A Parent’s Role in the College Search

Lori McGlone is the founder of Tractus Insight, a tool that helps families manage the college process. For more advice about the college search, follow @TractusInsight on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

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As you prepare for college, how involved should your parents be? On one hand, this is one of the first major life decisions you’ll make. It’s your life and your future, so demonstrating that you’re ready for the challenge begins with taking ownership of the steps you need to take to get there. Does that mean you need to go it alone in order to prove you’re ready for college?

The reality is that the college process is way more complicated and high-stakes than most families realize when they get started with a search. For athletes hoping to play sports in college, the process is even more complex.

The average teenager doesn’t have a complete understanding of the college and university landscape and it’s a lot of information to digest in a short amount of time! If you are an athlete, there is probably little free time when you aren’t in school, playing sports, doing homework, or sleeping. Finding even a few hours a week can be a challenge.

Parents are in a good position to help out with many important aspects of the college search. This doesn’t mean you can hand off the project off to your folks and check in when it’s over! You each have a job to do, and defining roles can be incredibly effective.

For example, the division of power might look like this:

Campus Visit: Mom handles the travel plans and sets up the activities for the visit, takes the official tour along with her son but hangs back and lets him ask questions, visits the bookstore so he can spend a few minutes wandering the student union alone, goes to the financial aid office during his admissions interview, and they both meet with the coach (if there is recruiting at play).

Applications: Student completes all her online applications and asks her dad to do a round of editing. He reads through them carefully and keeps his notes on a separate piece of paper being sure to not make changes directly in the application. Dad’s feedback is thorough yet general—he doesn’t rewrite sentences for her, but he does suggest places where she could explain further or be more concise.

It’s a collaborative process, and communicating clearly about when and how your parents can help will make things run more smoothly.

If you’re a parent, don’t buy into the myth that your son or daughter has to manage this process alone or else they aren’t truly ready. Being supportive and helpful isn’t the same as being a helicopter parent. The stakes are too high, the stress too great for a young person to handle this project alone. By remaining positive, organized, and mindful of when to step in and when to step back, you may just find that this process brings you closer to one another.