For Parents: Making College Admissions Less Stressful for Your Child

Narrowing the decision of which schools to apply to and then filling out the nitty and gritty details of these applications can feel like a full-time job. There are regions of the world to figure out, several colleges competing against each other in each city, campus visits, appealing to admissions interviewers, writing application materials, and even communications with the bank, to name a few tasks that students have their hands full with. Despite all of this additional stress, the course load of the senior year remains as stringent as ever. AND students still have club commitments to take part in. AND THEN, there are practices and games for sports or shifts that can be picked up at work that continuously battle for the student’s attention. It’s easy to see why a senior year can be overwhelming for our high schoolers. So, what can YOU, as a parent, do to help your child in this process?

The college admissions process involves a lot of orders: write this essay, tell us why this school is a fit for you, give us your resume, tell us your GPA, etc. In response, you can help your child by being their SUPPORT SYSTEM. While outlets like Zinkerz’s College Counseling services will prepare your child for the logistics of the process, they still need people to be there to support them through the endeavor of applying to college. Your child is being told what to do by these daunting institutions, and they will most likely need someone to be there to listen to their concerns. This process isn’t about being right; it’s about being helpful.

Of course, as a parent, you want your child to maximize their potential and push themselves to succeed. But, it’s important to remember there is no “right” path to their future college, and no matter what school they eventually attend, they can go on to do great things. There is no single route to success and fulfillment, so your job is to keep them stable in their search for what is right for them. So, what exactly is it you can do to support them?

Do Your Research:

One of the first things you should do as your child decides on schools to apply to is your research. The ins and outs of the application process can be stressful and time-consuming. Your child has never applied to college, and maybe you’ve never sent a child to college. The process is bound to be confusing, especially for a high schooler. While their school and guidance counselors will do their best to introduce them to the process, it will be beneficial for you to be a resource at home for them to rely on with background information, especially tuition and financial aid. Rather than interrogating your child with questions that they are most likely still searching for the answers to, do at least some basic research into the collegiate process so you can learn with and help your child. There are tons of resources online for every minute detail of the admissions process, so Google to your heart’s content! Individual school websites are great places to start. Who knows more about applying to your child’s target school than the colleges themselves? Snooping around the College Board website and blogs written by Zinkerz can be another way to gain more insightful information. If all else fails, googling into the void has never failed to deliver information, and it won’t fail now!

Set Specific Times to Discuss College-Related Activities with Your Child:

Until the raccoon face in our logo turns blue, we will continue to say that this is a stressful and overwhelming process. It’s the most significant decision, most likely that a child has made in their life up to this point. Something that can make the application process even less enjoyable for students is being randomly ambushed and bombarded with questions about their uncertain future. “What do you know about this program? Have you visited these schools yet? What about this major? Is this something you’re considering? Because…” (Yes, I’m calling you out, a random man who walked into the froyo shop during my shift and offered me “advice” about college that made me question my entire future). This applies to customers, but especially to parents. So, try setting up a weekly meeting or dinner with your child instead. Setting aside time for a college-related conversation will allow everyone to prepare their thoughts and feel better. Students will be more comfortable in these discussions, and it will give parents free rein to spout out questions that Google struggled to answer. Who knows your child better than you do? Simply preparing for a conversation by asking, “is now a good time for me to ask you some things about your college applications?” can help start a dialogue with your child. 

Look at Schools Together:

Most students, as they are only seventeen or eighteen years old, will reach a point where they run out of answers to CommonApp’s questions and will need their parent’s input. It’s a delicate balancing act for parents: you want input on the decision-making process, but you don’t want to impose your views on your child’s future. Again, a parent’s responsibility is to be supportive and relieve stress. If they have done the work of narrowing their list of schools down to a handful or two, offer to review the components that make the college attractive with them to see if anyone stands out as a better or more resounding fit. There are many aspects that they might want your help on, such as going with them to tour a campus or setting up meetings with alums, so take advantage of what they want you to be a part of so they know you are there for whatever they need. Now is not the time for imposing a correct answer on your child. Now is the time to offer them information and listen to them.

In the end, parents play an essential role in supporting their children through the rollercoaster that we call the college admissions process. If your child can’t find the answers they require, help ease that frustration. If they want your advice, work through every aspect and influence of the decision—from the school’s offerings to understanding your child’s perspective and explaining your thoughts and rationale. And if they need a hug and to be told that the future will be okay, give them that comfort they need and remind them that your support is available 24/7/365. You’re on the same team, so there’s no need to create internal strife.

You don’t have to do this alone either, parents! The experts on Zinkerz’s College Counseling team are here to help too! We guide our students through the application process, so they never have to worry about forgetting something. We make ourselves accessible to answer questions our students may have. Need help preparing for your SAT or ACT and/or English proficiency exams (TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo)? We also offer test prep classes in these subjects (and many more!), so check us out at today.



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