College Search Parents – Match Your Approach With Your Student

Published by Wendy Nelson on

College search parents, this is for you. I often see posts in college search parent groups about not doing everything for your student and people griping about students who are overly “coddled”. My opinion is that you must match your approach with your student. Now, I never advocate going to the extreme of writing essays or doing all the work for a student. That’s not right. They need to own as much as possible within the college search process.

The fact is, every student is different.

In my last post, Full Tuition Merit Scholarship – A Success Story, the student in the post took the lead in the college search process. That isn’t always the case. Some students just don’t want to do it, so the parent has to at least get things started down the path and manage the process.

I think your kid’s college search process is like a spectrum. There are two extremes – the student who wants to own everything with no help from mom and dad, and the student who doesn’t want to think about what happens after high school even Senior year.  But I believe most students fall somewhere in between.

First-time college search parents are often unsure of how involved they should get.

What’s Reasonable For a Parent to Own in the College Search Process:

  • Scheduling college visits
  • Tracking deadlines and other key dates
  • Proofreading and minor edits to essays and overall applications
  • Suggesting colleges to consider
  • Finding scholarships for your student to apply to
  • Figuring out the finances
  • Signing your student up for ACT and/or SAT tests
  • Finding ACT/SAT study materials/courses/tutors for your student
  • Providing some organization around the college search process – what this means will vary widely based on your student
  • Motivation and inspiration!

Although the student should own the actual college selection process, parents play a key role in providing direction and being a sounding board. Making sure you and your student are on the same page about how you will pay for college is key. Then as your student starts to narrow down his or her college list, you can provide guidance on when to eliminate a school and when to keep a school on the list.

Choosing a college is a huge decision – probably the biggest decision your student will have had to make so far. During this process, college search parents can impart their wisdom regarding decision making. Share things like what tools have been most helpful for you when faced with decisions and what you believe are the most important considerations in the college selection process.

Some students will be more willing than others to accept parental advice so it’s important to know where you stand and gauge the most effective approach accordingly.