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Soon-to-be College Parents: 6 Tips for Guiding Your Student

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As the temps cool down and leaves change colors, seniors settle into their fourth and final year of high school. It’s your student’s turn to be upperclassmen and enjoy senior year fall festivities like football games and the homecoming dance.

Yet, a question prevails, “what will I do after high school graduation?” Typically, thoughts of post-graduation uncertainty can trump any excitement of the future, especially for seniors who choose to pursue the college route. Applying to college is an arduous process, and procrastination can be unavoidable.

The Stir by CafeMom shares how Jeannie Borin, president and founder of College Connections, LLC, advocates that parents keep their distance during the college application process. Borin said parents should have healthy involvement in the college application process, but not be overbearing. Provide guidance, but maintain distance.

The following do’s and don’ts can help your family navigate the college application process while still fostering a sense of independence within your future college student.

DO use Tuition Tracker, a tool designed to show what students will really pay for college based on family income. Many high-achieving, lower-income students turn away from pursuing a particular institution—or even higher education altogether—because of a school’s initial sticker price. Use this tool with your student to determine discounts, financial aid and tax credits that may reduce the average cost of tuition for a desirable college.

DON’T make your child’s college experience your college experience. Let your child explore hopes and dreams without too much input based on any of your past regrets, unaccomplished goals or personal experiences. From filling out an application and writing the essay to checking on admissions statuses and making a final decision, this experience belongs to your child.

DO keep a hands-off approach as your child fills out applications and writes application essays. Even if you sit beside your child for hours as support and to ensure it’s complete, your student should take ownership for finishing the application. Feel free to review the application and written essay before submitting, but the work should be entirely theirs.

DON’T involve outsiders. Create a supportive environment where your child can explore the college discovery process without comparisons made to friends or teens of other parents. Remember, this is your student’s unique journey. Turn a deaf ear to the GPAs, SAT/ACT scores and college admissions of other seniors. It’s a private matter. Openly discussing application letters and test scores outside the family can create discouragement and insecurity.

DO encourage your student to research and visit a variety of diverse schools and campuses to help ensure the right selections. What’s most important to your child in a college? Is it academic programs, student life, campus location, spirituality? These variables can help guide your student toward the most suitable college experience. Cost is usually the primary factor driving a decision; collaborate with your child while researching financial aid options, seeking scholarship opportunities and completing the FAFSA form.

DON’T create negativity around the process inundated with “DID YOU DO’S?” and other negative micromanagement approaches like yelling, nagging, comparing, pleading and punishing. If both parents are involved, don’t overwhelm your child with check-ups and snide reminders from both sides. Deadlines are important, which is why Liz Willen, editor of The Hechinger Report, recommends staying on target together through an email relationship, shared calendars or a whiteboard/chalkboard.

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