The college application process can often feel nerve-wracking, stressful, and daunting for both high school juniors and seniors (and their parents) alike. Students are busy balancing social lives, academics, and other obligations like sports, clubs, and work. As a result, some may struggle to find the time to complete and submit shining college applications. So, how can you ensure acceptance letters and help your teen apply to college?
Applying to college can be challenging and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are five things you can do as a parent to help your child apply to college during this life-changing process — steps that still keep your student in the driver’s seat.
1. Help your teen determine their college list
College may be on your student’s mind as soon as they enter their freshman year of high school, but if not, take some time to sit down with them in their junior year to decide which colleges will be a good fit for their interests and skills.
Along with their preferred major, make sure you look at your child’s grades, test scores, and their chosen colleges’ websites to see whether these institutions are likely to accept them.
As you help your child apply to college, encourage them to pick anywhere from five to ten schools. You can even go as far as dividing their chosen schools into three categories: “safety schools,” “target schools,” and “reach schools.”
Safety schools are schools that your student is likely to be accepted to without any issues. The target schools are those that may be a little more challenging to get into, but your student still meets the criteria. Lastly, the reach schools are those with high expectations and low acceptance rates, meaning your student will find it challenging to be accepted. We recommend your student have one or two schools in each category.
2. Remind your student of application deadlines
Application deadlines vary greatly between institutions and can quickly sneak up on both parents and students. Now that you have a list of schools, it’s important to look through each school’s guidelines and understand the difference between early action, early decision, and regular decision deadlines.
An “early action” deadline (offered at University of Bridgeport) allows students to apply early to the schools they are most interested in without deciding to attend there. Whereas an “early decision” deadline means that if the student is accepted then they are bound to attend there. Students often choose this option because they know that is the university they want to attend. Finally, a “regular” decision deadline is when the majority of students apply.
You should ensure you understand your student’s preference of schools and help them keep track of all of their applications by creating a calendar with deadlines. It’s also helpful to include each school’s scholarship deadline, as well as important dates for financial aid. Take note of any federal student aid (and specifically FAFSA) application deadlines, as well as any pertinent deadlines regarding financial aid for your institution.
By creating a calendar with application, financial aid, and scholarship deadlines, you and your student can both stay on track.
3. Encourage your student to start their essays early and help them proofread
While many universities use the Common Application and will receive the same essay from your student, some schools have additional essay questions in their application.
When helping your child apply to college, suggest they research and start writing their essays over the summer. This way, they can complete them before they are busy with their school activities, last-minute testing, scholarship applications, and enjoying their final years of high school.
Additionally, while we would never tell you to write your student’s essay, we do encourage you to provide advice and proofread their essays before they submit. You can also consider hiring an essay coach, a college application coach, or even an SAT/ACT tutor if you feel like your child needs additional support.
However, do not feel obligated to do so. Many students who apply to colleges and universities get accepted without outside help.
4. Assist in arranging transportation to campus tours
Nothing gives a student the feeling of being “at home” (or, worse, “out of place”) like an in-person campus visit to a prospective school. These visits present valuable opportunities to learn about the school beyond the school’s website or email correspondence with the admissions office.
You can support your student by taking them to visit as many of their prospective schools as possible. Encourage them to reach out to make an appointment with the admissions officers or even some of the professors within the department they are considering to major in. Making contact with as many representatives as possible demonstrates interest in the school.
Lastly, encourage your student to follow the social media accounts for the admission departments of their preferred schools. It is a fantastic way to gather more information and engage with the school online.
5. Foster realistic expectations for you and your student
Knowing exactly how to help your child with college applications can be the hardest part for parents. You want to do everything for your child, but eventually that may not prepare your student for success in college or in life.
Thus, after all of your support and help, it’s time to hand over the reins and trust that your child will complete the college application process on time and in a professional manner. If they do, you can rest easy knowing that they have taken this first step toward independence and be confident in their ability to complete future college assignments. If they do not, then it is a valuable learning experience and you can work together for future success.
Applying to college is extremely competitive, so support your child whether they get into their dream school or not.
The college application process can be daunting. It is a period of huge growth for many students. As a parent, keep the conversation going, listen to what they are saying, and make sure they know you support them every step of the way.
The University of Bridgeport prides itself on being a career and student focused university with over 80+ programs to prepare students for a successful future. We offer a 16:1 student to faculty ratio so that students never feel like a number. Click here to learn more about UB and our uplifting and supportive culture.