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You’ve navigated a lot since becoming a parent. Potty training, teething, pulling off a 13-year-old’s slumber party without (many) tears. You’ve helped orchestrate the perfect prom proposal. You’ve even homeschooled during a pandemic. So, when it comes to college applications, you’ve got this. Here are a few dos and don’ts that might help.

DO consider colleges together.

Begin by considering your child’s college goals. What are the school offerings, characteristics, and values that matter most to them? Once their preferences and goals are clear, you can compile a list of potential institutions that suit your child, their plans, and their needs.

DON’T take over.

The college admission process can be stressful. Your child may be uncertain about choosing a school, fearful of rejection, or anxious about meeting impending deadlines. Be there to help them stay on track and understand what’s expected of them, not to write their admission essay, dictate where they’ll apply, or butt in during admission interviews.

DO let them know the restrictions early on.

Are there financial or geographic restrictions that limit the list of colleges your child should consider? Discuss them at the beginning of your search so you don’t waste time and energy researching colleges they won’t realistically be able to attend. Be sure you’re current with your tax information. They’ll need that for their FAFSA.

DO generate a financial plan.

Get a clear picture of the monetary commitment you and your student will be making. Remember that the costs listed on colleges’ websites don’t always reflect what families pay once scholarships are applied. Investigate the ins and outs of tuition and financial aid options, and get a realistic idea of what you’ll be shelling out.

DON’T give colleges your personal email.

You’ll soon be bombarded with admissions emails. If you share your personal or business email address, you’re going to drown in communications from colleges. Setting up a separate email can help you and your child compartmentalize the admissions process so it doesn’t take over your life.

DO let your child know there’s more than one “right college.”

In the end, the college experience is what your child makes it. When exploring their options, students often place too much weight on one institution rather than taking the time to determine which school is truly the right fit for them. Encourage them to seriously consider at least three schools.

DO plan in-person campus visits when possible.

Being on campus can help your child imagine themselves in a particular school community, explore the surrounding city, and get to know the area. By all means, go along if you’re invited. But don’t get your feelings hurt if your child wants to go alone or with a friend.

Your child is taking a giant step toward independence. They’ll definitely need you for things like supplying family financial details and suggesting different variables to consider. Help them stay organized and on top of deadlines. Guide them. Encourage them. Incentivize them. And most of all — love them through this stressful process.


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