7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress

College application time can be smooth sailing-- if you know how to navigate the waters.

Face it: Applying to college is stressful.

Which colleges should be on your list? Which ones can you afford? What questions do you need to ask? What exactly is the Common Application, and why is your child about to have a meltdown over all those essays???

Here are 7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress

1. Be Realistic.  For most students, getting in to the school of their dreams isn't a lock. Sometimes it's because they reach too high, but often it's because schools receive so many applications that qualified students are turned away.

Work with a guidance counselor or other professional to come up with a realistic range of schools, and encourage your student to find several things about each one that he or she can get excited about. And remember: A rejection letter isn't a sign of failure. If your student has chosen well, he or she will end up at a school that's a good fit.

2. Listen. It's natural to want to be involved in the college application process, but be careful not to project your own hopes and dreams. Allow your student to discuss what he or she wants from a college experience and listen to those ideas. Provide helpful feedback – and keep on listening.

3. Be Financially Honest.  If money's an issue, be honest with your student early on. That way he or she will be able to choose a range of affordable schools and explore scholarship opportunities. Don't let your student set his or her heart on a school you can't afford.

4. Help Your Student Get Organized. Set up a plan with your student early on. Help organize paperwork, create alerts for upcoming deadlines, and set goals for completing essays and filling out applications and financial aid requirements.

Use both real and virtual filing systems for college communications, and try Evernote (which I wrote about in a previous blog). Evernote lets you upload notes, photos, videos, and documents from mobile devices and tablets, and access them anywhere. So, for instance, on college visits students can make notes on tablets and take photos and videos on their phones, and then access everything on their computers when they get home (Great for remembering what to include in the “Why do you want to go to our school” essay).

5. Don't Micromanage.  Be a guide, not a leader. Allow your student to take ownership in successfully navigating the college admissions process, and be his or her greatest cheerleader. Your student will engage, feel independent, and ultimately become more informed and confident. Those are great qualities to take to college.

6. Don't Write the Essays.  Help proofread and check for grammar and spelling mistakes, but don't choose your student's essay topics, “improve” word choice, add phrases, or even write entire paragraphs. College admissions readers know the difference between an essay written by someone who's 17 and someone who's 40. Reading an essay engineered by mom or dad doesn't make them happy; they want to get to know the student.

7. Escape the Family War Zone. Despite a family's best support, sometimes a student's stress level can build to overload. If you're concerned about meltdowns, missed deadlines, and becoming the “application police” consider enlisting a professional to help with college search, essay writing skills, application filing, etc. The peace and ultimate success will be worth it.

College Application Time Can Be Smooth Sailing -- If You Know How to Navigate the Waters.

For help and advice on writing unique, stand-out college essays and mastering interview skills, visit my website: www.u-can-write.com

related posts
Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Washington Post: Tips for Maximizing Your College Admissions Visit
Advice for Parents on Surviving College Application Stress
Dealing with the Stress of College Applications
New York Times: College's High Cost, Before You Even Apply

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Susie Watts April 13, 2012 at 03:39 AM
As a private college counselor, I think you have provided some great suggestions for parents as they navigate the college admissions process with their child. I am also the parent of five children and I know how difficult it can be to be objective with your own children. I think some parents can handle things without too much stress, but I still believe that many students will benefit from working with a college consultant who has the time and expertise to benefit their child and keep harmony within the family. Susie Watts Denver, Colorado
TheCollegeHelper May 01, 2012 at 03:48 PM
These are great tips! I'd also encourage students to not narrow their options too quickly. A lot of students get focused on attending a particularly type of university - a large state school, for example - and never bother to attend any private universities or other schools that are outside of what they 'think' they want. You can't be certain about what you want until you've at least seen what all the other type of colleges are all about. So I'd add this one suggestion to your list of tips. Thanks for sharing.
Sharon Epstein May 01, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Thanks! I'll be doing tips for students next -- I agree, this is definitely something to include.


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