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A Conversation About College Part III

This is Part III of a running series called, “A Conversation About College” which covered some of the more pressing questions that were asked at a workshop I conducted a few weeks ago at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Connecticut:Q: Where (or how) do we start the college application process?

This is absolutely the question that is on the minds of every parent of a sophomore or junior right now. The problem is that there really is no easy answer. A lot depends on who your college-bound is and what is important to him or her.

When I work with students who have yet to begin their college search, the first thing I do is spend some time getting to know them and their VIPS. VIPS are values, interests, personality-style and skills. By talking to them about their goals, fears, dreams and everything else in between, we can identify a direction to start with. From there, we talk about the types colleges that are out there and what attributes he or she should be looking at such as location, in-state or out-of-state, size, programs, student body type, cost, etc in order to develop a successful college list.Ultimately, getting started takes time and a lot of conversation.

Q: What would you suggest if your child does not want help with the college application process?

This is a tough position to be in as a parent because, of course, you want the best for your child and you want to support and help guide them through the process. Unfortunately, this is also a time where your child is trying very hard to figure out where he or she fits in the world. From a developmental standpoint, their resistance to your interest in helping is very appropriate. They are trying, more and more, to do things on their own and to identify themselves as their own, authentic authority on things.

My best advice to you is to be willing to take a step back and to try, as hard as it might be, to watch from a distance right now. I would let him or her know that you are there, ready and willing to help and to be a part of the journey whenever he or she is ready to let you in. I would also stress that you are interested in supporting them through this time, as opposed to trying to make decisions for them. I often find that students want to know that they are going to have some control over the decisions being made and put up this initial resistance as a preemptive strike against any involvement you might have. Once they realize that you are there and just waiting for them to ask, I think you will find that they will be more interested in your help and your opinion. Then, once they invite you into the process, ask them what they would like help with. The more you let them dictate things, the happier your household will be!

While you wait for your child to come to his or her senses, I would spend some time reading a few blogs and keeping your finger on the pulse of the admissions world. You can also sign up for my newsletter and will begin receiving that on a monthly basis starting on the first of the ensuing month. There will be advice, things to stay on top of and a planning calendar that hopefully you will find useful. In the meantime, check out a blog I wrote about the role parents should play in the college process a few months ago. It’s more written for parents who are over-involved, but the perspective on what parents can and should do might be helpful.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on “A Conversation About College,” please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me directly at

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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