Best practice for parents wanting to help with college planning is to institute a weekly meeting during junior and senior year. Look over your child's activities outside of school as well as their social plans. Asking teens to meet when they have practice, tutoring or socializing planned, will not make the meeting a productive one. Decide on a day and time that you will meet and fill your teen in on the plan. The plan is to meet weekly and discuss where they are in the college planning process: are they thinking about college or vocational school, do they know what they would like to study, share with your child what you see as possible careers to match their interests, if they would like to go away to school or commute, review their transcript, select courses together for next year, if they do want to go away - how far, would they like you to take them to visit a small, medium and large college in your area to get an idea of what size means when looking at schools. In other words, you become their guidance counselor once a week for one hour.
Your child's guidance counselor likely has the best of intentions but just as likely, has a limited amount of time to spend with each student in their caseload sometimes not able to discuss in depth the concerns and fears and direction, that is needed in order to plan for college. When parents begin to tell their children what they should do and where they should go, things tend to go south. Instead, asking questions and sharing information places you more in a position of being a part of "their process" where they are making the decisions but you are continuing to guide them. Asking students to hang a calendar circling and labeling those dates that match testing and application deadlines along with their own timeline of when they hope to complete supplemental essay # 1, # 2, etc.can be very helpful By breaking down the process on a calendar, students are less likely to become overwhelmed. It is important for the student to fill the calendar in and share it with you, rather than the parent filling in all the dates.
Be a sounding board and guide, just as you have throughout your child's life. Trust their instincts, keeping in mind they will be the one on campus and in the dorm so they need to find their level of comfort, not their parents. At the same time, they continue to need your input. As with all tricky situations, it's all about presentation. I remember attending a freshman college orientation one time with the parents in one room and with students in another. That day I heard the best possible analogy regarding how to help students transition: eagles fly under their young, they do not hover over them, along with another analogy: hold a kite too tight, and the string will snap.
Be there, be involved, be encouraging but allow your student, your child to take the lead. If they do not take the lead and instead you sense fear of what will happen to them after high school on their part, it may be a different type of counseling they could benefit from.
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