Getting into college and the whole college application process can be a stressful journey for both students and parents alike. From 1999 through 2005, as a mother of four, I spend endless hours helping, advising and consoling our children as they were applying to colleges. Each of our four children are unique individuals who needed different things from us as parents as they were applying to colleges. We had self-directed child, who virtually did it all himself. We had a procrastinator who required more guidance and prodding. We had the adventurer who wanted to go far from home and explore another part of the country. We had the over achiever who was intent on applying to a multitude of schools, just to make sure she had lots of choices. For each one of the kids, the college application process was different. As a parent, you want to help them but not take over. You want to assist them with their quest of getting into the college of their choice but keep them grounded.
My first piece of advice: Stay calm, bite your tongue sometimes, be supportive and offer assistance but don’t be overbearing. Above all, do not do it all for them. As a head’s up, you will also be receiving many solicitations from College Selection Process who for a fee will assist your student in getting this process completed. However, it is my personal belief that if they really want to go to college, they should be willing to put in their own time and energy to get the application completed. There is a wealth of free information all over the Internet, as well as at their individual schools and on all college websites, to help them through the college application process. Save your money for all the expenses that will come once they are accepted and enrolled in a school.
Next, keep in mind that the college application process may be the first time that they have to really highlight themselves with a resume or activity sheet. It is usually the first time they have to actively search out a person to serve as their reference through the required letter of recommendation. It may also be the first time for many that they have to really think about their future, their goals, and their life experiences and then put all those into a written document.. “the college application essay”. So show some patience and nurture them along the way as they may struggle with some of these tasks. Whenever possible encourage them to keep their options open and try not to set their heart on just one school. My private mantra throughout each college application journey was that each of them would end up where they were meant to be and if not… they could always transfer.
Finally, be honest about what you can afford. We set a college cost range for the oldest, knowing that while we perhaps could have afforded more, we had the other 3 lined up like planes on a runway. We wanted to be fair to each of them and not end up with the youngest being unable to have the same options as the oldest. Are we independently wealthy? Absolutely not, planning for college financially took a lot of work and preparation and sacrificing. In addition, we expected that each of them would really put in an effort to investigate scholarship opportunities locally, nationally and with the schools to which they were accepted. They all knew the expectations early on. It would be a partnership, where we would help and they would too. So to all parents and students preparing to apply to college now, relax and try to enjoy the journey as you enter this new stage of life.