How Can Parents Best Help Their Kids With the College Admissions Process?

Let your child take the lead.

What are some tips for parents who want to help their children with the college admissions process? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

The cardinal rule for parents: Let your child take the lead. I know that all the rage is to call an entire generation of parents (mine) helicopter or snowplow parents, but in my experience working with families, most parents want to know when and how to help versus when to pull back. The parenting trajectory is riddled with “gray areas,” by which I mean those transitional periods when we’re not sure whether we should do something for our child or he can do it for himself. This transitional period for our teenagers, between childhood and adulthood, is monumental and underlies the entire college admissions process. The stress of college admissions is in no small part about the reality that the entire job of a parent is to prepare our children to go out into the world without us. The college admissions process is the final training ground for us parents, as well as a stepping stone toward independence for our kids.

When in doubt, we should pull back, but there are some appropriate things we can do to help. One is to assess our finances BEFORE we give our child carte blanche to make a decision about where she wants to apply to college. This is an expensive enterprise, so think about how much you can afford, and if your budget is limited, bring this up with your child before she starts falling in love with specific colleges (another way you can help is to NOT let her fall in love with just one college that might not love her back). It’s important for students to know that any debt accrued will be in the student’s name, not the parent’s. This knowledge can help students take the lead on the decision about where it’s financially feasible to apply.

Another appropriate space for parent involvement is with time-management. The part of the teenage brain that controls planning is not fully developed. If you’re a parent, you already have anecdotal evidence of this! If you have been the “family manager” for as many years as you’ve been part of a family, your vast experience in PLANNING AHEAD could be a monumental help for a kid who can’t see much farther into the future than his next text message. Sit down with a calendar and your child and map out a plan. Then once you have it on the calendar where your child can see it, your relationship with your child will be best served if you bite your tongue when you have the impulse to “nudge” her about upcoming deadlines. Instead, repeat the mantra “I will let my child take the lead” until that impulse disappears.

This question originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

* College Advice: To what degree would an internship help in college applications?

* Standardized Tests: What can students do to best prepare themselves for the SAT/ACT?

* College and University Admissions: What should all high school students know about applying for a financial aid for college?

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