take over is normal. But if you’re investing more time or effort than your student, consider pumping the breaks. The admissions process is a great opportunity for you to empower your student to become a little more independent. Ask them questions about what they’re looking for in a school and feel free to offer insight, but let them take the reins.
Don’t limit their options.
Make sure your student knows that you’ll support them regardless of what they choose—whether that’s where to go to school or what to study. Encourage them to aim high and pursue big things, but also be affirming if they decide to do something different than you imagined. Be confident in your student’s abilities and be ready to support their chosen path, whether they want to be an artist, a doctor, a teacher, or anything in between.
Be there and be prepared.
Go with your student to campus visits, admissions meetings, and other pre-college events. This is a great way to be involved. Encourage your student to prepare some questions and lead the conversation, but feel free to bring some questions of your own, too. You may think of something they could miss.
Take time to process with your student.
College visit days can be jam-packed with meetings, tours, and classes. Consider pausing throughout the day to process with your student, whether it’s in the car, in between events, or during lunch. Use this time to get on the same page, understand your student’s interests, and identify any lingering questions they want to ask before the day is done.
Help with Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA can be intimidating, especially to a student who hasn’t dealt much with official documents before. The FAFSA opens doors to financial aid which can help curb the cost of college—but your student needs your help with it! Much of the information needed for the FAFSA comes from the student’s parents. Take the time to walk through the application with your student, and let them fill out as much as they’re able on their own.
Encourage them to keep moving.
The college search is overwhelming. There will likely be a moment when your student becomes a little less excited and a lot more stressed. That’s where you come in: give them a little extra encouragement to keep moving. Do some of your own research, and ask questions to keep the conversation going. Most importantly, remind them that they are capable. With decisions about the future looming, students sometimes feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Most of the time though, all they need is a little morale boost and someone to come alongside them.