When I first meet with new families, I make sure they know it’s the student who needs to be in the driver’s seat if they expect the college application process to go well. Some parents are relieved to hear this while I can tell that others aren’t so sure what to think.
They’ve been so involved with everything their son or daughter has been doing since birth that the idea of not being actively involved is, frankly, quite terrifying.
As a parent myself, I get it. But what I also get is that kids have to take responsibility for their college search. They have to figure out what matters most to them and which colleges (note the plural form here) fit them the best.
So while this is the drum I beat along the way, I also make sure parents know it’s okay to be involved. It’s okay to talk about college and it’s okay to have feelings about how the process is going.
It’s just not okay to do any of the following:
- Calling the admissions office
Parents should not call the admissions office to ask questions about their daughter’s application. Nor should they call to share their view on an unfavorable grade. Or to try and explain why their son only volunteered so many hours at the local soup kitchen. Parents can and should call a college if they have questions on financial aid or anything to do with costs, but that’s where it should end.
Admissions counselors want to hear from the applicants, not the parents. Having sat on their side of the desk for a number of years, I agree. Show me an applicant who has questions or is willing to have a conversation and I’ll show you someone who is demonstrating maturity, responsibility and accountability.
- Saying “we’ll figure it out” when it comes to paying for college
Unless parents are sure they can pay for a school through some combination of means, saying otherwise never ends well.
There’s just too much emotion, effort and energy invested in this process to allow students to believe in a falsehood like this. For many parents, yes, it may be hard to talk about finances and affordability. None of us want to say “no” or “we can’t”. But, as hard as these things are to say, it will be so much better for their son or daughter to understand what is and what is not realistic up front rather than after months of having fallen in love with a college that will never be affordable.
- Making changes to their college essay
Depending on the kid, parents can sometimes be a great sounding board for essay ideas. But at the end of the day, this is their essay and it should sound like a 17-year old wrote it. That means it won’t be perfect.
Admissions counselors aren’t sitting there questioning every last word choice. Instead, they are trying to learn more about who the student is through the story he or she is telling. Yes, an essay should be well written but in no way does that mean it should sound like a doctoral dissertation.
- Making this about you
All too frequently I hear from parents that someone they know said their kid did THIS or was accepted THERE or was being recruited by THEM. Many of them feel the need to compete. I try to remind them that this process is not a competition. It’s never about bragging rights. It’s not a prize to be won. What it is about is helping their child connect with a college where they will grow while creating a path into a happy and successful life.
If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact me today for a free consultation.