What Students Can Do to Help Parents, and What Parents Can Do to Help Students

It’s a two-way street. The college process can bring about a lot of stress on students and parents, but all involved can make the process a lot easier with a few minor concessions and compromises. Read on.


1. The main grievance I hear from students is that parents are “too worried” or “too involved.” They wish parents would take a step back and trust in the process. What parents can do: Have faith in your children, and in the college admission process at large. Seek out ways to manage your own stress and anxiety and hire a college counselor if it would help you and your child communicate better.

2. Another thing that would help most high school students is if their parents gave them a clear indication of where they stand financially in terms of paying for college. What parents can do: have an open and honest discussion with your child about how much you can afford to help with the costs of college. Tell them from the get-go if finances will limit their options. Explain to them how financial aid works, what they will be responsible for, and whether or not they need to apply to some schools that are financial safeties.

3. We talk a lot about how students need to own the college process and do the majority of the college search and application process by themselves. But, most high school students are extremely busy. Likewise, it all may seem overwhelming to them. What parents can do: Kick off the college process at the right time. Generally, this is at the beginning of, or mid-way through junior year. Let students know what to expect and start scheduling college visits for them. Again, we are generally proponents of students scheduling visits by themselves, but the reality is that trips to different parts of the country, for instance, require plane tickets, accommodations, etc, so parents will likely need to step in and help.

4. The personal essay is called that for a reason. It’s personal, and many high school students don’t want to share it with their parents. It’s very normal. But, it’s not a good idea for students to submit an essay without a couple of adults, including a college counselor, looking it over. What parents can do: Don’t insist on reading the essay, and absolutely don’t change anything or write it yourself. It’s their essay and their voice has to come through. If needed, hire a college counselor, ask an english teacher or even ask family friend that the student is willing to share the essay with and ask your student to be open to their feedback if they aren’t interested in sharing with you.


1. First and foremost, you need to understand that your parents genuinely have your best interest at heart. They aren’t trying to be annoying or controlling. And one of the biggest reason they may be acting that way is because you’re not telling them enough. What students can do: Communicate with your parents. Let them know what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. That is a sure-fire way to get them to ask fewer questions. If writing them a weekly email with updates is easier, that would probably work too.

2. Sometimes parents do have good advice and may have to give you parameters around where to apply. Your instinct might be to do the opposite of what they suggest, but if they are paying, they have a stake in the game. Ideally they let you lead the way, but setting some guidelines is also appropriate. What students can do: Don’t fight your parents if they suggest applying to a state school that costs less, or a college that is located close by.

3. Many parents are worried that students aren’t keeping up with tasks, schedules, deadlines, etc. There can be a lot of moving parts and parents aren’t sure students have a handle on it all. What students can do: Keep a calendar with deadlines and a “to do list” with tasks. That way parents know you’re on top of it and know what needs to be done.

It really is a two-way street, and the common thread through all of this is communication. It’s very common for teens and parents to have difficulty with communication, so don’t worry if this is the case for you. It can help tremendously for all involved to hire a college counselor who can manage all aspects of the process and ultimately take the pressure off.

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