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College Bound: Parents' Role in College Admissions Success

As parents, your support and guidance play a vital role in your child's journey to college. Understanding the college admissions process, financial planning, and providing emotional support are crucial steps to ensure a successful transition. Here are five essential tips to help you navigate this exciting yet sometimes overwhelming process.

1. Understanding the Application Process

To prepare your child for success, familiarize yourself with the college application process:

  • Research different colleges and their specific requirements

  • Familiarize yourself with the different application platforms (Common App, Coalition App, school-specific applications, Apply Texas, California System applications)

  • What Materials are required for applying: application, application fees, proof of residency, test scores, transcript, recommendation letter(s), SRAR, resume, portfolios, etc.

  • Application Deadlines - submission deadlines, supplemental material deadlines, financial aid/scholarship deadlines

  • Is your student's potential course of study one that requires direct admission to the program? For example - engineering, nursing, business, etc., are some programs that you may need to apply for and receive admission to the specific program. Make sure to consider any supplemental materials for these programs

  • If your student is undecided about a major, it is ok - many students enter college as "Undecided" or "Exploratory" majors. Finding out what "you want to be when you grow up" is what college is for.

The biggest thing parents need to understand is that the process is very different from when we went through it, and the admission standards can also be very different. Be prepared for things to be very different from what you remember!

2. Importance of Financial Planning

College expenses can be a significant concern for many families. Discussions about cost and college finances should be had at the outset of the process, not after your student has been accepted.

Make sure you are looking at the cost of attendance estimates on each college's website and use their Net Price Calculator to get an idea of what type of aid your student might qualify for at each school (you will need to gather some basic financial information to provide). Be sure to consider the indirect costs of attendance (read our blog post, The Real Cost of College, to learn more about additional expenses you might expect).

Research merit scholarships your student may qualify for from the schools they are applying to. Be sure to note whether your student is automatically considered for merit money with their application or if additional applications or questions need to be answered to be considered.

Talk to your student about the financial implications of the schools they are interested in. Is cost a consideration for attendance? Will your student have to take responsibility for some of the tuition or some of the extras (Greek life, rec sports, travel, etc.)?

If you will apply for financial aid, complete the FAFSA and check to see if your school also requires the CSS Profile.

3. Encouraging Independence

While your support is invaluable, it's crucial to encourage your child's independence throughout the college admissions process. Allow them to take the lead in researching and selecting potential colleges. Support their decision-making and exploration of different majors and career paths. By promoting self-advocacy skills, you empower your child to take ownership of the specific requirements for each college or university.

"It is important that students take ownership of managing this process," says Katie Garrett, founder of Garrett Educational Consulting. College applications cannot be more important to others than they are to the student. That being said, a little behind-the-scenes tracking never hurt anyone. Knowing when deadlines are coming up can help you understand when stressful days might be approaching and will also let you gently push, subtly, if deadlines are approaching.

Being organized and on top of deadlines will benefit your child and alleviate some stress for both of you. Make a master list of all the schools your child is applying to and their deadlines. This will help you stay on track and ensure that no application or task gets forgotten or overlooked. Check out our College Application Tracker on our Free Resources Page to help with planning.

4. Emotional Support

The college admissions process can be a time of stress and anxiety for both parents and students. Be a source of guidance and reassurance for your child. Help them manage their emotions and cope with any challenges that arise. Celebrate achievements and milestones along the way, providing encouragement and reminding them of their strengths and capabilities.

5. Balancing Expectations and Reality

Setting realistic expectations and goals throughout the college admissions journey is important. Emphasize personal growth and finding the right fit over pursuing prestige. Acknowledge your child's individual strengths, interests, and passions. Encourage them to explore different opportunities and make choices that align with their aspirations and values.

College ranking is not the end all be all when it comes to a school's fit for a student. Be sure not to talk about schools as being good or bad - every school is a good school if it is a good fit for the student. Also, as we mentioned before - admissions standards are very different than when us parents applied. What was a less prestigious school when you applied may not be in that same category now. Ultimately, don't compare your student with others. Each student's journey is unique, and there are many reasons why students choose to apply to or attend a certain school.

Bonus Tip: Keep Open Lines of Communication

Create an environment where open communication flourishes. Discuss fears, aspirations, and concerns. A strong parent-teen bond is the wind that propels the sails of success.

Agree on a designated time with your student where you can ask questions and have conversations about the college process. That way, your child doesn't feel ambushed every time they walk in the door about college, and they may be more receptive to answering your questions during the designated time.

That being said, be available for the spontaneous conversation your child initiates. Your child doesn't always pick the most opportune times, but the conversation and insight you get from these spontaneous interactions are invaluable!

Your role as a parent in the college admissions process is crucial. By understanding the application process, planning financially, encouraging independence, providing emotional support, and balancing expectations, you can help your child navigate this exciting chapter of their life with confidence. Together, you can pave the way for a successful college experience and a bright future.

Remember, Garrett Educational Consulting is here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn how our expertise and personalized guidance can help your child achieve their college dreams.


Garrett Educational Consulting provides comprehensive counseling for college and boarding school admissions as well as academic advisement. Click HERE to learn about our services.


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