Fall is here, and for thousands of parents that means the stressful season of helping their child navigate college applications is beginning. But before you even start the applications your student has to narrow down the list of where it’s worth applying, which can be a daunting task with information bombarding them from all directions.  

We have some tips on how to help your teen start making their list of potential schools, and then select once they (hopefully) have several from which to choose.

Start your college discussions early.

Given the competition nowadays and all the different nuances to figure out what makes your child stand out, it’s imperative to understand your child’s interests and what resources you would need to get into certain schools.

Once you make a list of prospective colleges, work towards what they are looking for in a prospective student. 

Teenagers can be a bit disorganized (a thousand parents are nodding their heads right now) so once your teen gives you the list of schools they are interested in it can be helpful to make a list of things that school would like to see in an applicant and look at it with your student. If they are lacking in certain areas, help your student make a plan of what they can do to hit certain marks.

This could mean pursuing a simple extracurricular like being in a leadership role or something a bit more ambitious like pursuing an international/national level award, depending on what the schools the child is interested in require. The College Board has a comprehensive list of things they share, including academic markers.

Be transparent about your financial situation.

College is expensive, especially undergrad.As a parent, you would need to cosign a loan with your child and/or be a guarantor. Additionally, there are added expenses that come along in the college journey –– not just tuition and books but also cost of living expenses like rent, meal plans, transportations etc. that need to be taken into account. 

Even if you are not used to talking to your teen about your financial situation, now is the time to start. This will help them build an understanding of life’s balances between resources and wants, and on a more practical level, guide them if they are reaching for schools which are financially unrealistic.

Tell your child to focus on their major and career trajectory.

It is important to not just look at the overall university, but also the specific programs they may be engaging in. Does the college have great internships and placements post graduation? 

Take campus tours.

If you are able it is very helpful to physically visit college campuses and see your child’s visual compatibility. The best time to start touring college is in their sophomore or junior year of high school. Take vacations to these college locations and tour the campus, speak to current students and ask questions that will make your child comfortable about their next potential new home for four years.

You can even request to see cafeterias, libraries, classrooms, laboratories, and gyms or speak to a counselor if needed. This will give your child a good level of confidence to understand and navigate through their potential home.

Leave it up to your child to make a final decision.

Last but not least, when it’s time to make the final choice leave it up to your child. You as a parent have given all the tools of what the impact of their final decision is going to be like, so now let them be accountable for it. 

One of the best things you can do for your child is to show them that you believe in their ability to make a good decision. Tell them that you are happy to assist and support them and that you are confident they will be able to make a sound decision. 

Finally, when there are rejection letters that come through, encourage your child not to be overly disappointed. College is just a small aspect of one’s life. There are so many milestones your child will be going through in the future, their first job, their first promotion, etc. so don’t put too much emphasis on this one thing.

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About Anika Nayak

Anika Nayak is a freelance journalist from Tampa, Florida specializing in health and wellness. Her work has appeared in ArchDigest, Business Insider, Elite Daily, HuffPost, Insider and many more.

View all posts by Anika Nayak