Supporting Your Student in the College Admissions Process: A Checklist for Parents


It’s a delicate balance -- encouraging your child along the way and giving them space to take responsibility. Whether this is your first or last child to apply to college, take a look at how you can be supportive throughout the admissions process.

Start the College Conversation Sooner Rather than Later

A common misconception is that you don’t have to start worrying about college applications until senior year. While the bulk of essay writing and application consolidating happens in senior year, students need to lay the groundwork starting in the early years of high school.

  • Talk to your student about getting involved.

Whether a freshman or a junior, encourage your student to get involved in extracurricular activities. From sports to tutoring to the French club, your student has dozens of options through their school and community. Guide them to find the opportunity that is right for them.

  • Guide your student through making a plan.

Even as a freshman or sophomore, your student can start to plan their high school curriculum and set goals for getting involved in extracurriculars. Ask your daughter or son about what electives they’d be excited to take their junior and senior year. Ask them what activities they’ve always wanted to try and encourage them that now is the time.  

Help Plan College Visits

It’s a good idea to start visiting college campuses to get a feel for the kind of environment they’d like. By helping your student find clarity through campus visits, you will save money and uncertainty in the long run. Rather than applying to half a dozen schools in the city, explore different sizes and locations of campuses with your student. In visiting a large school and a small school, they’ll start to be able to determine which feels best for them.

Provide “administrative” support

  • Create a spreadsheet for your student

Your student should be the one to fill the spreadsheet out and research their colleges. But, if you’re looking to help your child get organized, creating a spreadsheet is an easy way to start.

  • Manage deadlines

Support by keeping on schedule. Give your student gentle reminders as all the deadlines approach.

  • Offer to brainstorm and edit their college essay

It can be difficult to think about any one experience to write about in the college essay, but with the help of a parent who probably sees the big picture, your student will be able to select a topic that represents them best.  The key is to help them brainstorm, not write the essay.

Keep Communication Open

  • Discuss financial aid

Every family has its own financial reality, the amount of aid they’ll be able to give their students. Before your student applies to only private small colleges, make sure you discuss exactly where and how much you’ll be able to support. Having this knowledge will help your family decide which type of college will be best to focus on.

Overall? Be understanding and supportive

Between classes, activities, and the stress of everything in between, your student will go through ups and downs throughout the admissions process. Before jumping into the list of things that have to be done, ask your child how they’re feeling, what their concerns are, and how you can best support them.

Karonica Davidson