College Admissions Tips for Parents: How to Help Your Kids without Driving Them Crazy

Sure, your kid’s the one who’ll be going away to college—but let’s be honest: if you’re a parent, you’re probably more invested in the process than your son or daughter is. So, whether you’re researching schools to start visiting, or eagerly awaiting admission decisions, it’s important to make sure that your excitement about your child’s college decision doesn’t have a negative impact on your relationship. Here are some tips for how you can help your child through this stressful time.

Let him choose the schools to apply to.

It’s true that financial concerns can be valid reasons for choosing one school over another, but that doesn’t mean you should limit your child’s choices to cheap state schools. Most elite private universities offer generous financial aid and merit scholarships, so it’s well worth letting your child apply to schools he seems qualified to see what they’ll offer. Likewise, even if you’d love your daughter to attend Smith College as you did, if the idea doesn’t appeal to her, don’t force it.

Combine a college tour with a vacation.

Even though your daughter is curious to see where she may end up spending the next four years, don’t go overboard on the college tours. Before applying to schools, you might be best off to limit the tours to your child’s top choice, or to schools in a specific region that you can combine with a fun family vacation. After your child finds out where she’s been accepted, you’ll be able to visit the schools she hasn’t seen up close yet, so there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on jetting around the country now.

Shell out for SAT prep courses, or at least some test prep books.

If you’re still early in the college application process, your teen may not have even taken the SAT yet. No matter how he did on the PSAT, you can help him boost his college prospects by investing in an online or in-person SAT prep course, or, if that’s unaffordable, buying some test prep books and committing to spending a few hours a week quizzing him.

Don’t compare your child to other teens you know.

So what if Hannah down the road just got in to Princeton? Bringing up other students’ college success stories, especially if they’re unrealistic for your son or daughter, is likely to make your child resentful. Follow your teen’s lead, and only discuss other students’ admissions decisions when your child specifically brings the subject up.

Keep track of admissions deadlines, but don’t nag.

It’s important to know when all of your child’s admissions materials are due at their prospective schools, and marking deadlines on your teen’s calendar can be a helpful reminder for your child. While it’s okay to ask every once in a while to make sure things are on track, try not to nag your teen too much—as long as she gets everything in on time, there’s no cause for concern.

Remember – it’s not about you.

Many parents get emotionally invested in their child’s college decision, which can often cause a lot of friction in the relationship. While of course you want your child to go to a good school, the best college for your teen is going to be the one that’s the right fit for him or her—which isn’t always the one that you might like the most. Whenever you find yourself getting judgemental, take a deep breath and think about whether it’s really worth picking a fight over. After all, your child doesn’t have too much time left at home. Enjoy it while you can.