A few years ago, I wrote my first blog aimed at helping parents navigate the college search process. While much of the advice still holds true today, I’ve added some additional tips and tricks to assist parents as they help their child manage the additional stress during these uncertain times.
As a college admissions counselor and mom of two college freshmen, now more than ever I am hearing other parents and friends say that they just don’t know where to begin or how they are ever going to survive this daunting task. Some have been down this road before with an older sibling, while others are in the beginning stages of researching schools, combing through websites for opportunities to explore college campuses from home, and sorting through application requirements and deadlines. Whether you are well on your way or just getting started, there are certain things we can all do as parents to help our kids find the right fit for college.
First and foremost, let’s all agree that the ultimate goal for everyone involved is to find the best school for your child.This means identifying potential landing spots for them that are the right academic, social and financial fit. As parents, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are not the ones going off to college, they are! Therefore, don’t attempt to influence your son or daughter to choose a school that you’d like them to attend. More often than not, that approach will backfire and cause unnecessary friction and stress.
When meeting with families to discuss college options, I often liken the process to having a car. It’s something we can all relate to and tends to resonate well with both adults and high schoolers. The make and model aren’t important. It isn’t a race and certainly shouldn’t be a competition between other families or classmates. Instead, chart your own course and take the route that works best for you as a family. What matters most is that everyone is moving in the direction of identifying possible locations for their kids to thrive during their college years.
No matter what, the child/student/applicant needs to be the one in the driver’s seat. As much as some of us may want to chauffer our kids right down this path and ultimately deliver them to the front steps of their freshman dorm, we can’t (and shouldn’t) let that happen. Our job as parents is to help and support our kids throughout this journey, not to take over and do it for them. Some 16, 17, and 18 year olds are ready to jump behind the wheel and travel wherever the road may lead, while others might still be looking for the keys. So, just remember…meet them where THEY are, not where YOU think they should be.
Keep reminding yourself and your driver that before reaching your final destination, you will travel many miles. It’s a process and involves many steps along the way. There will most likely be unexpected turns, bumps in the road, and even some backseat driving during your trip. Rest stops and finding different routes (whether by choice or not) are part of the journey too. So, buckle up and try to enjoy the ride!
- Stick to the plan and stay focused on identifying schools that are the right fit for YOUR CHILD.
- Don’t get caught up in outside noise. It’s not a contest between classmates, neighbors, relatives or even complete strangers. Help your child stay true to themselves and focused on what they want and need.
- Don’t talk about college every single day, unless it’s brought up by your child. Instead, designate a meeting time once a week to discuss progress and share thoughts.
- Don’t advertise the good, bad or ugly on social media. Everyone has enough stress as it is, there’s no need to make your child’s college search the topic of conversation for others.
- Take it all in stride – this is a process that involves many steps.
Maggie Murphy, Admissions Counselor