Advice From Inside: College Counselors’ Advice For Parents

From time to time, I like to tap into the wealth of college counseling and admission counseling experience of the staff at Campus Bound and ask them for the “inside scoop” on a particular topic. For this month, I asked them:


“What is one thing parents can do to help their child during the college admission process?” 


Here are some of their responses:


-“The most important thing parents can do to help their student is to let the student take the reigns on the college admission process. The more parents allow their student to lead the way, the more confident their student will become in making decisions related to college–and beyond.”


-“Offer support by sitting down in an unthreatening way and hearing how busy your senior feels and what is causing stress. Then, together developing a weekly schedule or timeline that helps them to complete the work ahead. Most important of all, offer unconditional support when setting appropriate limits.”


-“Reassure their child that applying to college is not an olympic event, but a fairly logical and sequential process (albeit sometimes with surprises).  The challenge is not so much in doing the process, but in the range of feelings that come up for our students (anxiety, avoidance, confusion, etc) that we as counselors (and parents) can help with.  There is no “perfect” school, but there will be good choices if the process is done in an intelligent, organized and timely way.”


-“Keep an open mind as a parent going through this process, modeling this approach for their child.  A college choice is not ‘a prize to be won, but a match to be made'”.


-“Help their child to anticipate how busy they will be senior year….and try to urge them to plan ahead and not to join 3 new activities in the fall.  The college work in the late summer and fall is somewhat like an additional course at school, with deadlines (and homework from us), so parents can help keep an eye on all the other activities and commitments and help their child be realistic and set reasonable limits.  Wall calendars can be very helpful to see the small and the big picture on a daily basis.”


-“Relax!  Or try to appear relaxed and believe that things work out in unanticipated ways.”


-“I think the best thing that parents can do is reassure their child that no matter the eventual outcome, if the student has really applied him/herself to the search and application process, they should be proud of their efforts and they will be proud of them, wherever they attend.  I also think parents should let their kids know that their college may not “fit” perfectly at the outset, and that it may take hard work, time, and a willingness to stretch and grow over the course of a semester, or two, or even eight- to create that sense of fit we all talk about.”


-“One thing parents can do to help their child during the admissions process is not be distracted by advice from other parents, the internet or the ghosts of their own college admissions experience from the Jurassic age, and focus on the advice of professionals currently working in the field. You would not accept medical advice, real estate expertise or car repair directives from your friends or neighbors; why would you do it on the single biggest financial commitment in your family’s life.”


-“Parents can teach their children that college admission is not a prize to be won.  It is not about finding the one perfect school, nor about the school with the best name recognition.  It’s about fit.  Just as adults seek a good fit in an employer (good location, appealing company, appropriate job responsibilities, positive leadership) a student should be seeking a good fit in a college (good location, appealing student body fit, appropriate level of academic challenge and opportunity, positive overall campus environment).  Adults don’t often compete harshly with one another to land a job with the best known employer; they consider whether or not the job is a good fit for them professionally, personally, and financially.  Likewise, students should be encouraged by their parents to seek a good fit academically, personally, and financially.”


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