The Best Ways to Help Your Child Apply to College

March 01, 2016

The college application process can be a bittersweet time for a parent. It signals the end of childhood as your child prepares to take on adult responsibilities. You have worked to ensure that your child is ready, and you want to make sure that nothing goes wrong in those last few steps. Applying to college is about more than filling out paperwork and signing checks. It’s about helping your child connect to universities and colleges in his or her own way so he or she can begin to find the best path for him or her. Your child has probably never made a decision of this magnitude before, so he or she will need your insight. Here are a few suggestions to best help with this process.

Establish Your Family’s Financial Resources

You might feel uncomfortable talking with your child about your financial resources. Or, because you are the provider, you or your child might think it is your responsibility to spare no expense when it comes to education. But a college education is incredibly expensive; a moderately priced university can cost on average between $25,000 to $45,000 a year. You need to understand what you can afford and communicate that to your child so you can set expectations early. 

Hope For the Best, Plan For the Worst

The worst case scenario is that your child does not get accepted to any college. But if he or she only applies and gets accepted to unaffordable schools, that is not much better. To avoid disappointments, use a tiered approach to the college admissions process. You want to encourage your child to go to his or her dream school, of course. But getting into those schools is always a challenge and might hinge on obtaining scholarships or loans that are not guaranteed. You also want to encourage your child to apply to several schools that he or she likes but where the hurdles to entry are not quite so high. Finally, your child should apply to a school that he or she can live with, as well as being affordable and easier to gain entry. This “safety school” ensures that when high school graduation rolls around, he or she has a school for next fall.

Be Careful With College Essays

College essays are an indispensable part of the college application process. It is how a student with good grades separates him or herself from everyone else. Everyone knows this, and it is natural to want to help your child write a knockout essay. However, it’s very easy to go too far with helping on the essay. You might think you are helping, but college admissions officers can easily identify essays that are heavily influenced by a parent and will immediately throw out those applications. Help your son or daughter with grammar and spelling, and let him or her share ideas with you. Ultimately, however, you need to let him or her decide what to say and how to say it.

The best general piece of advice about helping your child with college applications is to guide your child, but let him or her lead. Supply your child with the information and structure for this important decision, but then step back and let him or her make the decision.

Sources: Huffington Post, College Board, Peterson’s, Huffington Post, US News, College Data

About The Author

Drew Evans
Drew Evans

​Drew is a content and social media guru. When he’s not working, he loves to photograph, play music, play sports, and travel. He is also weirdly obsessed with Thai food, Girl Scout cookies, and learning new languages (even though he’s not fluent in any). For any editorial ideas, contact info@admitsee.com.




Browse Successful Application Files

BrownDomer
Notre Dame ‘20


Accepted to BU, Emory, Swarthmore, Notre Dame

Hello! I'm an international student from Ethiopia and I'll be majoring in Biology. I'd love to share all the tips and tricks I've learned from my rather unique college application experience with you!
extreana
Tufts ‘18


Accepted to CMU, BC, Tufts, Northeastern

Just a rising sophomore trying to help my peers find a school that fits them best! Ask me about engineering, essays, or life in general.
dorszy
MIT ‘20


Accepted to MIT, Princeton, Duke, Stanford, UGA, GA Tech, UNC

I'm a current sophomore at MIT who loves all sorts of things: from engineering and biology to music and dance.
brianlin
WashU ‘20


Accepted to WashU, CMU, GA Tech, UGA

Aspiring Communication Design and Computer Science student, food lover extraordinaire

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