3 Ways Parents Can Support College Decisions

How to provide the support your child needs throughout the admissions process.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 09, 2016

3 Ways Parents Can Support College Decisions

As admission decisions fill your child’s inbox and mailbox, there are a lot of emotions flowing through the household. Everyone is affected – your child who’s seeking admission, you as parents and siblings. There can be a lot of tension riding on those large packets, slender envelopes and email notifications. So how can you offer support as a parent during this time?

Here are a few ways:

1. Be involved.

Being involved in your child’s admissions process from the start is key. As soon as they start looking at colleges, it’s important to have discussions about what they want: do they want to attend college close to home or far away? Do they want to attend an elite school or state school? Do they want to take a gap year or plow through college as quickly as possible?

While this process is all about them, they need to hear from you too. For instance, it’s important to have financial discussions from the start. You don’t want to tell your child after they’ve been accepted to an elite, private college that you can’t afford it. Furthermore, you don’t want to shock your child with the news that you don’t approve of their college choices – or want them to stay closer to home when they’ve had their heart set on colleges across the country – after they’ve already applied. Being involved from the beginning guarantees you’re all on the same page before the emotional roller coaster starts.

2. Empathize with your child.

Again, emotions are running high when it comes to the admissions process. Don’t brush off their emotions – whether they’re anxious, frustrated or sad with news they’ve received. Instead, listen to them, hug them and when time has passed offer helpful solutions.

Do not offer judgment on other kids who may have gotten admitted over them. This isn’t the time to trash talk other students in their circle. Rather, help them focus on the positives and other options instead.

3. Don’t judge their choices too harshly.

The chances that your child wants to do exactly what you did – or exactly what you want them to do – are pretty slim. With that, you have to accept the choices they’re making. While taking a gap year may seem insane, some kids need this before heading off to college. They also may want to go to a trade school instead of a four-year institution, and you’ll just have to appreciate that they the know exactly what they want to do at this point.

While you should be a sounding board for your child, and express your own opinions as well as provide advice, there comes a time in the process when you just need to let go and let them be their own person.

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