Supporting Your Child through the College Application Process
You want to help your child apply for college, but there’s only so much you can do. How can you best support your child so that the process runs smoothly, with the fewest bumps in the road and the least stress?
Presumably at this point you’ve already helped your child choose the colleges with the best fit and have talked about paying for college. No? Do that first, because these two crucial steps need to be addressed before the application process begins.
Your student will also benefit from reading about organizing the college application process, which will make your job as a parent much easier and your child’s hard work bear the most fruit. So what can and should a parent do?
Take a supporting role
First, help your son or daughter create a calendar of deadlines. But remember, just because you have on the calendar that College A needs the application by February 1 doesn’t mean your child can wait until January 31 to fill it out! Be sure to help your student create a truly helpful calendar, breaking deadlines down into incremental steps to ensure progress is being made over several months. A big white board or big stickies on their bedroom wall works for our clients, so give that a try!
Don’t give out-of-date advice. The process is not the same as when you went to college. In fact, with the dramatic changes in technology, it might not even be the same as when your older children went to college. Find current information by looking at blogs from admissions directors themselves or by working with a professional whose job it is to keep current on college admissions changes.
Handle the money aspects
Your student can’t complete the FAFSA or the CSS forms on their own, but they can do some of it, and if you teach them now, they will be able to do it for themselves next year and the year after…… Read our blog article called “Jo’s Word of the Decade” to find out why this suggestion is so important.
Pell Grants may also be available. These forms require tax information and demographics that your child won’t know. Start them early, because you can use last year’s tax information to start the process and update the information later. In addition, help your student look for as many scholarships as possible, and also evaluate loan options. Scholarships offered by colleges themselves will require that you fill out the FAFSA/CSS. Outside scholarships won’t necessarily ask for your financial information. Start local when looking for scholarships: your bank, insurance company, local hospital, etc.
Encourage making contact
Your child should meet with the school counselor early in senior year – hopefully having visited also some time in junior year
Also encourage your son or daughter (not you), to personally reach out to the college admissions offices. This is important. When a student calls in, Admissions notices. This shows maturity, initiative, sincere interest, and motivation. He or she should call in with a sincere question, but not something that could easily be found out just by looking at the website. Also encourage a campus interview. Admissions tracks how many contacts they have with prospective students, moving the more interested students higher in the selection process.
Help evaluate offers
When the offers come in, help your student evaluate them carefully. Which school offers the most options your child wants? Which offers the best financial package? Which one has the most robust internship program and connections to The Real World?
Be a safe port in the storm
Most importantly, help your child remain calm, see the big picture, and enjoy this exciting time in life!
If you feel you may need help to navigate this process and keep your child’s stress level low, call us. Getting a professional who knows the ropes to help you through these steps may be just what you need to sleep easy.