4 Tips for Parents Heading into the College Application Process

When you don’t know where to start in the college application process, the frustration starts to seep in. 

As a parent, are you feeling this tension yet as you’re beginning the college application process? Or maybe you’re at a standstill because you don’t know how to even start the conversation? Do you want to balance your student’s independence while still walking alongside them and helping them with this college timeline? You don’t have much time left with them in your house, and I know you want to make your time together count.

College is a huge investment (of both time and money) in your child’s education and future… you deserve a say in the process, and your student most likely wants to partner in this process, too (whether they admit it or not). You and your student will actually find a lot of success when you’re willing to work together. Picture your student driving the car and you, the parent, riding shotgun as you help navigate this adventure. 

Read on for 4 tips to consider as you head into the college application process with your student. 

Parents College Application Process

1- Get (At Least) a Rough Idea of a Timeline for the College Application Process

You need to be able to see the big picture so that you have a small idea of where you’re going. It’s okay if you can’t see it all clearly right now from the beginning stages. There will be a lot of opportunities and a lot of choices in your student’s future, so it’s important to start navigating the different paths even if you don’t necessarily know what to talk about yet. It’s okay if you don’t have a clear direction at the start– as long as you have a road map to reference! Are you clueless about what this process should look like? Are you feeling behind before you’ve even started? Read on for a free resource to help gauge this.

2- Don’t Compare Your Family to Other Families

As a parent, don’t let comparison sneak in and steal the joy that the college search, application, and decision process could bring. Allow this process to be unique for your student; try to listen and ask questions more than you speak. (It might be hard! You want to be heard!) This adventure will even look different from kid to kid… just like you already know parenting usually goes as well. You can go ahead and assume there will be tense moments in your relationship with your student; the last thing they want or need is you comparing them to your friend’s kid. Decide to be on the SAME TEAM as your student, and conquer this thing together. Avoid talking about what Ms. Cindy’s daughter is working on or what college Ms. Sharon’s son got into. Decide to go on this journey as a team.

3- Set Short and Long Term Goals

Use timelines and checklists as a guide to goal setting. Add in what you need to make your journey unique to you. Figure out the best organizational systems for you, your student, and your family. Have conversations about the short and long-term end goals, so you know when you’ve achieved them. What is the end goal? How will you know when you and your student have been successful in the college application process? Are you and your student on the same page about the college application process (beginning, middle, and end)? Talk about these goals and consider writing/hanging/posting them somewhere in your house where you can both see them and reference them regularly.

4- Celebrate the Small Victories in the College Application Process

Are there any little milestones you can celebrate with your student? Did he make the honor roll? Did she volunteer a certain amount of hours to her community that we should recognize? Did he step out of his comfort zone to join a new club or try a new sport? Did she stay for tutoring for physics (the first class that has been VERY hard for her in high school)? I could go on and on. There are small victories that can lead us to BIG victories later down the road! Your student may just need that positive motivation from their number one cheerleader… YOU!

When you imagined this process, I’m sure you thought it would be straightforward, easy to understand, and simple to get your student to do some work along the way (because aren’t they ready to go to college?). Now, how great would it be if you had an idea of WHAT you should be doing and WHEN you should be doing it? You know the end goal, but you don’t know all of those little steps in between.

Here’s what to do next: go ahead and download my free College Application Timelines, so that you can cast a vision to your family for some direction! You’ll read it and be able to start taking action immediately.


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