Dos and Don’ts for Parents During the College Research and Application Process

By Huntington Learning Center

There’s no question that the college research and application process is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Students are overwhelmed with tasks and choices. Parents have bittersweet feelings about seeing their children grow up into young adults. It’s easy to get inundated with the many to-dos, both for you and your student. Here are several dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you navigate this time:  

  • Do support your student’s efforts. There are many things to do to prepare for college, and things really pick up during junior year. Hopefully, the school guidance counselor offers good support, and the school might even have students use some sort of college and career readiness software for college planning. You can also help by printing out our college checklist and keeping those lines of communication open. Your student might not always ask, but they need and will appreciate your support!  Don’t take over. Ultimately, preparing for college should be your student’s responsibility. Resist the urge to handle all of the major tasks for them. Instead, be aware of the important deadlines and dates and help your student keep those in mind. There’s plenty to do on top of your student’s regular school responsibilities. Make sure you are aware of what’s coming up so you can keep your student on track.  
  • Do get your child thinking early. If your student is just beginning high school (or in middle school), start talking about college as a plan and a reality. Your student should meet with the guidance counselor to start getting familiar with the process, start doing a little research on possible majors and colleges of interest, and plan ahead with their high school courses. For example, a student who has ambitions for a prestigious, competitive college will need to take a rigorous course load all four years of high school, keep up their grades, and earn strong SAT/ACT scores. If your student is an upperclassman, they should make plans to prep for and take the SAT or ACT and start making a list of colleges of interest.
  • Don’t push too hard. College is important and for many reasons, it is a great path after high school, but too much pushing might actually discourage your student during this sensitive, ever-changing time in their life. Be supportive and positive. Tell your student that you’re always there for help and advice, but don’t be afraid to step back and let them take the reins. College will be your student’s thing, not yours. Encourage, but let them drive the process. 
  • Do talk through the most important factors. There are so many colleges and universities across the country and so many college tasks that it’s easy to not even know where to start. Simplify things by helping your student think through these considerations: 
    • Majors – Majors of interest to your student, breadth of majors if undecided, strong in certain fields of study if decided, etc. 
    • Size – Large, medium, small, similar size to their high school or significantly smaller or larger, etc. 
    • Reputation – Acceptance rate, respect, etc. 
    • Location – Close to home, far away, warm climate, climate with seasons, drivable from hometown, requires a flight for visiting, etc. 
    • Student body – Sports-focused university with vibrant campus life, Greek life options, activities, etc. 
    • Cost – Total cost of attendance, scholarships available, availability of financial aid, family ability to contribute, etc. 
  • Don’t expect too much from your student. While you might have a student who is driven and decisive and seems to have career ambitions in mind already, it’s okay if that doesn’t describe your student at all. If your attempts to talk through how to find the best college fit don’t generate much conversation, be patient. Your student might need more time to think about all of this. For now, you can focus on helping them earn good grades and prepare for the SAT and/or ACT.  

The college decision is a big one! Want to help your student navigate the college research process successfully so when it’s time to apply, they’re ready to start? Does your student need to begin studying for the SAT/ACT? We can help. Call Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN to learn more about our tutoring and proven exam prep programs.