parents helping with college applications

How to Help Your Child Through the College Application Process

The college application process can be as stressful for parents as it is for students. Threading the needle between helpful and helicopter parenting is no easy task. Our years of fielding applications have uncovered a few helpful guidelines to help your experience go as smoothly as possible.

6 Ways to Help Your Teen with College Applications

1. Listen

Practice actively listening to what your student wants out of a college experience. Is applying to college the next right step for them? Are they considering a year of service or travel? Or perhaps they’re interested in another opportunity before accepting a place at a four-year college. In all cases, active listening includes not interrupting and repeating back what your student has said to clarify any miscommunication.

2. Encourage

Throughout the college application process, encourage your student to take action. They can reach out to college admissions teams, create a pro and con list for schools they’re considering, or even a “must-have” list for their dream school.

3. Guide

Whether you’re a college graduate or not, things have changed significantly since you graduated high school. This isn’t a dig on your age! The world is evolving more rapidly than ever before. When working through the college application process with your student, don’t assume you know all the answers. Use the process as an opportunity to guide your student rather than take charge.

4. Incentivize

At some point in the process, it will be time to visit a few schools at the top of the list. It can be helpful to incentivize these trips by combining them with a family vacation or coming up with a special event for your student to look forward to after the visit. Visiting schools in person can be intimidating, so making sure your student has something positive waiting for them on the other side can help soften the blow.

5. Financial Support

Support comes in all kinds, but one key way parents can help in the college application process is financial support. This doesn’t, of course, mean you should hand your student a blank check. But having your own finances in order can go a long way in securing funding for your student’s education. File your taxes early and assist your student in filling out FAFSA forms.

6. Trust

Finally, trust that your student will make the best decision for this next big step in their lives. Pushing them toward something you want, rather than what they’re interested in, can not only damage your relationship but also your student’s prospects. Students are more likely to be accepted into programs they are excited about, not the ones their parents push them toward.

College Admissions FAQ

#1: When should my student begin thinking about college?

While college applications aren’t typically due until a students’ senior year, you’ll want to begin the process during your student’s junior year. It can take a while to sort through student interests and discover a few options that will make a good fit. It’s best not to rush the process or get in a hurry to meet deadlines. A longer timeline helps both you and your student avoid unnecessary stress and enjoy the process of preparing for this next big step in their life.

#2: How many schools should my student apply to?

While there’s no hard and fast rule, we recommend applying to a couple of schools in these three categories: safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. Very Well Family defines these categories succinctly. “The safety schools are the schools your student is likely to be accepted to without any issues. The target schools are those that are a little more challenging to get into, but that your student meets the criteria for. And, the reach schools are those schools with high expectations and low acceptance rates. In other words, these are the schools your student may like to apply to but will be very challenging to be accepted at.” Casting a wide net ensures that students will have options to choose from and feel a sense of accomplishment.

#3: What else can my student do to succeed?

We love this advice about performing a social media audit before applying to colleges. Believe it or not, schools are likely to search students quickly online before extending acceptance letters. A quick audit and update of social media accounts can help students move from their youth to young adulthood with a clean slate.

#4: What if I didn’t go to college?

It can be especially intimidating to assist your college-bound student if you haven’t had the college experience yourself. But don’t worry—you’re not alone. And neither is your student. There are a myriad of resources available for students whose parents don’t have a degree. As a parent, it’s disarming to be in a position where you can’t answer your children’s questions, but encouraging and supporting them in finding the answers is a wonderful way to be part of the journey with them, instead of leaving them to figure it out alone.

If your student is interested in applying to Connecticut institutions, the University of Bridgeport may be a great fit. . UB is a private, non-profit university, home to a diverse student body and flexible, career-oriented degree programs. If you would like to learn more about UB, contact an admissions specialist here.

You may also schedule a campus tour here.