Advice to Parents: How Not to Be Involved in Your Child’s College Application Process
In my last blog post, “Advice for Parents: How to Be Involved in Your Child’s College Application Process,” I have discussed what parents can do to be involved in this important process the best way.
In this post, I will talk about what not to do and why.
Just as a quick reminder: the ultimate goal for parents’ involvement in their child’s college application process is to be supportive without taking over the process.
That means, even if you went to college, you should not assume that applying nowadays is similar to your process back then. A lot that has changed since that time and a lot that will continue to change. So, no matter if there are similarities, the healthy approach should be to assume very little.
Keeping this in mind will help you, as the parent, not impose—even unintentionally—any personal idea about what you want as opposed to what is good for your child.
What Parents Need to Avoid
Consider four specific things you absolutely should not do so you can avoid causing problems with your involvement in your child’s college application process:
1. Never write the college application essay for your child. Neither complete the application for them nor contact the colleges as if you are your child.
First of all, doing any of these things is completely unethical and will backfire. Second, it will not help your child learn.
College admission officers are smart people. They know when a college application essay has been written by somebody other than the student. Even if they simply suspect this to be true, the consequences for your child can be serious.
2. Do not talk about the application process constantly
Inundating or bombarding your child with questions about their college application can feel uncomfortable to them and frustrating. Doing so at what they may believe are unpredictable and unsuitable times—as soon as they get home or as soon as they wake up—can seem like an imposition or an attack.
If you want to know what is going on and wish to talk about the process, schedule a time for it. Make sure everyone involved knows when and save your questions until then. Consider scheduling regular weekly times, such as every Monday at 6 PM, for example. Once that time comes around, put everything on the table (answering questions, doing a review, etc.). This approach will save you and your child a lot of stress.
3. Do not use “we” when referring to matters related to the process
When you say things like, “we are applying to…” or “we are completing applications” or “we are taking the SAT,” you are sending the wrong message.
As I discussed in the last post, while you should be very supportive and involved, your child is the one in the driver’s seat. It is their college application, not yours. They are the ones with the most responsibility. And they should be the ones with the privilege of making a lot of the decisions as well. So, make sure you let them lead.
4. Avoid assigning the words “good” or “bad” to a college
The truth is, there is no reliable way to determine if a college is good or not in any objective or definitive way. Often, when someone says, “that is not a good college” or “that is a great college,” they are not referring to the quality of the education. Rather, they are alluding to the prestige or popularity of a college.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a prestigious college that is well known and has a lot of students applying (usually they have earned their reputation). However, when you apply the language of “good” and “bad” to a college, it suggests that you are relying too much on the prestige of the school.
Instead, make it a goal to focus on whether a college is good for your child. Choosing a college that is a good fit includes a complicated set of factors—affordability, the likelihood of admission, suitability of majors offered, academic support, etc. Above all, college is about getting an education, not about a degree at the end of four years that somehow imprints your child’s value. So, when you make subjective judgments about a college, it takes away from what this process is all about.
I hope considering how to be and not to be involved in your child’s college application process will help you to provide the greatest possible support and make this a positive experience for both of you.
If you need more personalized assistance during your child’s college application process, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have been an Independent Educational Consultant for many years and would enjoy sharing my experience and expertise with you.