Dos and Don’ts for Your Kid’s College Choice Process

Published by Wendy Nelson on

I am excited about the below guest post from Joie Jager-Hyman.  I am currently reading Dr. Jager-Hyman’s new book, B+ Grades, A+ College Application and I highly recommend it.  See her full bio at the end of her guest post below:

Every year I guide dozens of anxious students, and double the number of parents, through the overwhelming college application process.

While the students fret over getting into their dream schools, parents’ worries range from paying for college to the changing relationship with their children. It goes without saying that all parents want their children to be happy, successful, well-adjusted adults. Yet, I have seen many parents with nothing but love and good intentions stand in the way of the application process. Here are some do’s and don’ts from my new book, B+ Grades, A+ College Application, that parents can use to help guide their emotions and channel their nervous energy in a positive direction throughout the coming season.  

Do listenChecklist

When talking to your teen about colleges to explore, it’s very easy for emotions to take over the conversation—from both ends. However, at the end of the day, your child is the one actually going to school. Give your child room to consider different options and weigh priorities. When you sit down to discuss a college list, make sure your child is the first one to speak before making your own suggestions. The best way to get your children to listen to you is by listening to them!

Do get your financial aid forms in on time

While you can’t be involved in every step of your child’s college application process, probably the most important thing you can do is to complete financial aid forms in a timely fashion. The financial aid process is purposefully complex—and therefore time-consuming and confusing. Furthermore, with so many families competing for financial aid, late applicants can be severely penalized. To maximize the amount of financial aid you can receive, start planning early, get good information, stay organized, and get your financial aid forms in by the deadline.

Do visit campus

It would be best to start planning these visits early in junior year, so that you can designate blocks of time in advance. This is  especially helpful if your child is not sure where he or she wants to apply.Once you are on campus, try not to vocalize your opinions and observations until your child has had a chance to form his or her own impression. Let your child’s “gut feeling” happen on its own—and make the time to travel so he or she can have one!  

Don’t call the admission office

The college application process is the perfect time to let your child advocate for his or her own future. Too often, parents become overly involved and turn into “helicopter parents” who immediately call the admission office anytime their child is met with a challenge. This is not a good idea. Admission officers expect to deal with students themselves.

Don’t over-edit your child’s essay

Similarly, the college essay is one of the few opportunities for self-expression throughout the admissions process. Let your child speak to the admissions committee in his or her own words.. You may help your child with his essay by offering your feedback on drafts, and proofing for typos, but resist the temptation to insert your own words. Admission officers read enough essays to know when a parent has written certain words, phrases, or references. Parents tend to write more formally and use language that they think would “look good on an application.” Don’t be afraid to let your child speak for him or herself: it’s called a “personal statement” for a reason. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it

As tension grows during this hectic process, you may want to consider the benefits of having a neutral third party to support both the parents and the student. Many families turn to an experienced, independent college counselor to help them with the application process, but that may be a cost-prohibitive option. If so, perhaps a neighbor who has put three kids through college could be a helpful resource. If you do decide to hire a counselor, investigate his or her credentials and take the time to meet the counselor in person you get underway. Make sure you have a good fit for both your family—and your child!

About the Author, Joie Jager-Hyman, Ed.D

Dr. Jager-Hyman is an internationally acclaimed expert on the college admissions processHer first book, Fat Envelope Frenzy: One Year, Five Promising Students and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize, was called “an engaging book that every parent of a high school student will want to read” by the Wall Street Journal and was recognized as one of the “Ten Best Books of 2008″ by the Daily News Online.  As an expert on college admissions, Joie has appeared on the CBS Early Show, New England Cable News, NPR and dozens of other radio programs.

She contributes to numerous publications on college admissions topics, including Forbes and New York, has written research articles for academic journals and prominent policy reports and has even testified at a Congressional Hearing on baccalaureate degree attainment.  A graduate of Dartmouth College, Joie served as Assistant Director of Admissions for her alma mater, where she read and evaluated thousands of applications.  She then went on to complete a doctorate in education policy at Harvard University, concentrating her research on the transition from high school to college.  Her new book, B+ Grades, A+ College Application: How to Present Your Strongest Self, Write a Standout Admissions Essay, and Get Into the Perfect School for You will be published by Random House in 2013.


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[…] Nelson, mother and author of her blog My Kids College Choice, has recently featured some of the “Do’s and Don’ts” for parents with […]

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