Your high school student is probably eager and anxious when it comes to thinking about college. The only one who might be even more eager and anxious is you, the one helping your student apply to college — especially if your student is applying to college as a first-generation college student.
So, whatever your situation, here are a few DOs and DON'Ts to assist you (and the student you're helping) navigate the college application process.
Your high schooler will benefit from taking initiative, learning how to make decisions, and following through with deadlines. Ask questions to help them identify their goals and priorities. Remind them of their strengths and interests. Suggest a few majors or career paths they could aim for based on what you know about them.
If they “own” the college application process, they’re more likely to “own” their college career and take full advantage of their education.
On the other hand, if the student feels controlled, they might begin to resent any part of the college application process. You want them to see you as an ally!
2. DO make a preliminary list of schools. Don’t finalize it too quickly.
Start by helping your student identify the kind of college experience they’re imagining.
Would they feel most comfortable knowing everyone’s name at a small school, or are they excited to get lost in the crowd at a huge school? Do they want the bustle of an urban campus or the retreat of a rural one? Do they wish to stay close to home, or do they want the adventure of exploring a new city or state?
Also, have your student list things they’re good at and what style of learning is best for them. Look for schools whose strengths are compatible with those of your child’s. Use the criteria to get a few specific school names on paper.
3. Do set a schedule. Don’t miss the deadlines.
Start early, start early, start early. The best way to navigate the college application process is to set deadlines and a schedule.
Meeting deadlines is critical. Don’t just set a schedule with the official due dates for each school. Rather, help your student set personal due dates about when they’ll study for and take practice tests or when they’ll write first and final drafts of essays.
The goal is to spread the work out over several months instead of scrambling the night before everything is due.
4. Do Point your Student to other resources. Don’t be their only mentor.
There are many resources for students during the application process: Help them find websites devoted to free SAT and ACT preparation. Encourage them to peruse college websites and reach out to admission representatives with specific questions.
Direct your student to other adults who can help, such as a school guidance counselor, teacher, or family friend that works in the field your student is considering. The more they discuss the future with various adults, the broader their understanding will be of the available opportunities and the best path to get there.
At Neumann University, we know that tackling the college admission process can be challenging — especially if it’s your first time helping a first-generation college student do so. But we’re here to help!