Most parents will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure their children have access to every available opportunity. With some parents that means assistance in finding part-time jobs in order to build character and learn life lessons in respect and the value of hard work; to others it means paying someone any sum of money to shuttle their child to the front of the line. Whatever your definition of “help” when it comes to your children, I encourage you to heed the words of Nancy Wolf firstname.lastname@example.org during the college application process.
Look no further than a simple inquiry on the internet to see that college admissions have been in a rapid state of change for more than two decades. Those changes seem primed to accelerate following litigation between NACAC and the Justice Department. Parents want to help their children make the best decision possible when it comes to selecting a college and what they learn in their time spent there. Those decisions can set the course for the rest of their lives. What many parents fail to realize is that there is a fairly well-defined line between helping and taking over the college admissions process.
Helping involves things like making sure that your high school student is aware that there is more to the college application than grades and test scores; reminding them that the applications will ask about extracurricular activities, volunteering activities and community involvement are good ways to help. Things like reading over the essay for grammar, punctuation and word use can be helpful; making sure the student has an idea of how much money is available for college so that they can target affordable schools and keeping track of approaching deadlines are all supportive and helpful activities.
Parents need to keep their hands off contacting colleges on their student’s behalf, masquerading as your student online, infusing the parent’s ideas into their essays and understanding that it is the child going off to college – not the parent.
Be aware of how your child is handling the unique requirements involved in completing college applications. Offer to help with superficial portions of the application and the supporting materials. If the student doesn’t need or want help, take on the role of thoughtful encourager. Sometimes that may involve bringing in a third party. Watch closely and be available to lighten the load when needed. Don’t overstep while keeping a watchful eye and everything will work out much better than you ever imagined.