The college admission process can be an overwhelming experience for teens, as well as their parents. After all, heading to college represents a very important chapter in your teen’s development process. While anxiety is likely to run high throughout this process, there are proven effective ways to lend both the guidance and loving support your teen will need.
Put the Process in Perspective
The college experience, in addition to providing a solid educational foundation, may serve as your child’s bridge into adulthood. They will, likely for the first time, gain a sense of responsibility and independence during their matriculation. As a parent, it is very easy to become so connected to your child that your own anxieties and competitive nature are projected onto your child during this time.
It’s important to remember that the college application process belongs to your teen. While you cannot take this on for them, you can provide your teen with a sense of calm and perspective. Remember, your teen is facing judgment, possibly for the first time, and the decisions made by college admission officers can create an entire gamut of emotions. Your assistance and support will give your teen a soft place to land.
Establish Goals and Guidelines
The decision of where to attend school will often be based on your teen’s life ambitions. Determining these will not only help with evaluating various degree programs, but will also help with the required essay that will accompany the application. If your teen is not yet certain about career goals, you should encourage them to consider their interests, their dreams and the impact they wish to make on society.
As a parent, it’s important that you’re honest with your child about the amount of tuition you can afford. While you may have set aside enough for in-state schools, out-of-state tuition and fees may be out of range. Knowing the overall financial situation you face will help determine whether or not you will need to apply for loans or grants, in addition to applying for scholarships. School guidance counselors can be very helpful with college resource information.
Tips for Getting Started
The first step in the college admission process is, of course, determining which schools your child will apply to. Start at the school guidance counselor’s office (where college information packets abound) or conduct your own thorough search online. University websites outline their degree programs and academic requirements; many also include a virtual tour to give potential students their first glimpse at the physical, academic and social environment found on their campus. Virtual tours should not, however, substitute for an actual visit to the campus.
Once the focus has narrowed to, ideally, eight colleges or less, begin gathering applications and organizing college application deadlines properly. One very useful, free organizational tool can be found at www.commonapp.org, or simply create your own spreadsheet. Either way, denote application deadlines, SAT/ACT admissions testing dates, fees and admissions requirements for each university your child is applying to. Pay strict attention to these dates. Begin requesting letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors and coaches who can attest to your teen’s character. It is also never too early to begin assessing financial aid opportunities (scholarships, grants and student loans).
Once the application is complete, take a moment to review it for neatness, thoroughness, spelling, grammar and punctuation. Be certain that the essay content is well-written, logical and complete. Doing so ensures that the college admission officers’ first impression of your teen will be a positive one.