Dear Dr. LaScala,
Everything my husband and I do seems to cause a battle now that my son is applying to colleges.
Any tips on the role parents should play in college applications? If you respond, I will show
your answer to my son and maybe it will help.
~Battle Zone Parent
Dear Battle Zone Parent,
As the college admissions season goes into full swing for seniors and their parents, your question
typifies one of the hardest and most common challenges parents face in the process. While
selecting and applying to colleges should involve the entire family, it seems that parents often
find themselves wondering exactly what is the appropriate level of involvement.
The best overall is advice is to stay involved as a cheerleader, but let your son or daughter take
the lead role. Here are some dos and don'ts:
1. Do sit with your child to research and sort out the college list, but really listen to his thoughts on specific schools. Try to realistic as well as ambitious in your expectations. It can be
overwhelming for a teenager to apply to too many highly selective schools, but a list of safety
colleges may seem disheartening. Let your child give you insights into what is the appropriate
level of reach. Students usually know what feels right to them.
2. Don't call colleges on your child's behalf. If you and your child have questions about
admissions, financial aid, early applications or whatever, try writing the questions down. Then
let your child take the lead and call. Your student will build self-confidence and colleges prefer to hear from the students rather than the parents.
3. Do talk to your child about what teachers might be asked to write letters of recommendations. Offer sensible advice on how to politely approach teachers. Teach consideration and advise your student to ask early and give teachers time to prepare a good letter.
4. Do brainstorm ideas with your child about appropriate essays and what qualities he wants to
convey to the college. If a student wants the college to know he is trustworthy, a hard worker
and intellectually curious, help select topics to write about that demonstrate those attributes. If
your student simply wants you to stay out of essay development, you should comply. Often
working with another trusted adult is a better idea.
6. Don't be tempted to write your student's college essay. College admissions officers are wise enough to know when the writing comes from a teenager or from an adult. Find positive ways to
assist that will reinforce the message that you have confidence in your student's ability to write a good personal statement.
7. Do go over appropriate interview strategies. Your child will most likely be nervous before the
first interview. Go over common questions and appropriate etiquette to calm nerves. A little bit
of practice goes a long way.
8. Don't accompany your child to the actual interview and definitely don't sit in on the interview. Interviewers don't want to talk to parents; they want to get to know the applicant and how he or she will contribute to the campus.
9. Do remember there is a ton of information out about every step of the college admissions
process. Your son would benefit from reading about it himself and applying the plethora of good
and free advice!
10. Finally, remember that the best ways to support your student involving building up
confidence. Your teen is about to step out into the world as a young adult in college. Be
supportive and give guidance, but also hand over the reins to his future.
Students that fully engage in the college admissions process tend to enjoy better outcomes and are stronger and more confident. Don't be so afraid to let your child experience failure that you smother the process with good intentions.