CollegeScoop logo; click to return to the home page

Tips for parents

Educate yourself on how it all works

Things have changed since you were in college. There’s much more of a business-like climate to the whole college admissions process these days. There’s more advertising and competing for the top students, which, along with increased media attention, heightens the stress level for some people. Your job is to begin learning about the process along with your child early on (any time during high school). That way, when your child enters his/her senior year and begins filling out the forms and meeting the deadlines, you will all be prepared. The preparation will lessen the stress for everyone—including your son’s or daughter’s high school counselor who will be finalizing the paperwork and submitting the transcripts with the applications.

While most of the basics of the college application process have remained the same, there are some differences. On-line applications and the Common Application (which is accepted by many colleges) are additions thanks to our high-tech world. The more subjective parts of the application—the essay, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation—are playing a more important role in evaluating the individual student, primarily at more selective, smaller, private colleges.

Nationwide—and internationally—there are a lot more students going on to college in the United States, which increases the applicant pool and therefore the competition for a finite number of spaces, primarily at the more popular colleges. If your child aspires to the highly selective schools, he/she should be aware of the competition. In these cases, a plan for a rigorous college prep curriculum in high school should be in place as early as the child’s freshman year.

If you haven’t attended college yourself, don’t be intimidated by it all—the process is like learning anything else, one step at a time. Explore some of the Resources described in

Learn about various colleges—don’t be tied just to the ones you’ve heard of. Colleges can be trendy just like fashion and music. Some colleges can become popular because of their football or basketball success, some because they’re featured in a recent TV show or movie. This publicity just gets the school's name into the public consciousness. It has nothing to do with the quality of the teaching or the education your child will receive. Therefore, if you want true value for your money, you have to research the academic quality and general quality of life at a chosen school. There are many fine colleges that aren’t necessarily the “brand name” schools in which your child can get an excellent education and achieve his/her goals.

Talk about what you’ve learned with your child. Also find out what information your child has discovered and keep a line of communication going so you know from week to week what direction he/she may be heading, in terms of possible majors and colleges.

Help your child stay on task. He/she must do the work but you can facilitate the process by supplying checklists and calendars of important deadlines for them to follow, particularly when he/she is taking the ACT and/or SAT tests and filling out the actual applications.

Back to "For parents"