Expert College Admissions Tips for Parents

Try to be patient with your child. If asking them about the status of their applications is likely to frustrate them, agree on specific times during the week to talk about the process. For example, every Wednesday evening from 7:30 to 8:00 and again on Sunday from 1:00 to 2:00. Also, remember that this is ultimately their experience. “We” are not applying to college; your child is applying to college.

Get familiar with the high school’s process. Which application pieces will the guidance office mail, and which ones must be submitted by your child? What documentation does your child need to fill out in order to make sure materials are sent? What are the deadlines for providing the guidance office with the list of schools to which your child will be applying? This is an important part of the application process, and the more you know about the way your child’s school does things, the less stressed out everyone will be. Tweet this Tip.

Take your kids to visit colleges during their sophomore or junior year. I think this is hands down the most important thing you can do for your child during this process. You would never buy a car without test driving it first. Why would you pay a huge amount of money for something you’ve never seen? It also helps your child narrow down his or her college list by seeing what he or she does and doesn’t like, answer the popular essay question “Why this college?” later on, and shows demonstrated interest in a college (important to many smaller schools).

When visiting colleges, don’t just go to the admissions office. You should also visit the academic advising office to find out about support services for your student and policies for notification of excessive absence or other academic issues. Also, stop by the career services office and ask about career advising, résumé and interview services, on-campus recruiting, and job-placement rates. Campus security may be able to fill you in on the drinking scene, student conduct, and whether or not kids stick around on the weekends. Other support staff, such as dining hall and custodial employees, are knowledgeable about whether kids interact in diverse groups and how they treat staff members.

During your child’s senior year, spend some time with them talking about things other than college applications. This may be their last year living at home with you, and it’s a big transition for the entire family. For some families, I even recommend a weekly “college free” night where you can spend some time as a family enjoying each other’s company without the constant questions about deadlines, essays, majors, and more.

The common denominator in all college essay prompts, no matter the question, is the word, “you.” Help your child stay on topic: his goals and dreams, her accomplishments and lessons learned. It’s the “you” who’s up for admission. No one else.