Last week, I met with a client who is finishing up her junior year this month. After covering the usual topics of senior course selection, spring college visits, and teacher recommendations for college, we delved into her exciting summer plans including volunteering abroad and then interning with a local state senator. Just as we were planning to wrap up, I asked my student one last question, “Do your parents have any questions?” “Yes, in fact they do,” she said. “What can they do to help?”
I didn’t have to pause for a second before answering. “The best thing your parents can do for you in the college application process is be who you need them to be.” The words just rolled off my tongue, and so effortlessly. When parents ask how they can be helpful, I think they are expecting me to provide concise, detailed suggestions of tasks that they should assume. The reality is that all students are different and have varying needs for support throughout the college application process. While some students take a high level of initiative and ownership over the process and simply look to parents to book plane tickets and make hotel reservations for college visits, other students want more guidance, and that’s perfectly fine and normal. There is not just one path for students or their parents to take in the college search and application process. The key is finding your path and one that works for your family! Students and parents should communicate openly and voice their concerns and questions, including if/when students feel they need personal space to work on college essays, connect with schools at college fairs, etc.
Parents, I think the best way to figure out how you can be helpful in your child’s college application process is simply ask what s/he needs from you. You might get a specific request such as helping to schedule college interviews; you also might hear that your student does not need any anything now or s/he has not figured out yet what s/he needs. That too is okay.
Sometimes the best way that parents can be helpful is not to do anything at all until your son or daughter seeks you out. Although it may feel like you are not contributing, you are. Giving students space and opportunity to be independent and take on responsibility allows them to grow and grow in ways so vital to leading a happy and successful college career. If parents feel that they need guidance themselves and don’t know what they or their children should be doing at different stages, reach out to your school or independent counselor for assistance. College guide books and professional associations including NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) are also valuable resources.
Good luck on this journey and be in touch if we can help!